Stop letting old houses disappear, Saint John council hears

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Stop letting old houses disappear, Saint John council hears

Saint John councillors are standing by their decision to allow the demolition of six historic uptown buildings to make way for a non-profit housing project.

Three of those buildings, the so-called Jellybean houses, have already been levelled. The other three, which are not painted in candy colours but are from the 19th century, will likely come down by the end of the month.

Saint John Non Profit Housing Inc., plans to build a 40-unit mixed-income apartment building on the site at the intersection of Union Street and Wellington Row.

- Saint John Jellybean Houses torn down for new development 

- Private developer interested in preserving Saint John's Jellybean Houses 

But not everyone has warmed up to the new development.

Tuesday night's city council meeting included a petition with more than 200 names and 13 letters from members of the public urging the buildings be preserved.

Most were dated prior to the removal of the first buildings on April 8. 

Several people opposed to the demolition attended Tuesday's meeting to support a request by Janelle Russell, who wished to address councillors.

Deputy Mayor Shirley McAlary spoke against the request, saying the city is bound by the contract it has with Saint John Non Profit Housing.

"We have an option agreement in place," said McAlary.

"For nine years councils have sat around this council chamber and tried to have someone develop those buildings and nobody has come forward that they felt could do a viable operation on them."

But a majority of councillors voted to allow Russell to make a presentation.

Preserving the buildings

Russell told councillors there had been a lack of transparency at city hall and a refusal to consider options that would have preserved the buildings.

"City hall prevented any developer from rescuing them for years," said Russell.

Saint John developer Jim Bezanson claims he was also ignored.

Bezanson said he made three proposals to the city — in 2011, 2013 and 2014 — for projects that would have seen the buildings restored as part of a larger residential, office and arts community project.

He's fuming over the demolition and the lack of engagement he said he's received from the city.

"This was done as another backroom deal," said Bezanson.

"I'm disappointed that I've never even been given the courtesy of a reply to any of the proposals that I've submitted."

The council package included a letter from Bezanson offering to purchase the three remaining buildings and to develop the adjoining land where the Jellybean Houses stood.

The offer was received and filed with no discussion by a unanimous council vote.