An effort is underway to save Saint John’s historic “Jelly Bean” buildings from demolition.
The bold coloured buildings predate the Great Saint John Fire of 1877, but have fallen into disrepair over the past number of years. They are owned by the city and are part of excess properties acquired as part of the construction of the Peel Plaza project in the area that included a new police station and law courts building.
The city is now poised to sell the property to Saint John Non Profit Housing to make way for a 40-unit project costing between $3.5 million and $5.5 million.
But efforts are being made to try and save the buildings.
A rally was held last weekend in an effort to build support toward saving the colourful structures and an online petition has also been launched on change.org.
Former city heritage planner Jim Bezanson recently added his name to the petition and said the “Jelly Bean” buildings, and others around it, illustrate Saint John’s global importance about 150 years ago.
“People currently don’t understand, don’t appreciate that, and in particular it seems the owners of these buildings do not understand that and refuse to accept it,” Bezanson said.
Saint John historian Harold Wright has also weighed in on the buildings’ significance.
“They’re extremely significant in comparing and contrasting the, the buildings of the rich and famous and the middle class with the great post fire buildings that we keep talking about,” Wright said.
Saint John Non Profit Housing wants the land for the 40-unit project, but the president said they also looked into keeping the current structures.
He said keeping the structures wouldn’t be possible.
“For us as an organization that would have cost a lot of money,” Keenan said. “We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars and we realized for us we couldn’t proceed in that manner.”
The organizer of this past weekend’s rally, Brian Russell, told the group he’s considering a number of options, including the possibility of seeking a court injunction trying to stop the demolition.
Russell’s also talking about asking the provincial government to conduct an inquiry into the situation.