The City of Saint John is moving ahead with its portion of a long-awaiting waterfront revitalization project.
But it will now go ahead without a pedway connecting Market Square to the multi-building project proposed by a private developer for the former Coast Guard site.
Councillors voted unanimously on Monday night to remove the pedway from the project and to work with the federal and provincial governments to try to retain the money earmarked for the pedway so that it can be used to fund "the full scope of the project."
The city's portion of the project is more than $9 million, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in roughly the same amount.
Jeff Cyr, the director of strategic projects for Envision Saint John, took councillors through a slide show of images of what the public space will look like.
It includes an extension of the Harbour Passage walking trail, fountains, a new stage area, seating sprinkled along the waterfront, an amphitheatre, extended patios for Market Square, a skating area, a place for food trucks, and a series of sandy areas and granite steps that lead to the floor of the Bay of Fundy.
Cyr told councillors that the construction of the seawall continues "on schedule," while soil remediation has been awarded and is "well underway."
Demolition of the plaza and boardwalk is set to begin.
Cyr said it made sense to remove the pedway from the project for a number of reasons. First, he said, the price of steel had increased the budget for the project. He also said the timing of the project didn't make sense. The funding deadline meant that an expensive pedway system would be completed well ahead of the building to which it was supposed to connect.
Brent McGovern, the commissioner of utilities and infrastructure, said the design presented on Monday night reflects changes and suggestions from the public following public sessions last April and an open house in September.
He said the project will be "transformational" for Saint John's waterfront and will offer the public significantly more access to the area.
Coun. David Hickey asked Cyr how the Fundy Harbour Group, the developers behind the residential and commercial buildings planned for the former Coast Guard site, felt about losing the pedway.
Cyr said the developers were "understanding of the challenges." He also said the pedway portion could be revived in the future to coincide with the construction of the building to which it was to connect.
To help make up for the removal of the pedway, the project added an enhanced Harbour Passage section from the library to the Hilton Hotel.
When it came to areas to trim the budget, the report said the pedway was the most recommended element to cut from the project.
Cyr outlined the feedback collected last fall during an in-person open house in the Market Square Atrium, including:
Open the space and improve access to the water
Declutter and change the use of the space to be more forward-thinking
Unite Harbour Passage and the city's heritage
Incorporate comfortable areas just to "chill"
More "green" elements
Consider shelter and shade
Accommodate larger gatherings
Consider all four seasons
Cyr also outlined a number of request for proposals that will go out in February, including:
Pedestrian level lighting
Seawall railing systems
Patio enclosure systems
Concrete unit pavers
Mechanical and pump equipment for the plaza fountains
Granite supply for the tidal steps
A chiller system for the ice surface
In March, tenders will be released for Smythe Street demolition this year, construction of the public plaza (2022-23), and construction of the extension of Harbour Passage (2023).