Former Woolworth's building in uptown Saint John comes down this month

·2 min read
The former store at 91 King St. has been vacant for10 years, but local builder Percy Wilbur plans to replace it with retail and residential building. (Robert Jones/CBC - image credit)
The former store at 91 King St. has been vacant for10 years, but local builder Percy Wilbur plans to replace it with retail and residential building. (Robert Jones/CBC - image credit)

Demolition of the former Woolworth's store is set for May 17, as the developer searches for a grocery store to anchor a new building for that prime corner in uptown Saint John.

The demolition of the building at the top of King Street will make way for a 12-storey development with apartments and commercial space.

"We'll be tearing it down and starting a whole new project," said Percy Wilbur, the developer behind the project.

Neighbouring buildings, 85 and 87 King, will also be torn down.

Percy said barriers will be set up in the area and traffic will be redirected.

Charlotte Street will be narrowed from three lanes down to two lanes. South Market Street will be closed for safety reasons, and King Street will lose some of its parking.

'People want to come back'

For the past eight weeks, Percy said, crews have been cleaning out mould, mildew and lead paint from the property.

Construction will mean 50 to 75 people working on site at one time.

The corner across from King Square was once home to Woolworth's, but the old building has gone through exterior changes and then been in decline and empty for a while.

The next building will include retail space and 95 rental units.

"People want to come back to the city," he said. "There's a new vibe."

Postcards from 1960 show the Woolworth's building in better days at the head of King Street, across from King's Square.
Postcards from 1960 show the Woolworth's building in better days at the head of King Street, across from King's Square.(Submitted by New Brunswick Museum — Musée du Nouveau-Brunswick)

Wilbur says construction on the project could be completed within two and a half years.

But that timeline could change because an anchor tenant has not yet been secured. Percy said he has been looking for tenants for several months now.

Sights set on a grocery store

Percy has his sights set on a local grocery store in that area, an increasingly popular place to live.

"I think that would be the best fit in that neighbourhood," he said. "And there seems to be quite a public outcry for that type of business to go in there."

The climbing price of building materials also poses a challenge because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Percy said he has received a lot of support from the public, as well as government officials with the city and the province.

"Everything seems to be moving forward," he said.