There’s been concern shown for downtown St. John’s in recent days, with the closure of beloved coffee joint Fixed and the exit of yet another large presence, ExxonMobil.
But at the Monday evening council meeting, St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen saw the glass as half full.
“There’s also a positive aspect of that, that I think we all need to make sure we understand — is we have a major international company who’s showing their confidence in the city of St. John’s and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador” by constructing their offices here, Breen said, referring to the fact ExxonMobil was relocating across the city.
Breen gave his impassioned speech focusing on the positive shortly after council voted to approve the sale of city land on Hutchings Lane, as well as air rights over Buchanan Street and in front of 430 Water Street to JAG Hotel owners eyeing an expansion.
Breen called that development — which hasn’t yet gone through the review process — a “major development.”
“I’m very excited about it, particularly if it comes to fruition the way that it’s being planned, it will have a significant impact on the downtown,” he said.
Breen also pointed to several downtown developments in the works, including a few that council voted on Monday evening, such as the discretionary use approval for a distillery on Harbour
He also discussed the motion that council will vote on next week to ease parking requirements for downtown developments, calling it an important way to spur development in the downtown.
“There’s things that are challenging in the downtown and I accept and I understand completely that there’s challenges there. There’s a lot of positive things happening there as well, and what we need to do is we need to put our plan in place to work towards making sure that the downtown prospers,” he said.
“Amidst the negativity, I just want to point out there’s a lot of positive things happening downtown and there’s a lot of things that we can achieve downtown if we work together.”
During the go-round at Monday evening’s council meeting, Coun. Maggie Burton suggested the downtown advisory committee consider implementing times during which parts of the downtown could be pedestrian-only, meaning some sections could be closed to vehicle traffic.
Burton suggested it as a way to encourage more foot traffic in the downtown, insinuating this will have a positive impact for businesses.
Coun. Debbie Hanlon is a representative on that committee, and told reporters after the council meeting that members of the public brought that same idea to the committee a couple of months ago.
Hanlon said the committee will soon bring related suggestions to council.
She said the committee has “awesome things in the works” in terms of pedestrian-only times downtown and that more details will be forthcoming, likely within the next few weeks.