The former Sprung Greenhouse property east of Commonwealth Avenue is at the centre of a small tug of war between the twin cities. Though the 104 acre piece of land is under St. John’s’ jurisdiction, both municipalities appear to have plans for it in 2007 – Mount Pearl to extend its boundaries to encompass it, and St. John’s to rezone it for residential development.
In early 1987, after a trip to the mainland, Premier Brian Peckford returned with promises that Philip Sprung would pave the way for Newfoundland to become a leading producer of English cucumbers. A feasibility study was never done, nor were inquiries made into Sprung’s other less than successful projects. Expecting to produce 135,000 pounds of hydroponic cucumbers a week, the province sunk over $13 million in public funds into the venture.
The greenhouse, however, yielded less than half of its quota at a production cost of more than twice the going rate. Eventually problems regulating the environment in the glowing dome led to regular crop failure.
Without ever turning a profit, the Sprung Greenhouse closed and Brian Peckford quickly resigned as Premier. Oddly, in the winter of 1989 the night sky Mount Pearl-way was still fluorescently aglow. The Sprung Greenhouse had already gone belly up, but was leaving its lights on at a cost of $7,000 a day, trying to melt the snow off the roof.
– Lesley Thompson