Saint Andrews pilot project brings big changes to the downtown

Facebook photo Water Street in Saint Andrews will look very different this summer thanks to a pilot project aimed at allowing for physical distancing and giving local businesses space for displays, tables etc.

Saint Andrews – Heading to Saint Andrews to spend a day enjoying the waterfront? The seaside hot spot is open for business, but has made changes to the popular Water St. to accommodate physical distancing by way of extra patio tables, space to display merchandise and ample space for visitors to amble without being too close to each other.

The change? The town will initiate a pilot project eliminating parking through the use of physical barriers on either side of Water Street between Edward St. and Frederick St. beginning June 26, and ending September 8.

“The barriers will allow for the sidewalks to be extended from 14 feet to 22 feet using the road,” said Saint Andrews Deputy Mayor, Brad Henderson.

“As a result, the downtown businesses on these three blocks will be allowed to encroach on eight feet of town land (side walk) which allows additions of an extra table or two, or a merchandise rack, as the number of customers allowed in retail space and restaurants has decreased to physical distancing measures. Water Street will also be two lanes one way on these 3 blocks in case an emergency or delivery vehicle needs to stop for a delivery.”

Henderson said the removal of the on street parking in that section of town removes approximately 70 parking spots, but town staff have identified a potential 66 alternate spots via conversations with local private land owners, all close to the downtown core. He said town staff will also create additional handicap parking spots in the downtown area, along with some 30 minute limit spots by the local hardware store as some items may be substantial and heavy.

The change was a hot topic with council, involving several and lengthy meetings. But in the end, the merit of the idea won everyone over.

“All of council voted in favour, and has the full support of the BIA (Business Improvement Association) and Chamber of Commerce,” said Henderson. “Town council did add a clause to the motion, however, that the BIA can cancel the pilot project at anytime after a four week trial. Council only wants to make changes to support business, so we want the business community to be the key decision makers on if it working or not.

“An overwhelming majority supported the program according to the Saint Andrews BIA,” he said.

“Town Council wanted to create a safer shopping and visiting experience in St. Andrews by-the-Sea. We feel this plan will allow for greater physical distancing, while allowing businesses to maximize the space in front of their store in a vibrant outdoor market type experience.”

Henderson said the pilot project is “based on current provincial regulations”, and said council will discuss the results of this pilot project with local business to consider for future planning. He added the primary priority identified in discussion with stakeholders was the desire to create a “safe environment for our visitors, residents, and business community.”

Henderson said council sees this framework as the starting point, and that there is more work to do prior to implementing the plan itself. “We want to position it for success,” he added.

“We are optimistic that communities like St. Andrews can still have an incredible summer, but ultimately the fate for many businesses will be up to New Brunswickers themselves. Buying local has never been as important as it is right now.”

Henderson said typically, some 50 per cent of annual tourism in Saint Andrews comes from New Brunswickers exploring and enjoying the region, and this unique situation allows for exploration of our own province.

“I know there are a few businesses in the Charlotte Coastal Region that my family and I have not been to. It will be perfect summer to explore these places with not as many people around,” he said.

With provincial borders closed, and no change to that in sight, the staycation is the flavour of the summer this year in New Brunswick. NB Premier Blaine Higgs has touched on the possibility of forming a “bubble” with neighbouring Prince Edward Island, and possibly Nova Scotia, but it’s just talk at this stage.

For Henderson, the summer of 2020 presents the ideal opportunity to see Saint Andrews in a whole new way.

“Saint Andrews is an ideal spot to visit as many of the top things to do are outside. You can literally go around a corner and have a complete beach to yourself.”