Nfld. & Labrador

Vacant buildings abound in St. John's, new project highlights

Frustrated by the number of vacant buildings in St. John’s, a local writer has started a photography project highlighting abandoned edifices around the city.

Abandoned buildings

7 years ago
Duration 2:46
James Langer documents rundown and derelict buildings throughout the city. His goal: to have them properly cared for.

Frustrated by the number of vacant buildings in St. John's, a local writer has started a photography project highlighting abandoned edifices around the city.

The former SaveEasy in Churchill Square has been empty for several years, and is one of the buildings that James Langer has highlighted in a Facebook page photo feature. (James Langer)

"Vacant St. John's: A Photo Essay" is a Facebook page created by James Langer, a writer and editor at Breakwater Books.

"I just really started it out of frustration, just seeing so many buildings that don't seem to be cared for in the city the way they should be," said Langer.

"When I found out that the Harbour Light building and the New Hope building on Springdale were going to be demolished it seemed like, well it's too late to save those buildings — but maybe I can do something that would draw some attention to what's going on around the city."

It's just a sign of failure, no one wants to be around it really.- James Langer

Since he started the project earlier this summer, Langer has captured dozens of empty buildings around the city. One of the regions he's highlighted is Water Street, where there are several abandoned buildings in close proximity.

The property at 159 Water St. is one of several abandoned buildings on the street. (James Langer)
"It's sad, a lot of these buildings downtown especially went up after the great fire of 1892. They're a symbol of a city literally rising from the ashes and it would be nice to see some of that energy and spirit come back to take care of the buildings again," said Langer.

He also believes that abandoned buildings actually damage the neighbourhoods they inhabit.

"You've got Dominion that has vacated a number of properties throughout the city — Ropewalk Lane, Churchill Square, Newfoundland Drive — and if you want to hurt a commercial district and the surrounding community, leave a vacant building there," he said. 

"It's just a sign of failure, no one wants to be around it really."

Langer said the City of St. John's needs to start thinking of ways to bring life back to the vacant properties, one region at a time.

"The city needs to have a plan ... it needs to actually focus maybe initially on one area and try to revitalize it," he said.

"And there are all kinds of ways to do that, we just need to be creative."

Local writer James Langer started "Vacant St. John's" as a means of drawing attention to the number of empty properties around the city. (CBC)

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