Major overhaul of downtown Moncton poised to start this summer

The funding is expected to see upgrades to water, sewer and road infrastructure around the Moncton courthouse, shown in 2020, including a new east-west street between it and Main Street.  (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
The funding is expected to see upgrades to water, sewer and road infrastructure around the Moncton courthouse, shown in 2020, including a new east-west street between it and Main Street. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

Federal and provincial funding announced Wednesday sets the stage for a major overhaul of the eastern section of downtown Moncton starting this summer.

Federal, provincial and city governments are planning to spend a combined $36.3 million to build a new street, raise some streets to reduce flood risks, replace underground infrastructure and move or bury power lines.

It's work that has long been planned for the area south of Main Street, largely covered by surface parking lots, to allow it to be redeveloped.

"Development cannot occur without boring things like access to water, sewer, electricity, and of course it cannot occur without just plain old access," Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold said at a news conference.

"The new street will create a grid for these properties. Electrical, communications, water, wastewater infrastructure will support the development of these same properties."

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

The city included the spending in its 2022 budget, but was awaiting funding from the other two levels of government before starting the work. The federal government is contributing $14.5 million while the province is spending $12.1. The city is paying $9.7 million.

Arnold said it's expected work will start this summer.

Throughout the news conference there were references to pending news by the landowner, Moncton-based development firm The Ashford Group. Jim Dixon, a principal with the company, attended the announcement.

"This is a catalyst for private sector development. And Mr. Dixon, wink wink," Daniel Allain, New Brunswick's minister of local government, said at the podium.

Ashford has not yet announced its plans for the area, though Dixon told reporters its first phase will include a mixed-use building near Downing Street. He said a formal announcement could take place this spring.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

He said one of the first things to address will be parking since the new street and any new buildings would replace surface parking lots.

"There will be very little, no surface parking 10 years from now ... probably less than 10 years," he said of the area near the courthouse, saying instead there will be parking structures or buildings with underground parking.

He said there's a reduced market for office space and challenges with construction and interest rates, but the residential market is still growing.

"People are coming, there's a wave and it's not slowing down," Dixon said. "So, our view of life is we'll build in bite-size pieces, and as long as the demand's there, we'll keep growing."

Google Earth/CBC
Google Earth/CBC

The funding, combined with some previously announced last year, will result in several years of construction work in downtown south of Main Street, according to city staff.

Lutz Street, using funding announced last year, is expected to be rebuilt between Record and Main over the next year.

Work will start this summer on Assomption and the lower end of Westmorland, as well as the new east-west street, though it would only be completed in 2025-26 when the underground infrastructure is installed.

N.B. Power lines will be relocated along Assomption near the courthouse to allow development closer to the street than could take place if the lines remained.

Downing Street's lower portion will also be raised, and it will become a two-way street.

Pierre Fournier/CBC
Pierre Fournier/CBC

The new east-west street will initially run between Westmorland and Downing streets. The city's downtown plan calls for it to continue as far as Foundry Street, but that would require moving the Moncton Market.

"There are no concrete details at this time, but you know, stay tuned," Arnold said when asked about the issue.

Raising the levels of several city streets is planned to address concerns of heavy rain storms and rising sea levels along the tidal Petitcodiac River.

"It's really for climate change adaptation," Elaine Aucoin, the city's general manager of sustainable growth and development, said.