City has received offers to buy former tourist bureau

Saint John has listed the former visitor information centre on Highway 1 as surplus to requirements, as it says it's received offers to buy.

Common council voted to designate the building at 1509 Saint John Throughway as surplus at its meeting last week. The building served as a visitor information centre operated by Discover Saint John, and then Envision Saint John, until 2022, according to Envision's COO Jillian MacKinnon.

MacKinnon wrote in an email that Discover Saint John took over the centre from the city in 2010. She said that the decision to close the visitor information centre was due to year-over-year declining traffic since 2015, as well as statistics showing that only 77 per cent of those who stopped were visitors.

"Many visitors stopping at Highway 1 West inquired about other areas within the province," MacKinnon said, adding that visitor information centres with the biggest impact "are situated in high-traffic locations near other attractions."

According to the executive summary of the June 10 committee of the whole meeting, city staff were approached by parties interested in a sale "in the recent and more distant past" for redevelopment purposes. The motion recommends the lands be declared surplus and that staff "explore development opportunities."

"It could be anything," Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon said Monday regarding the future of the site. "At the end of the day for us ... do you want to give out information on your highway and provide that or do you want to drive your visitors in the city centre? That's the real genesis for us."

MacKinnon says Envision now has visitor centres in the City Market and the Area 506 Waterfront Container Village, and has a partnership with the Inside Out Nature Centre in Rockwood Park.

Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal