Saint John — Saint John City Council has given the stamp of approval to a contentious plan to pave over all of Saint John and turn it into a parking lot for J.D. Irving employees.
Originally, the proposal aimed to permanently close one block in the urban core of the city, converting it to a parking lot that would hold 131 vehicles. However, at last night’s council meeting, JDI consultant Randy Turnbull put forward the more large-scale idea of simply transforming the entire city — or the what’s left of the dwindling non-Irving-owned space — into a parking lot for Irving employees.
Turnbull said Irving has been buying up many Saint John properties over the past couple of decades because of their “strategic proximity” to headquarters. “Most properties in Saint John are dilapidated, run-down excuses for homes and businesses. They’re near enough to Irving-owned areas that we figure we can just expand the space we’ve got. We’d like to cover the whole thing with a fresh coat of asphalt to liven things up — just in time for spring,” he explained.
The forward-thinking Coun. John MacKenzie sees the proposal as a huge improvement on what exists now on this portion of New Brunswick. “We’ve got to look to the future, here. A lot of Saint John is just boarded-up storefronts and seedy alleyways leading to dead-end streets,” he said in support of Turnbull’s plan. “Yeah, there are some parks and schools and all that, but if Saint Johners want that stuff they can move to Rothesay or Quispamsis. Pretty well everyone in the city works for Irving and commutes from those suburban areas anyway — not much is going to change.”
Saint John resident Betsy Randall stood up to voice her opposition to the paving plan. “So, what you’re telling me is there’s going to be nothing but dirty cars and concrete as far as the eye can see? The only nice-looking thing left in the city will be Mel Norton,” she said, giving a coy little wink toward the mayor, who was sitting a few chairs over.
The attractive young mayor then got up to put in his two cents, but was likely aware that his opinion hardly matters in the Irving-dominated Saint John. “Parking lots don’t add any vitality to a city,” he said, his shoulders slumped, already prepared for defeat. “Everyone knows the best use of city space is for housing, businesses — actual people. But no one ever listens to me anyway … just do whatever you want, I guess. See if I care.”
The major then sighed, plopped himself back down in his chair and pulled out his phone to play Candy Crush.
Council approved the plan unanimously. City residents and businesses are being asked to move out of Saint John as soon as possible so crews can begin levelling the city for paving.