St. John’s boasts it’s the oldest city in North America, but a booming economy, courtesy of the offshore oil industry, is helping it to hide its age. In place of the silent, shuttered buildings that lined the business district of Water Street a decade ago, there are now scores of boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and offices. On nearby George Street, a thoroughfare devoted to nightlife, partygoers jam the nightclubs most evenings.
The city, in fact, has the hottest real estate market in Canada. Take, for example, the luxury freehold townhome project near completion in the former Benevolent Irish Society Building, built in 1877 with 110-cmthick stone walls and nine-metre-high ceilings. Units in what is now called The Hawthornes range in price from $400,000 to $1.5 million-and all but one of the 10 finished townhomes are occupied.
The upgrading of late 19th-century residential and commercial buildings in the city’s core is a result of not only the strong economy, but an appreciation of Newfoundland’s rich heritage, says Paul Thomey, president of the St. John’s Board of Trade. “We have a culture which is extremely appealing, and we’ve learned to take full advantage of it,” he said. “St. John’s is a city on the rise.”
A booming economy is helping fuel a hot real estate market
Still, many Newfoundlanders keep a weather eye on the horizon. Mayor Andy Wells warned the economy may stagnate unless a new offshore oil project proceeds by 2006. “This is an offshore oil capital,” he said, “and we need a new field to be announced before construction finishes next year on the White Rose project.” And in early January, Premier Danny Williams said his government is grappling with a crippling $827-million deficit. But for now, many in St. John’s believe those storm clouds are a long way off. GAVIN WILL
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