Hip makeover for century-old Saint John storefront
Vacant for 3 years, 36 Richmond St. will soon be home to the Wheelhouse of Waterloo Village
A distinctive, rounded corner storefront on Richmond and Prince Edward streets in Saint John is getting a hip new identity as the Wheelhouse of Waterloo Village.
The three-storey, 1903 brick building was recently purchased by Adams Green, an accounting firm that works with small businesses and a variety of non-profits.
"My wife and business partner Haley had the idea last last year that perhaps we should be looking at buying a building," said vice-president Owen Green.
"We ended up falling in love with this property."
Over its 115-year history, the building has been home to several pharmacies, a used bookshop, a pet store and a grocer, among many other uses.
Haley Adams Green, president of Adams Green, said the building has been vacant for three years, ever since the drugstore it most recently housed moved across the street to Prince Edward Square Mall.
Partnering with social enterprises
The Wheelhouse is a new commercial investment in a neighbourhood which, with Saint John's lower west side and south end, has a poverty rate of 31.7 per cent.
The street level will house the firm's offices. The upper floors will be renovated as co-working space for freelancers, and private offices with kitchen facilities, boardrooms and patio space.
They're hoping to attract a mixture of for-profit, not-for-profit and social enterprises as tenants.
"We're going to be renting out offices and offering memberships to people like freelancers, who can come and collaborate," said Green.
Voila Cleaning Services, which employs graduates of academic and employment programs at the Saint John Learning Exchange, will be doing the cleaning of the building.
Catapult Construction, another Saint John social enterprise that aims to find employment for men experiencing homelessness, are "going to be doing the majority of the interior work and building some furniture and things for us," Green said.
Despite its age, a lot of 36 Richmond's original woodwork, pressed tin facade, built-in cabinets and other heritage features have been left intact.
Revitalizing a neighbourhood
The new development brings back memories for retired CBC host Costas Halavrezos, who spent much of his childhood at 36 Richmond St.
His parents, who lived there from 1960 to 1996, fixed up the building and opened Nick's Variety Store on the lower floor — " just a convenience store, but in a beautiful setting," he said.
Previously, the upper floors housed a music conservatory.
At that time, Halavrezos recalled, the Prince Edward Street area was home to a vibrant mix of homes and storefronts.
"Where Prince Edward Square Mall was across the street, kind of kitty-corner from us, there was a grocery store, and along our side of the street further down was a wonderful fish and chip shop called Solly's," Halavrezos said. "It was teeming with people."
He called the new development "really exciting to see. Any time I see a legitimate revitalization in central Saint John, I'm really happy."
Spurred by success of Hub
The idea for the Wheelhouse was spurred in part by the success of the Social Enterprise Hub down the street at 139 Prince Edward St.
Since 2016, the Hub has housed non-profits, social enterprises and micro-enterprises that aim to reduce poverty and promote environmental stewardship in Saint John.
The Wheelhouse will complement some of that work, Green said.
"We're going to have events and speaker series really to step outside of our normal comfort zone of doing accounting, and really try to do more with our businesses to help the community."
The Wheelhouse of Waterloo Village will host a kick-off open house in September, with all proceeds going to the United Way and the Saint John Learning Exchange.
Adams Green expect the space to be move-in ready by early to mid June.