New Brunswick

Proposed Saint John mall, commercial centre draws criticism

A proposed new development for Saint John's Ashburn Lake area is raising concerns from some big retailers in the area.

Some retail developers oppose plan for new outlet-mall development outside of retail district

A new outlet-mall development proposed for the Ashburn Lake area is up for discussion at Saint John council on Monday night. (CBC)

A proposed new development for Saint John's Ashburn Lake area is raising concerns from some big retailers in the city.

The proposal, which is being called "The Crossing," would mix outlet-style shopping, commercial and recreational activities on a 73-hectare plot between Highway 1 and Ashburn Road.

Horizon Management Ltd., the developer of Saint John's East Point shopping district, is behind the new project.

It has applied for an amendment to Saint John's municipal plan, and redesignation of several land parcels to permit the project.

City staff have recommended council send an application by the developer to the city's planning advisory committee. The matter will be discussed at council on Monday night.

Three letters of concern about the project will also be sent to planning advisory committee. They were written by the owners of Lancaster Mall on the city's west-side, and McAllister Place and Wal Mart on the east-side.

Going to one area as opposed to jumping around two or three different spots is more beneficial to the shopper.- David Greene, McAllister Place general manager

David Greene, the general manager of McAllister Place mall, said he realizes his opposition to the project may appear to be an attempt to block an opponent's plans.

"That's farthest from the truth. We fully support development in the city, whatever helps keep the Saint John shopping dollar in Saint John," Greene said in an interview Monday on Information Morning Saint John.

"If I can't have it on my property, I would like it across the street from me, which brings me to my first point of concern. This is in effect a large commercial retail development, which is outside the area zoned for such developments."

Greene said Saint John's municipal plan envisions retail growth in the McAllister Mall area to the east, on Fairville Boulevard to the west, in the uptown to the south, and north along Somerset Street, between Crescent Valley and Millidgeville. 

He said retail projects that fall outside of those perimeters would "create a decentralization of shopping in the region" and contribute to urban sprawl.

"Part of the municipal plan is to have a good concentration of large retail developments so we can enjoy mutual benefits and synergies that each development gives to each other," said Greene.

"With shopping in general, convenience is an important part of the overall experience. Going to one area as opposed to jumping around two or three different spots is more beneficial to the shopper."

Flood concerns

In its original pitch to city council, the developer touted the proposed construction of 500,000 sq. ft of new buildings, which would add millions to the city's property tax base.

But studies on transportation impacts, environmental impacts, flood risks and a storm water drainage plan must still be completed by the applicant.

Marsh Creek, which runs through the property, is subject to flooding.

"With such a development, when you look at where this proposal is to be placed, when you look at the flood plain map of the region, this is smack in the middle of it," Greene said.

"And it could have impacts on our region as well as the Glen Falls region."

The lands along Ashburn Road — 13 parcels totaling approximately 48 hectares — are proposed as the site of a mixed use development, which incorporates highway service, retail, commercial and residential land uses.

The remaining 17-hectare parcel, located northeast of the One Mile interchange, is proposed to be developed as an eco-park, providing an active transportation linkage between the central areas of the city, east Saint john, and the Kennebecasis Valley.

The project will have to go through a number of approvals, including a review by the city's planning advisory committee.

A public hearing is scheduled to be held on April 4.

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