Friday, March 28, 2014 - 5:00 PM

Upper Storey Fire Safety Report Released; Public Session Planned

Upper Floors of Downtown St. John's Businesses

A new report and guidelines commissioned by the City of St. John’s to address upper storey development in the Downtown means cost-effective building upgrades are possible for upper storey properties, while ensuring life safety standards are met and the historic integrity of the property is not compromised.
“Upper storey spaces in the downtown have often created development challenges for property owners due to historic property regulations and national building code restrictions,” explained Councillor Sandy Hickman, co-chair of the Heritage Advisory Committee. “We need to find the balance between maintaining the historic integrity of heritage properties in their original state, while providing an acceptable degree of fire and life safety through cost effective building upgrades, and we believe this report does just that.”
This report was a joint effort of a working committee comprised of City building officials, the St. John's Regional Fire Department and the provincial office of Fire and Emergency Services. As part of the process consultants R.J. Bartlett Engineering, Ltd. used a three-storey property on Queen’s Road as a case study. Working with Soothe Downtown Spa owner Gloria Williams, the consultant was able to demonstrate a way to renovate the space while maintaining the historic integrity of the building and identifying an effective fire safety plan.
“We wanted to convert the lowest three floor levels of this single-family residence into a day spa, and we plan to use the upper storey of the building as office and living space," explained Williams.

"I think these new alternatives will bring more vibrancy and life to downtown," she said. "Where there are vacant and rundown buildings, we will see necessary improvements that will be more esthetically pleasing, and with opportunity for more great offerings."
Roadmap 2021, the City’s ten-year strategic economic plan, recognizes the importance of facilitating the development of underutilized space in the downtown as a means of increasing occupancy, encouraging density and adding to the vitality of the city.
 “The new report will have a positive impact for those properties that fit within its scope,” said Councillor Tom Hann, chair of the Planning and Development Standing Committee. “It provides a more flexible approach for building owners to comply with acceptable standards that was not available before, which we hope will result in increased business opportunities for building owners.”
A session for property owners and any others with an interest in upper storey development is planned for Thursday, April 3 at 9 a.m. in the Foran/Greene Room, fourth floor, City Hall.    
For further information:
Jennifer Mills
Communications and Public Relations Officer
City of St. John's
Phone: (709) 570-2037
Cell: (709) 690-7586