Business owners in Churchill Square are cautiously optimistic about the proposed development of the Dominion property into a mixed-use building, with concerns about parking reigning supreme.
The new development is expected to have a total of 78 units, with 40 underground parking spaces. The building, if approved, will be approximately the same height as Terrace on the Square.
At this point, business owners are unsure who the units will be marketed toward. Units will have one or two bedrooms and will likely appeal to a wide cross-section of people because of the proximity to different services.
“We would say it is a good location. … These are things we’ll expect to see more of,” says Chris Janes, a senior market analyst at the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.
Janes said the overall vacancy rate for rentals in St. John’s has been decreasing since it reached its peak in 2017 and developers are likely to seize opportunities like that presented by the Dominion property in Churchill Square.
“I think it’s highly positive,” says Charlie Oliver, CEO of Martek, the firm that manages most of the property in Churchill Square, including Terrace on the Square.
Oliver said he is happy that the new development will be “bringing people and life into the area.”
“On the retail side, I think it’s fabulous,” says Oliver.
He says the businesses will benefit from having more people within walking distance, and help new businesses opening up in Churchill Square to succeed.
“I think it’s great that Churchill Square is being revitalized,” says Amanda Dawe, owner of The Natural Emporium. “It’s such a beautiful area that anything that brings people here, whether it be residential or commercial, is a great thing to bring the life back.”
Dawe opened her business two months ago and feels she came to Churchill Square at the right time.
“I’m really happy they’re doing something with the square. It’s so much better than a building that’s closed up and stagnant,” she says.
Dawe is not alone in her excitement at the lot no longer being empty.
“My initial thing, and I think everyone’s initial thing, is excitement. It’s awesome because that property has been vacant for so long,” says Roslyn Bennett, owner of The Magic Bean.
“I’m excited about the commercial part that’s going in there, but I’m concerned about the residential part,” says Bennett.
Her chief concern is about parking and how it will affect their clients, for many of whom it is already an issue.
“Most people who lease properties here … we have parking spaces out back, which pretty much go the width of our building … which is often not enough,” Bennett says about the way parking is structured at Churchill Square.
“We’re there to support, but we’re also there to have a dialogue,” says Pat Thompson of Diamond Design.
Thompson has been operating out of Churchill Square for 25 years, and has concerns about the plans for parking not being carefully thought through.
“We need to be smart about it,” says Thompson, who has observed parking become a serious problem in other commercial centres that have incorporated residential units.
“I’m glad to see an evolution of things happening in the square,” says Thompson, who shares Dawe and Bennett’s belief that continuing to develop Churchill Square will be positive.
Janes says that despite concerns, the planned parking lot is proportional to those created for other similar projects in recent years.