Saint John mulls turning historic courthouse into city hall
Three years after witnessing its final legal case, Saint John’s historic County Courthouse remains vacant and faces an uncertain future.
However, at least one group says the building has a future as the new city hall, which would see it return to one of its original uses.
Located on King’s Square, the courthouse was the focal point for uptown Saint John for generations. The 190-year-old national historic site also once served as Common Council chambers.
A year ago, the city decided not to purchase the building from the New Brunswick government, but lawyer John Barry says that decision should be reconsidered, and that time is of the essence.
“The first decision, which I think they’re morally obligated to do, is take title to it,” says Barry. “If it sits there vacant it will go downhill and then all of a sudden they’ll say ‘we’ve got to save this,’ and you’re going to spend a lot more money.”
While the building sits empty, the City of Saint John is searching for a new location for its city hall. It has been located on several floors of an uptown high-rise for about 40 years. Council is hoping to save at least $500,000 a year by changing locations.
“I’m interested in seeing a number of options and at the top of the requirement for me is that it’s critical that we achieve some cost-savings,” says Saint John Mayor Don Darling.
Some city offices will be transferred to the City Market building, but questions are being raised about whether the courthouse is large enough to become the next city hall.
“Bottom line is definitely money, but also space,” says Coun. Gerry Lowe. “It’s got to fit right in to what we have, simple as that.”
“Our suggestion was, because it was the original city hall, and that’s what the trust says from 1826, and the city is looking for other premises, take this into consideration,” says Barry.
For now, the city has added the courthouse to its growing list of possibilities for its next city hall.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron