Uptown's Princess Street is treated like royalty

Rejuvenation: Residents and business owners say upgrades signal rebirth of their storied street

SAINT JOHN - Residents and business owners revelled in the official party to reopen Princess Street on Saturday morning. There was a magic act, a sneak-preview of a Saint John Theatre production, balloons, food and even a magic act.                                        

                                       

 Mark Hayward, co-owner of Hayward and Warwick, sits on the newly renovated sidewalk and street in front of his store during the grand re-opening of Princess Strret on Saturday.

After about $2 million in work by the city and Saint John Energy, the grand old street was reopened to traffic with a brand new road surface and sidewalks with brick trim being the most obvious change. Underneath the street lies conduits waiting for overhead wires to be removed and poles taken down. The wires will be placed underground and out of sight. Everything under the street was rebuilt.

The original plan called for the work to be done over two years, but business owners wanted it completed during one construction season. That meant much of the street was closed to traffic so the contractor could get the work done in one fell swoop.

Uptown Saint John general manager Peter Asimakos said merchants and residents went through a lot of pain, but the finished product shows it was worth it.

"This is a long awaited day, but a great day for uptown Saint John to have this passable," he said. "They went through a lot of pain the last six months."

The seeds for the project, Asimakos told the crowd waiting for the official ribbon cutting, were planted in 2004.

"This was the next street on the list," Asimakos said, as nearby church bells rang out.

In the spring Saint John Energy will take the poles and the overhead wires down and route them under the street.

Mayor Ivan court said that will complete the final look.

"It will give it a royal look, royalty for the Princess," Court said.

Mark Hayward, co-owner of Hayward and Warwick, said he first started musing about upgrading area streets in 1982. His shop, started by his ancestors, has been on Princess Street since 1877.

Hayward said it was hard to say how much the work hurt his business because of the turbulent economy.

"You'd be surprised how many people tromped up and down this street," Hayward said, adding the contractor, QM Construction Ltd., went of its way to ensure that customers and residents could get where they were going.

"It really just connects Princess Street with the rest of the uptown."

The Saint John Theatre Company has staked its future on the street. The company renovated a heritage building and restored it back to its former glory.

"We're proud of the building and we're proud of the street," Stephen Tobias of the theatre company said.

Peter Smit is a building and business owner who has poured about $100,000 into the historic Brodie building, which also houses his happinez wine bar.

"What wonderful news we finally have," he told the crowd.

Smit said new businesses are already popping up on the revitalized street.

Now that the work is done, Asimakos said, the street will see an economic re-birth.

"We will see private sector investment follow very quickly," Asimakos said. "We've seen it with King Street. We've seen it with Water Street."

Those streets have seen major face lifts over the last few years.

Asimakos said Uptown Saint John is looking at what street the city should rejuvenate next.

"There's parts of Union Street that haven't had anything done in a long time," Asimakos said.

 

Published Monday November 9th, 2009 - Telegraph Journal