Nfld. & Labrador

Downtown a dead zone? Not with all this life coming in , says councillor

A Dollarama, the Geek Bar, and a Mary Brown's are all on the horizon for downtown St. John's, says Debbie Hanlon. Take a walking tour through the plans.

Debbie Hanlon says there are loads of new businesses heading for Water and Duckworth

New restaurants like the Green Door are breathing life into the downtown, says Debbie Hanlon. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

If all you see when you head through downtown St. John's are shuttered shops and closing cafes, Coun. Debbie Hanlon wants to show you a different view — one with Mussels On The Corner, the Green Door Restaurant, the Dabber Hashery, Tweed, or the Mad Catter Cafe. 

They're some of the more than 20 new businesses that opened up in the last year, and there's a lot more in the works, Hanlon said.

"We have to maintain hope and push forward and highlight the positive because there's so much happening there," she said.

From a major overhaul of the Fortis Building to the Geek Bar's new digs on Duckworth, Hanlon told listeners of CBC's On The Go a long list of new businesses, apartments, and projects are planned for downtown's main drag.

Here's a partial tour.

The Johnny Ruth store on Water Street is getting an overhaul, Hanlon said, which is more evidence of bustling life downtown. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

Starting with the Water Street area

Beginning on Water Street where it meets Prescott Street, the Fortis building is in for some major changes, she said.

There are plans for a pub, a donut shop and a pizza joint in the Fortis Building, said Hanlon. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

It's been "bought up by an international investor," she said, though she couldn't provide details on who or what it was.

The top six floors have been spruced up and are waiting for new activity to move in, while a Robin's Donuts, a Greco Pizza, and a pub are slated for the bottom floor.

There's also an upscale restaurant, a courtyard and outdoor seating planned, she said. 

Can you see a clay studio in here? (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

Heading west, the vacant office space at 155 Water Street will soon have a clay studio in the bottom floor, she said, adding there are "future plans for a pub also located at street level, and affordable studio residences being considered for the upper three floors."

The old Fifth Ticket location is also getting new a restaurant soon, she said.

There are lights on in the building where the Fifth Ticket used to be. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

Across the street the owners of Bad Bones Ramen have opened a new location in the old Tavola restaurant spot, after moving from their first location further east on Water Street.

Bad Bones moved to Tavola's old location. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

"For people interested in food, Mary Brown's is coming back to the downtown," she said. The fried chicken franchise will open up in the Second Cup location.

The former Dooly's billiard hall at 354 Water Street will soon be a Dollarama, she said.

And rounding out the Water Street area plans is a proposal from Jag Hotel to expand its operations, she said.

On to Duckworth

On Duckworth Street, Mix condominiums, which will have over 70 new units, will soon be home to Gingergrass, a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant.

Gingergrass, a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant, is opening in this condominium building. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

And speaking of residential spots, the new development at the old Star of the Sea Hall site on Henry Street is coming along, and will soon have over 80 units, she said.

The old Star of the Sea Hall is slowly becoming the Star of the Sea Residences. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)
Crossing the street from Mix and heading east, the Geek Bar is opening up a new and improved den of drinks and nerdery where the Vinyl Room and Reluctant Chef used to be.

Running quickly up from Cathedral Street from the Geek Bar, food lovers will find the new No. 4 Restaurant and Bar tucked in beside the Masonic Temple.

Back on Duckworth and heading east, the old CompuCollege building is being turned into a "boutique hotel," she said.

And the old fire hall at the eastern end of Duckworth by Ordnance Street will soon open as the Bannerman Brewing Co.

Hanlon said she expects there will be more new businesses coming, especially with owners of established businesses, like Anita Carroll who owns Posie Row, helping the city encourage growth by providing emerging shops with an affordable place to start out.

"If we only had more Anitas," Hanlon said.

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