The major overhaul of downtown Moncton is slated to begin this summer
Federal and provincial funding announced Wednesday sets the stage for a major renovation of eastern downtown Moncton beginning this summer.
Federal, provincial and city governments plan to spend a combined $36.3 million to build a new road, raise some roads to reduce flood risk, replace underground infrastructure, and move or bury power lines.
It is work that has long been planned for the area south of Main Street, which is largely covered by above ground parking, to allow for redevelopment.
“Development can’t happen without boring things like access to water, sewerage, electricity, and of course it can’t happen without easy old access,” Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold said at a news conference.
“The new road will create a network for these properties. The electrical, communications, water and sewage infrastructure will support the development of these very properties.”
The city included the spending in its 2022 budget but awaited funding from the other two tiers of government before beginning work. The federal government contributes $14.5 million while the province spends $12.1 million. The city will pay $9.7 million.
Arnold said work is expected to begin this summer.
Throughout the press conference there were hints of pending news from the landowner, Moncton-based development company The Ashford Group. Jim Dixon, a director of the company, attended the announcement.
“This is a catalyst for private sector development. And Mr. Dixon, wink wink,” said Daniel Allain, Secretary of Local Government of New Brunswick, from the podium.
Ashford has not yet announced his plans for the area, although Dixon told reporters that its first phase will include a mixed-use building near Downing Street. He said a formal announcement could take place this spring.
He said one of the first things to address will be parking, as the new road and any new buildings would replace surface parking.
“In 10 years there will be very little, no surface parking … probably less than 10 years,” he said of the area near the courthouse, saying there will be parking garages or buildings with underground parking instead.
He said there is a reduced market for office space and challenges in construction and interest rates, but the housing market is still growing.
“People are coming, there’s a wave and it’s not slowing down,” Dixon said. “So our approach to life is that we’re going to incorporate bite-sized pieces, and as long as the demand is there, we’re going to keep growing.”
The funding, combined with some already announced last year, will result in multi-year construction work downtown south of Main Street, according to city officials.
Lutz Street is scheduled to be rebuilt between Record and Main over the course of the next year with funding announced last year.
Work on Assomption and the lower end of Westmorland and the new east-west road will begin this summer, although it will not be completed until 2025-26 when the underground infrastructure is installed.
NB Power lines will be laid along Assomption near the courthouse to allow for development closer to the street than would be possible if the lines were left in place.
The lower part of Downing Street will also be raised and become a one-way street.
The new east-west road will initially run between Westmorland and Downing Street. The city’s downtown plan calls for a continuation to Foundry Street, but that would require moving Moncton Market.
“There aren’t any specific details at this point, but you know, stay tuned,” Arnold said when asked about the issue.
There are plans to raise the level of several streets in the city to address concerns about heavy rainstorms and rising sea levels along the tidal Petitcodiac River.
“It’s really for climate change adaptation,” said Elaine Aucoin, the city’s general manager for sustainable growth and development.