Fortis releases 15-storey proposal for downtown

From Water Street

From Harbour Drive

Fortis properties have released details of the design they are proposing for the corner of Prescott and Harbour Drive. The proposed $75 million project includes the retrofit of the existing Fortis Building on the corner of Harbour Drive and Water, plus a new 15-storey office building. It would involve the removal of four of the company’s existing buildings — 151 to 163 Water Street (including the present locations of Details and Designs, Freeride, Travel Bug, the Writer’s Alliance office, First Western Boutique, Asian Variety, the former Windsock lounge, and The School of Dance) plus the Neal Building on Harbour Drive.

“Added features to the complex include an outdoor plaza which will provide an attractive, public square; a spacious harbour view atrium to house various amenities and services, as well as a curbside lane for public transit and drop-off traffic,” said Nora Duke, President and Chief Executive Officer.

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  1. Dave Lane · October 20, 2011

    Join the Facebook group to discuss this development from a citizen perspective!


  2. Ryan · October 20, 2011

    I think the plan looks great, we only lose 4 buildings, we get nearly 3 times as much retail space, tons of much needed office space and parking. I think it blends in nicely with the area by not standing out to much like some modern buildings could and when walking on Water Street all people will see is the brick section. It’s time to put some focus on the economy and not just historic buildings. I do not want to see all historic buildings torn down but it’s also time to modernize St. John’s and I think we could have a great city with a good mix of old and new.

  3. Paddy · October 20, 2011

    St. Johns doesn’t need to be like every other major western city with its huge sky scrapers. The view of the harbor is a beautiful scene which can only be found here. Having an office building this size is no big deal, just dont block the scenery for everyone else so that the only people who get to see the narrows are the people in the corner office.

  4. Adrian · October 20, 2011

    Ryan, are you being serious? “Not standing out too much”? It couldn’t stand out any more! It’s completely at odds with, and will ruin, the character of St. John’s, which is just barely hanging in there with the other monstrosities which have been erected in the past 30 years (Atlantic Place, TD building, other Fortis building, etc.). In any historic European city this proposal would be unthinkable. If such buildings are necessary, put them up the hill somewhere where they won’t ruin everyone’s view or clash with the character of downtown.

  5. alison dyer · October 20, 2011

    This is so ’70s in terms of building office towers downtown and thereby creating dead zones after 5pm (forget stimulating downtown economy, they do the opposite). Cities simply aren’t doing this anymore. For St. John’s to even consider such a backward move is embarassing. (And could a design be less aesthetically appealing?) We need to look at potential sites within the city boundaries to create office clusters, e.g. west-end Water St., Pleasantville; former Grace Hospital site; the Hoyles-Escasoni site (to be rebuilt in Pleasantville) would be an excellent site for office towers, midway between airport & downtown.
    Identifying/developing alternate sites for office towers is like having our cake & eating it too: it ensures that a unique harbour-downtownscape is maintained & continues to be vital and attract visitors/dollars and at the same time, City increases its tax base/office space.

  6. Mandy Cook · October 20, 2011

    St. John’s is a small town. You can get from all the commercial areas on either end in under 15 minutes. You don’t need to build a skyscraper on the waterfront just to assert your financial prowess. Why can’t Fortis start its own business-center in one of the adjacent areas, such as the White Hills (where the view would be unparalleled at the height they want to build) or in Pleasantville? What about Kenmount Road (the Canadian Tire overflow parking lot at Kelsey Drive, to my great horror, has one of the best views in town)? There are also a number of vacant supermarket sites througout the city that need re-development. Fortis certainly has the money to acquire any number of these sites. They can then invest in the heritage structures they do own, revitalizing the downtown that thousands of people from around the world flock to see, and be a total corporate hero. St. John’s would be the envy of the Edmontons of the world. Come on, Fortis, I know you can do it!

  7. Jon · October 20, 2011

    The article above only lists the businesses / groups that have floor level space in those buildings but the office spaces upstairs are invaluable as well. In 155 Water alone you can find the Folk Arts Society, MusicNL, the Women’s Film Festival, HB Creativity, the Downtown Development Commission among others. These groups are all currently renting from Fortis.

    These groups can afford to stay in the downtown area (an appropriate location, considering their focus) because of the rent in the current building. Is there a plan for these displaced tenants in the new Fortis proposal? I’m crossing my fingers that there is. Otherwise, I have a had time believing that these groups would be able to afford the office space in the new proposed building.

  8. Frank Blackwood · October 20, 2011

    I would hate to see our downtown Water Stree become a large mirror where seagulls will love to see themselves gliding in glory.
    I think the City Of St. John’s may have some work to do in cleaning up the deplorable mess some of the buildings are in and the disgraceful pollution of the harbour.Tourist come to St. John’s with a keen interest in out traditional heritage and history. They do not come to see themselves reflected in large glass frameworks 15 storeys high. Let’s not put Water Street in a shadow. There has to be other locations where the glass frameworks will serve the city businessmen much better finincially and traditionally attached to a new and challenging era within our historical plans.. The parking is a headache now, what will it be once the 15 storey buildings open its doors to the world, not just the residents of St. Jihn’s ?

  9. Frank Power · October 20, 2011

    I think this development would be great for the city! There are still many trades people unemployed in our province who could use the work. The city could certainly use the new tax revenue from a 75 million dollar project. We still have our heritage and our culture because its not in our buildings , but in our people. St. John’s had two great fires that destroyed most of our buildings of historical importance.A lot of buildings downtown and near this proposal are decrepit firetraps. If Shannie Duff and the protesters really cared they would have advocated upkeep of all these so called historical buildings years ago . Now we are left with a dirty downtown area that is a disgrace. Really take a look around at the Graffiti and garbage thrown about in the downtown area. George Street was one of the true gems of the downtown area and one historical building there was turned into a strip club while Shannie was in council. So why all the fuss over a clean modern development that would create prosperity and better our city?

  10. alison dyer · October 20, 2011

    if they are firetraps then perhaps shouldn’t Fortis be responsible for the upkeep of their buildings? shame!

    Listen, take the office building – put it in an area designed for large commercial development. Let’s get the tax $. That way, we keep tourism coming (and $ from same) to enjoy the unique downtown AND we get tax $ from new cluster of office towers. Win-win!

  11. Wow · October 20, 2011

    I think the building is really nice looking, and if it means there will be more parking downtown (and I’ve read that it DOES mean this), it’s probably for the best. Office space in St. John’s is extremely hard to find right now, and White Hills is a terrible location for them….the dump is out there, there are no restaurants or really any sign of life out there. I agree with what Fortis is doing!

  12. Ultra Krunk · October 20, 2011


    Downtown is a dump. Some people seem to think all those decrepit old sh!tholes down there give the city ‘character’… which could be true if they were at all attractive. An old dump is still a dump. I’m sure all our quaint little early 20th-century buildings must be drawing zillions of tourists. No doubt attracting them would put more money into the economy than attracting businesses.

  13. Caloo · October 20, 2011

    Pity Fortis! Go amassing your giant LEGOs somewhere else. If you are blind by your richness, don’t block our own view on the harbour.

  14. Dave Johnson · October 20, 2011

    I really cant believe that there are still people out there trying to block multimillion dollar projects that will bring in tax dollars,provide employment and improve the downtown area! Get a life Shannie,Peg and company and lets get this development underway. Your heritage excuse is invalid and the buildings in question are dirty & fire hazards. We have a company willing to change all that. As for the view , go to the waterfront or signal hill ! If we clean up the downtown area , tourism will get even bigger and we will be well equipped to become a centre of excellence for the gas and oil industry. After all its business and oil and gas that are paying our bills here in this province . The same protesters are complaining that their taxes are too high and that the city cant afford to support the arts etc… I wonder if their putting their foot in their mouths when they are detrimental to prosperity and increased revenue for the city.

  15. John Duff · October 20, 2011

    I agree with Alison’s point from above – the buildings are only firetraps because the current landlord (Fortis) has let them fall into disrepair so citizens/council are less likely to be raise hell about them being scrapped. Why else would the current tenants be evicted long before a project is even approved – these buildings will just be left to rot by Fortis.

    And yes, downtown needs more parking – but 300 parking spots/15 floors = 20 parking spots per floor. Where are the rest of the workers going to be parking? We certainly can’t expect to see any benefit from that portion of this development, never mind the traffic snarl that will be Prescott/Water/Duckworth at 9 and 5.

    Look at what BlueDrop did with their property on Prescott St – that was in worse shape than any of the buildings that this would see destroyed, and now it’s a wonderful looking piece of mixed modern and traditional architecture. There are much better solutions than this!

  16. Dave Johnson · October 20, 2011

    Your living in a dream world of the past. The city had plenty of time to clean up the area but now its ugly and in disrepair. As for Fortis they want to build new modern facilities that are up to fire code. Protest the old woolworths building instead. You people allow it to sit there and rot and ive heard nothing from you or Shannie about that dirt hole.

  17. John Dyer · October 20, 2011

    I agree with MR. Power when he points out that Shannie Duff and her supporters seem to protest any modern development coming to the downtown area. All the protesters are sore over losing regarding trying to stop developments at memorial stadium ,shamrock field ,mount cashel property and fort townsend. So basically the heritage groups complain about most new projects that come our way whether or not it really involves heritage is an issue in its self. The Heritage Group and council failed in keeping the downtown area clean and should have been forcing owners to bring them up to code or force them to sell by placing huge fines on them . Instead they continue to rant and rave over everything that comes our way and again the FORTIS issue will join the rest of failed protests because it is progress that most people want to see in our city.

  18. HBeez · October 20, 2011

    Caloo, where are you standing when this building will block your view of the harbour? And no offense to you, but where did you get the idea that you’re entitled to a view of the harbour to begin with? It’s a weak arguement.

  19. Paul · October 20, 2011

    I guess all the so called heritage preservers missed the boat when council just decided to demolish a 100 yr old school in historic Quidi Vidi . They are too fixated on delaying every new devolopment project that would enhance the downtown area! Quidi Vidi is the area that should have been preserved but council allowed homes and condos in the heart of the community. I guess when the old school goes ,the whole shoreline along the edge of the lake will be developed and valuable greenspace will be lost. Fight for a real cause like Quidi Vidi for a change . It just goes to show how narrow minded and fixated some people are when this was allowed to happen. If the heritage councilors and their supporters get their way ,the downtown area will be an even bigger mess than it is now. Tear down woolworths building and allow some real development there , but I guess its a waste of time to even apply if its over four stories. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing at city hall. The voters will hold those people accountable next election and allow us to do things properly. Too bad Keith Coombs wasn’t there , he was the only sensible one among them.

  20. Dave · October 20, 2011

    Build the damn buildings already!!

    It takes a month of Sundays for any sort of development to get off the ground in Newfoundland. St. John’s City Council better not ‘poo poo’ this development as more upscale office space is desperately needed in the downtown area.

  21. Jane · October 20, 2011

    If St. John’s City Council doesn’t approve this development, it is just as well that St. John’s change its name to ‘Loser Ville’.

    This city needs to be more progressive, and stop playing the ‘heritage’ card every time someone proposes a development downtown.

    Are the residents of Gower Street afraid that their precious view of the oil tanks on the Southside hills will be blocked?

  22. Bill Hickey · October 20, 2011

    First of all look at all the foolish protesters trying to change everything in St. John’s . Its time to modernize the city and revitalize the downtown area. You are outnumbered by people with vision and common sense. Your only wasting your time and it will be built because most people want to see it there. Your small group couldnt stop memorial stadium,shamrock field, the rooms or anything else. It will be no different this time ! You may delay progress ,but you cant stop it!

  23. D Dooling · October 20, 2011

    I think they should allow Fortis to renovate their own building and expand their development as requested . That area already has tall buildings around it and it would clean up that end of the downtown area. Most people I speak to are fed up with council and other groups trying to stop or delay progress and modernization in the derelict downtown area.

  24. Patrick · October 20, 2011

    Its about time that council allowed Fortis and other large companies to spend millions of dollars to modernize and develop the downtown area. The heritage area is in the middle of water street and both ends of the downtown really could use some cleaning up and development. I dont understand why a development of 15 levels in the area proposed is a big deal when it is already surrounded by a number of tall building exceeding 4 levels. Build it and get on with progress and bring more money into the St. John’s area.

  25. Jordan · October 20, 2011

    Those who want this development as well as others to happen downtown need to speak up more. The anti-developers may be outnumbered but they are alot more outspoken.

  26. concerned citizen · October 20, 2011

    I agree Ron Hynes , Peg Norman , Shannie Duff etc… are only making fools of themeselves. Singing songs at a planning meeting and overall holding back progrees . They are not the true voice of Newfoundland or St. John’s ! Most people want to see jobs created and progress and modernization. We were the poorest province in Canada for years and now we have a chance to grow and prosper in this province. Wake up Ron , Peg ,Shannie ,John Duff ,Dave Lane and get with the times. People want change and progress now !

  27. Jim · October 20, 2011

    Build it and build it now! Forget the fools protesting , theyre back 40 yrs in the past. We want progress and modernization of the downtown area now! Clean it up for our children and make us a gas and oil centre of excellence.

  28. reality · October 20, 2011

    Peg Norman is frustrated because she is being evicted from her Travel Bug Store space! She organized the protest rally and has a beef with Fortis. She wasn’t elected by the people as an NDP candidate and I cannot support her on this issue. She has a personal vendetta against Fortis and isn’t an objective voice on this issue. I respect her as an individual but not on this issue.

  29. reality · October 20, 2011

    Alex McDonald was on Rogers commenting at the meeting. Anyone know his background or where he has been?

  30. frank · October 20, 2011

    We have reached a point in time where we are finally considered a have province. Nobody wants to go back to being the poorest province in Canada. We have a chance to create even more employment and create a centre of excellence for the oil and gas industry here in St. John’s . Get your head out of the sand and accept a 75 million dollar investment in our city. Its a shame when all cbc shows are granolas who are back in time 40 yrs commenting on the issue of development downtown. Ask the unemployed tradesmen back from Alberta what they think, ask engineering students , ask the business community as a whole. I think you will get a much different opinion than some washed up artists, musicians, and hippies. What a farce , get in the real world and create some badly needed jobs and generate some economic activity.

  31. unclerodsknife · October 20, 2011

    I overheard an interesting conversation in the last couple of days. Mayor O’Keefe was explaining to a representative of a significant, large local coporation that the Fortis project WILL NOT GO AHEAD AS IS. He said that the Dominion project took 4 different proposals to go ahead, and he would expect something similar in this case.

    Another thing he mentioned was that he would like to see a multi-use arts space in the building, something that would be available to non-profit arts, community and NGOs.

    He also commented that nobody (Fortis and the city) will pay any attention to public meetings as long as the environment is “so one-sided that Mr. and Mrs. Murphy from Ireland Street won’t show up because they are afraid of being abused”. He commented that there should be bilateral (or trilateral) meetings that could be more constructive and would foster all viewpoints at once.

    A very reasonable set of opinions I believe, and evidence that there is rational thought on council, and some willingness to reconcile and go forward.

    I was also interested to hear that Sobey’s owns huge swaths of downtown, and that Fortis also owns the parking lot next to the Delta. His tone suggested that these interests will be far more significant developments in the near future, and he also stated that the Avalon Telephone Building on Duckworth was a top city priority.

  32. unclerodsknife · October 20, 2011

    An additional note, the Mayor also stated that about 78-80% of email he is getting right now is generally Anti-Development.

  33. ARTSY · October 20, 2011

    I think the woolworths site is a great proposal but I cant see why a certain segment of our citizens are protesting the Fortis proposal which looks much better! Build both of them and put St. John’s back on the map. We are a have province and deserve these developments and investments in our downtown area. For years we never had the investors knocking at our doors and now its time to bring in the millions of dollars worth of investment into the downtown area. Remember when Premier Peckford said “the sun will shine and the day will come when have not will be no more” Well its here and I think all Newfoundlanders should be excited about our good fortune finally coming our way. Danny Williams is helping us become an oil and gas centre of excellence so give up the complaining and make this happen.

  34. John R · October 20, 2011

    Build the Fortis project and restore pride and renewal back into our downtown area. Dave, Peg, Shannie and friends can look up at it when it built and after that go shopping at the supermarket next to Quidi Vidi Lake. They can even go to Shamrock Field or the old Mount Cashel property if they cant find what they need there! Make sure you bring your own bags too!

  35. Bob J · October 20, 2011

    I agree its time to ignore these fools who protest prosperity and job creation and increased work and tax revenue. Thats what this group is doing regarding the Fortis proposal. They want to throw 75 million down the tubes to say that they finally won a victory. They lost every cause they have fought and are trying to make a statement by holding up a 75 million dollar project. You lost the stadium, shamrock field, mount cashel , The rooms debates and you will lose this one too. Washed up politicians,artists and muscicians and a few questionable characters like McDonald with a history will not stop this project!

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