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Rising sea level means rising costs for Saint John

CBC News

Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 3:06 PM - It is estimated it will cost as much as $15 million to ready Saint John's former Canadian Coast Guard site for development.

The work will involve repairs to a long-neglected sea wall and lifting of the entire property by at least one metre in preparation for rising sea levels.

On the plus side, says Develop Saint John CEO Steve Carson, the coast guard site, on the harbourfront at the foot of King Street, is the "primest real estate in Atlantic Canada."

(Related: Canada in 2030 -- our changing coastlines)

A Saint John council committee is recommending demolition of the former coast guard administrative building on the waterfront to make way for potential new development. (CBC)

Carson told city council's growth committee Tuesday that several developers have looked at the site over the years, but the age and condition of the sea wall stands in the way of any major private investment.

"There's been a lot of false starts on it over the years," said Carson. "It you're [a developer] looking at investing tens of millions of dollars, you're going to want to make sure there's a solution to that before you'd spend any money." 

He expects all three levels of government would invest in the site preparation, the federal government in particular because it was during their watch the sea wall was allowed to deteriorate.

"They sold it to the city a number of years ago," said Carson. "I don't think the full condition of the site was fully appreciated when that happened. So I think the federal government certainly has a role to play in helping to ensure that the sea wall is in good condition."

Saint John council's growth committee discusses demolition of the former Canadian Coast Guard adminstration building. (CBC)

Those site preparations took a step forward Tuesday, when city council's growth committee approved demolition of the coast guard's former administrative building, expected to cost as much as $1 million.

But development of the 1.7 hectare (four-acre) site will be further complicated by the decision of the new Blaine Higgs government to re-evaluate a plan by the previous Brian Gallant government to construct a new, $100 million New Brunswick museum building next door.

The provincial government purchased the .7 hectare (1.6-acre) property for the museum in September for $1.2 million. The museum project had been described as a potential "catalyst" for other future projects on the waterfront.

A proposed design for a new New Brunswick Museum building on part of the former coast guard site on Saint John's waterfront. The $100 million project is being re-evaluated by the new Blaine Higgs government. (New Brunswick Museum)

The province's latest decision was greeted with dismay by Saint John MP Wayne Long, who had expected the federal government to contribute $25 million to the museum project.

"All of us looked forward to having this beautiful treasure on the waterfront," said Long. "And now that's gone."

This article was originally published on CBC.ca by Connell Smith.


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