Street by Street and Block by Block Streetscaping Proves it’s Worth!

Atlantic Canada’s leading Streetscape city is once again demonstrating the value and extraordinary return-on-investment of Streetscaping!

Video:  Published to YouTube by Destination Saint John, March 23, 2016

Street by street and block by block, Saint John, New Brunswick is proving that investing in Streetscaping increases private sector investment, tax revenue, urban density and growth!

While the New Brunswick economy continues to be challenged by low growth and even negative population growth as recently reported by Statistics Canada, it turns out the Saint John economy has registered a surprising uptick in 2016-2017.

As anyone on the ground in Saint John will tell you, there is a bit of a buzz going on in Saint John’s wonderful, historic downtown.

Street by street and block by block, long neglected architectural masterpieces are coming back to life. New restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques are reinvigorating the street level while new condos and apartments are bringing new residential density to the upper floors of Saint John’s historic architecture.   The streets are alive to the sound of jackhammers and saws as unprecedented levels of investment come to fruition.

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Photo:  Historica Development, Canterbury St. Saint John, NB March 18, 2017 AJG

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Photo:  Historica’s former Canterbury Car Park, Saint John, NB March 18, 2017 AJG

In the previous two photographs, Historica Developments Ltd. has completely restored and repurposed a former car park!  The street level now hosts a Brew Pub, Cafe and Art Gallery.  The upper floors are newly renovated, wood beamed and brick walled apartments.  See attached link to http://www.HistoricaDevelopments.com for more information.

The following two photos show the opposite side of Canterbury Street.  Here a new Scotch Bar, as well as other bars and restaurants line the street.  Canterbury Street was streetscaped 20 years ago and has seen new renovations and restorations unfold along the very beautiful street ever since.  Note the use of planters can still bring greenery to a rather narrow street.  There are plans to add some trees but space is limited.  Planters are another excellent choice.

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Photo: Canterbury Street, Saint John, NB March 18, 2017 AJG

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Photo: Canterbury Street, Saint John, NB March 17, 2017 AJG

The following photograph is of another Historica development on Germain Street.  Here a former furniture store has been converted into a new Italian restaurant.  A new bar and comedy club have moved  into  the lower level.  The upper levels are newly updated apartments.  Germain Street was streetscaped in the 1970s and has been part of the “Quality Block” for decades. The neighbors are a couple of clothing stores, art galleries, the historic Union Club and the even more historic Trinity Anglican Church.

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Photo: Italian By Night, Germain St., Saint John, March 18, 2017 AJG

Interestingly, almost all this new investment is private sector investment happening along streetscaped streets.  All this new investment happened in 2016 and much of it continues in to 2017.

As the following photo shows, new in-fill housing is bringing new residential density to formerly empty lots along the recently streetscaped Prince William Street.  These investments will bring new residents, new property taxes and maximize the existing public investments in water, sewerage and streetscape.

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Photo:  Prince William St., Saint John March 12, 2017 AJG

Old dilapidated and forgotten architectural gems as shown in the following photo are being restored. Soon a new coffee shop will showcase the stunning cast iron corner-post at its entrance.  This building was formerly lost to vinyl siding and neglect but will soon bring new amenities to this part of Prince William Street and the surrounding condos and houses.

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Photo: Prince William Street, Saint John March 12, 2017 AJG

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Photo:  Detail of cast iron post, Prince William Street, Saint John March 12, 2017 AJG

Even new architecture is filling in former parking lots as demonstrated in the photo below. Commercial Properties Ltd just completed a new building along Waterloo Row.  The tenant is the NB Liquor Corp. bringing one of their new flagship liquor stores to the downtown.  It features on-site parking and NB Liquor’s new and beautiful retail design. Again, new amenities all within easy walking distance will further build on the themes of density, walkability and liveability along beautiful tree lined streets.  The historic Saint John Stone Church is in the distance.

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Photo: New NB Liquor Store, Waterloo Row, Saint John, March 18,2017 AJG

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Photo: Waterloo Row, Saint John, NB March 18, 2017 AJG

Columnist Kurt Peacock in his The Next City Column, March 13, 2017 (Telegraph Journal) observed how Saint John is uniquely dependent on private sector growth compared with other Atlantic Canadian cities.  “Indeed, among major urban centers in Atlantic Canada, Saint John has one of the smallest public sector work-forces around – its economic vitality is largely dependent on the resiliency of its private sector economy.  Halifax has a federal payroll that is almost 20 times that of Saint John.”  Fredericton and Moncton each have higher federal payrolls and of course Fredericton has the Provincial capital bureaucracy keeping its economy humming.  Saint John depends on its private sector and especially the various enterprises of the Irving group of companies.

In 2016, an additional block of Princess Street was streetscaped.  Shortly afterwards Irving Oil Limited announced their multi-million dollar new Head Office building would be sharing part of this streetscape. While fronting Saint John’s historic King’s Square, the new Irving HQ would be reimagining an entire city block as well as the streetscapes of King’s Square, Sydney and Princess Streets.

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Photo:  Bill Board rendering of new Irving Oil HQ, March 12, 2017 AJG

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Photo:  Bill Board rendering of new Irving Oil HQ, March 12, 2017 AJG

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Photo:  New Irving Oil HQ Construction, King’s Square, March 12, 2017 AJG

Video: Published to YouTube by Irving Oil Ltd. Feb 17, 2016

As shown in the above video, Princess Street, Sydney Street and King’s Square will be streetscaped.  New under-grounded utility lines, new trees, historic lamp posts and concrete curbs and sidewalks with brick inserts will surround the new building.

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Photo: New Underground Utility Vault, Irving Oil HQ Saint John, March 12, 2017 AJG

The photo above shows a new concrete utility vault being installed under a newly reconstructed sidewalk on Sydney Street.  The new Irving Oil building foundations are shown to the right.

One of the key elements of successful urban design is to incorporate walkability improvements in any new development.  The new Irving Oil Head Office will have a wonderful, green front courtyard which will allow pedestrians to diagonally short-cut through the block.  Pedestrian short-cuts encourage walking and tree lined allees provide shade, natural beauty and all the health benefits that accompany such spaces.  This development also preserves and protects a very significant historic building as part of this forecourt at 71 Sydney Street.  The property was previously a couple of asphalt parking lots.

While it may be difficult to claim that the recent Streetscaping of Princess Street directly influenced the decision of Irving Oil Limited to build this wonderful new edifice in Saint John, they did evaluate a number of locations.  If you click on the YouTube link above, you will see that new tree-lined streets cleared of old, ugly utility poles was certainly part of their vision.  Some may argue this is a case of the chicken and the egg; which came first, Streetscaping or the new building.  The fact is Princess Street and King’s Square were all Streetscaped long before the decision to build this new office.  King Square was Streetscaped in the 1970’s and 1980’s and Princess Street in 2005.

The principle at play here is very simple.  People are drawn to beautiful places.  Tourists, for example, are drawn to beautiful tree-lined streets as opposed to ugly utility pole lined streets. The benefits of trees are manifold.  Cleaner air, shade, peaceful green colors and chirping birds reconnects us with nature.  Studies show tree lined streets reduce people’s blood pressure, increase people’s happiness and even results in increased infant weight and heath!  Our grey, concrete and asphalt cities are not as beautiful as they should be, nor are they as healthy.  When we build beautifully, people will come and gather.  Soon businesses will follow looking to provide their services to these people.  Soon other people are drawn to the expanding area and a virtuous cycle ensues.  Quite simply, streetscaping creates more private sector investment.  Streetscaping creates wonderful, beautiful, green and healthy public spaces we can all enjoy, walk and live on.

There are only 5 Elements to Streetscaping and the return on investment is extraordinary.

1.  TREES AND PLANTINGS include considerations for plant species, shade, spacing, canopy, colour, root chambers, fixed or movable planters, as well as green storm water management plans.

2.  UNDERGROUND UTILITY LINES include considerations for joint trench design, at-grade or below grade equipment, Smart meters and fault detection, lamp posts, WI-FI, fibre capacity, Smart sensors etc.

3.  STREET DIMENSIONS AND PAVING include considerations for “Complete Street” designs for pedestrians and cyclists with widened side walks, cycle lanes, accessibility, traffic volumes and patterns, traffic calming measures, medians. parking requirements, transit requirements and surface materials and design.

4.  CURBS AND SIDE WALKS include considerations for side walk widths, cafe seating, bulb outs, dedicated or integrated cycle lanes, side walk materials, accessible curbing, storm drainage choices especially green storm water management utilizing planting swales, rain gardens and permeable surfaces.

5.  FIXTURES AND FURNISHINGS include considerations for LED lighting, Wi-Fi, Smart Sensors, flexible seating, waste receptacles, water fountains, movable planters, public art, way-finding and signage.

Congratulations Saint John, Historica Developments and Irving Oil for building beautiful!

We look forward to watching Saint John’s continued success street by street and block by block!

Author:  A.J. Good, Streetscape Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Comment on “Street by Street and Block by Block Streetscaping Proves it’s Worth!

  1. Excellent article. Lets hope the city will continue on this path.

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