'Part of my childhood': Magnetic Hill mementoes scooped up at auction
The shops and restaurants that make up the Wharf Village on Moncton's Magnetic Hill are going to be gone by June.
After 30 years of the City of Moncton leasing its land to the Murphy family, council voted not to renew the lease when it ends on April 30.
"We were shocked," said John Murphy. "We thought they would come back with some sort of a deal. I've just worked basically for them for 30 years, and today they say we don't want you any longer. And just take your stuff and get out."
The owners have until the end of June to pack up everything and go.
The Wharf Village was built on a wooden pier to look like a traditional Maritimes fishing village.
Originally consisting of nine shops and restaurants, the years had taken a toll on the installations, with winter damage to the structure becoming more evident in recent years, and forcing closure of a portion of the wharf because of safety concerns.
Last summer, only five souvenir shops and the restaurant were still operational, with the BeaverTails and fudge shops having closed down.
Some 40 people were still working at the site.
Murphy said the family had been trying to come up with the money for the repairs since 2014.
"It's hard to borrow from any finance source money when you don't own the actual land," he said.
After finally securing the money, the family offered the city the option to either negotiate another lease for 20 years, or to sell the business to them for $500,000, with repairs done by the owners before the opening in June.
Murphy said he was expecting the city, which owns the rest of the land on Magnetic Hill, to buy the business and operate it as they do the Magnetic Hill Zoo.
Rejection letter from city
But in a letter to Murphy on March 30, Catherine Dallaire, general manager of parks, leisure, culture and heritage for the City of Moncton, said the mayor and council were not interested in acquiring the assets.
"Despite your assurances that money was not an issue, and that adequate repairs would be made to the facility before opening this season," said Dallaire, "the track record over the past several years caused them to question the likelihood that those repairs would actually happen."
Murphy was surprised.
"We've been working for the city for 30 years. They've cashed all of our cheques for 30 years," said Murphy. "So why wouldn't they trust us now? It's very upsetting."
Magnetic Hill is a popular stop for tour buses, and Murphy said almost 700 visited last summer.
He wonders where those people will eat or shop for souvenirs when they come to Magnetic Hill.
"It's a turnkey operation," he said. "We just can't understand why the city wouldn't want to take over the business. To build something new today is going to cost more."
The owners will hold an auction on April 29, when everything from Magnetic Hill souvenirs down to the wood frame of the building will have to go.