JDI continues effort to demolish Saint John heritage property

·3 min read
J.D Irving Ltd. wants to demolish this apartment house near the company's  headquarters. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC - image credit)
J.D Irving Ltd. wants to demolish this apartment house near the company's headquarters. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC - image credit)

J.D. Irving is again facing barriers to tearing down a dilapidated 81-year-old building, despite a new pitch to replace it with a park instead of a parking lot.

The Paikowsky Residence, also known as the Brown House, sits on the corner of King Street East and Carmarthen streets in the south-central peninsula area of the city, on land owned by JDI.

The six-unit apartment house has been vacant, boarded up and disconnected from the electrical grid for six years.

The company has requested that it be allowed to demolish the building, but the Heritage Development Board recommended Wednesday that the application be denied.

Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC
Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC

Paula Radwan, a city councillor and heritage board member, said Irving has owned the building since 2003 and is the reason it's deteriorating. At Wednesday's meeting of the board, she asked Irving representative Douglas Dean to speak to the heritage arguments for demolishing the building.

"I felt very disappointed that he couldn't even speak to why he thought that it should be taken down, other than the fact that it has become dilapidated because of their neglect," she told Information Morning Saint John.

The heritage board made the same recommendation to deny the request in 2016, and Saint John council accepted it at the time. In 2016 Irving proposed demolishing the building and replacing it with a parking lot and a small park.

Now council will review the case next month and decide if Irving is still barred from demolishing the building. In this proposal Irving said the plan now is to install a playground and "historical park" in its place.

The heritage staff report said the building represents a unique time in Saint John history. It was built in 1941, which is much later than the Victorian and Queen Anne buildings in that area. But that doesn't take away from its heritage importance, staff wrote, because it shows an example of simplified Colonial Revival style.

This style of building was popular between 1880 and 1960, the report said. The Paikowsky building has a hipped roof, symmetrical façade, wooden shutters and other elements that make it a genuine example of that style.

"All the character-defining elements of its façade are still intact," the report says.

"Given the limited domestic residential construction during the early years of the Second World War, the Paikowsky Residence represents a rare, intact, and quintessential example of this unique simplified Colonial Revival style in Saint John."

Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC
Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC

'Beyond feasible repair'

Irving bought the property about 25 years ago and, for a while, rented out the apartments.

In response to a CBC News request, Irving spokesperson Anne McInerney said that in 2016, the house was deemed "unfit for human habitation by our engineer and the last tenant was evicted for that reason."

In 2018, the city included the building on the dangerous and vacant premises list, McInerney said.

"We then engaged Dillon Consulting's structural engineers to do a full building assessment. Their conclusion was that the building is beyond feasible repair," she said.

JD Irving/Submitted
JD Irving/Submitted

Radwan said the goal of heritage bylaws is to make sure companies and people that buy heritage properties are held to the responsibility of maintaining those properties.

"The only way that we can continue doing this is to keep them [motivated] to keep them up," she said.

Radwan also said the heritage bylaws have been amended to include different materials and exceptions to make maintaining heritage properties as affordable as possible. The rules are also the most strict about maintaining the front face of the property and isn't too prescriptive about the non-visible aspects.

"Frankly speaking, if you buy a heritage property, you go into it knowing that you have to keep up to that maintenance," Radwan said. "It's just like any property, if you don't want to do that, then in a way you probably shouldn't purchase them."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting