Following three years of closure, the controversial Mitchell Apartments in Saint John are reopening soon. Despite the site drawing many complaints from residents and top city officials, its new developer says demolition isn’t always the best option for neighbourhoods in distress.

On Friday, dozens of workers continued to work at a construction site in the city’s North End, renovating the apartment buildings many people said were only fit for demolition.

Three years ago, the Mitchell Apartments were the biggest collection of unoccupied buildings in Saint John. After being closed for fire code violations, they soon become targets for vandals.

The site caused many issues, resulting in public appeals made by the city's mayor.

Despite the controversy, the Vautours, a family from Moncton purchased the property.

"It was kind of scary in places,” says developer, Mathieu Vautour. “You didn't know what you were going to walk into – broken glass and everything all torn up."

The Vautours estimate it will cost $4M to create 60 apartments at the site.

"Even with all the past history of Mitchell Apartments, it's pretty cool to be able to restore all this and to have brand new units in there,” says Vautour.

The revival of the apartment has surprised many people in the community, including councillor, John MacKenzie, who says the development complements the restoration of a nearby historic church.

"The last thing you want to do in the city is tear down buildings, especially your heritage buildings,” says MacKenzie. “Whenever you can turn something that's not in good shape, to something really, really nice – that's a good news story."

Meanwhile, Mitchell Apartments’ first tenants are expected to move into the complex in September.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron