Saint Johners worried about impact of Charlotte Street construction project on businesses and residents

Saint Johners are bracing for months of a large construction project on one of its uptown central streets.

City traffic engineer Jill DeMerchant said at a public information session this week that she heard concerns from both residents and businesses about pedestrian access to transit and about commercial buildings being accessible to the public.

"We've had a lot of businesses coming in, wondering about access to their buildings and their businesses and obviously concerned that access will be cut off," she said.

"We're making sure that they understand that we will be maintaining access to any of the businesses along Charlotte Street that are within the project area and letting them know pedestrians and local traffic will have access," she said.

According to a staff report, the storm sewer installation and street reconstruction will take place on a roughly 250-metre stretch of the uptown street between Union Street and King Square South.

City of Saint John traffic engineer, Jill DeMerchant, says she has mostly heard from commercial businesses that are worried about access to their buildings.
City traffic engineer Jill DeMerchant says she has mostly heard from businesses worried about access to their buildings. (Nipun Tiwari/CBC)

The project will see bike-lanes installed, asphalt resurfaced, traffic infrastructure and storm sewer renewal and new green space introduced along King's Square, the report says.

Construction is anticipated to run from July to October.

"The feedback is positive relative to the final product that we're going to see along the street … but there's just concerns relative to access during construction, which we expect," DeMerchant said.

Some residents have expressed concern over pedestrian access. "Between King's Square North and then further down Charlotte, there's a lot of transit routes that go through there."

DeMerchant said regular transit routes will be accessible to the public during construction.

Bump in the road for art festival

Manny Travers, who attended one of the information sessions on behalf of the Third Space art gallery, said the timing of the construction poses a small problem for the gallery's annual art festival in August.

"The festival is impacted by the road closure because it is going to be the main area of where we were planning to have our installations in uptown," Travers said.

"We initially had applied for a road closure on Charlotte Street, from Union to North Street, to install some work … that was declined because of this ongoing construction."

Manny Travers (right), attending the meeting on behalf of Third Space art gallery, says the timing of the construction poses problems for the gallery's annual outdoor art festival in August because Charlotte St. was supposed to be one of the main areas of the festival.
Manny Travers of Third Space says the timing of the construction poses a problem for the gallery's annual outdoor art festival in August because Charlotte Street was supposed to be one of the main areas of the festival. But they will be able to adjust. (Nipun Tiwari/CBC)

Travers said that because it's an outdoor art festival, Third Shift can adapt.

"We have the flexibility and mobility to adjust our venues and the spaces we occupy uptown, given early notice."

"The festival itself has been going on for 10 years now, and it has migrated in and around the uptown area … this is a relatively minor setback."

Councillor hopes access is prioritized

Coun. Paula Radwan said the changes will have a positive impact on the area, once they're complete.

She hopes the city will prioritize pedestrian access during construction, including making sure it's accessible for all.

"Not just pedestrian access in general. Where they would have a bunch of gravel for people to walk through ... you can't get a wheelchair, stroller or a walker easily through that," she said.

"In other cities, they sometimes have metal planks or wooden planks that they put down as temporary walkways. So that's No. 1, to make sure it's 100 per cent accessible for everybody."

Coun. Paula Radwan hopes that the city will take steps to mitigate both business and resident concerns such as prioritizing pedestrian access to the street during construction and working with impacted businesses.
Coun. Paula Radwan hopes that the city will take steps to mitigate concerns of businesses and pedestrians in the area. (Nipun Tiwari/CBC)

Radwan also hopes that the city will take steps to work with businesses in the area.

"If they're needing deliveries sometime, there might be about a week that the parking lot next to [a business] would be closed off. So they might need to be able to redirect their customers where to park," she said.

DeMerchant said once council approves the awarding of the contract, the contractor "will have to order their materials. So it'll probably take a couple of weeks. So we're estimating mid-July before they're able to begin."