Saint John moves to demolish Lower West Side eyesore

The two-unit building at 155 Market Place has been on the city's list of dangerous vacant buildings since 2017. The city is taking steps to demolish it after having no success getting it repaired by the owner. (City of Saint John - image credit)
The two-unit building at 155 Market Place has been on the city's list of dangerous vacant buildings since 2017. The city is taking steps to demolish it after having no success getting it repaired by the owner. (City of Saint John - image credit)

Just two weeks after Saint John city council agreed to push the province for more tools to combat derelict buildings, the city is taking steps to tear another one down.

Council approved the demolition of 155 Market Place on the city's Lower West Side.

Benn Perinton, who oversees the dangerous and dilapidated building program for the city, said the two-unit building is a hazard to the public and has been on the city's list since 2017.

He said the stairs to the upper floors are partially collapsed, and both the floor and roof are sagging and in danger of collapsing too.

"There was a notice to comply issued back in 2021, actually, at the property," Perinton said.

"The owner purchased it around when the notice to comply was issued, aware of the risks associated with moving forward on these types of repairs. There was a chance that we would end up in this scenario today. Unfortunately, they weren't able to make the project they envisioned a reality."

City of Saint John
City of Saint John

Coun. David Hickey pointed out some people have even been able to profit from the building while the city considered it dilapidated.

"Since it's been on the list, it's been sold four times — once in '17, '18 and twice in 2022. I mean someone made six grand off this thing while it was on the list. How does that happen?"

The property is a perfect example of the slow pace of the province's tax sale procedure, something the city wants changed.

Perinton said the province purchased the building in a tax sale in 2018 after it attracted little interest and transferred it to the Department of Transportation to be resold.

The department finally found a buyer three years later, but Perinton said he believes the buyer had little idea just how badly deteriorated the building was.

That owner in turn sold it to someone else, the person with whom the city is now dealing.

City of Saint John
City of Saint John

Now that city council has approved the demolition, that owner will be billed for the costs.

If not paid, the province will reimburse the city and add the amount to the taxes owing, but the province may never actually see any money.

A report from city staff two weeks ago said "approximately 10 per cent of vacant building owners do not pay their taxes or water bills," so expecting them to pay a demolition bill seems unlikely.

It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to demolish a building, and that doesn't include inspections, legal and administrative costs.

But, councillors agreed getting rid of the eyesore on Market Place is a necessity.

"The family that lives next door to that, I have visited a number of times and they have put so much money into their property, outside and inside. They're just going to be delighted about this," Coun. Barry Ogden said.

The city has asked the province to consider vacancy taxes or vacant building permits to discourage neglect. It has also asked for a quicker tax sale process.