On the Waterfront

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Last week we heard from the City on a “pending big announcement” for waterfront development. If my memory serves me we heard that message delivered by the city a few years ago and like failed fireworks on Canada Day it “fizzled”.

A few decades ago I decided to do my own research on waterfront development. I called the economic development folks in Pictou, Charlottetown and Halifax in an effort to learn what spurred their waterfront development. In each case I was told that it was municipal financial commitment in partnership with the province and the feds that kick started waterfront development in their respective communities. I asked if waterfront development would have taken place in the absence of a significant municipal financial commitment? Each replied no, they felt that private sector money would not have come to the table “until” there was a financial commitment by the city or municipality.

The following is an extract for a column I wrote May 11th 2001, that’s 15 years ago.

“We have had a declining population in the city of Saint John for the past 20 years. Young people are still leaving for the land of milk and honey, Ontario or Alberta. There has been little on no improvement to the core of the city in 20 years; the waterfront is virtually unchanged in 30 years while other communities like Pictou, N.S., Portland, Me., Charlottetown and Summerside, PEI, and Halifax have managed aggressive and attractive development of their waterfronts. In Saint John, in contrast, we can always think of 10 excuses why we haven’t done anything for every one reason we can think of why we should”.

Since that time Common Councils have come and gone and the waterfront, except for investment by the Port Corporation, remains pretty much the same. Do we have a new Council with vision and courage? Only time will tell.

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