Once operating as a gas and auto service station along Woodstock Road in Fredericton for over 50 years, “Craig’s Automotive Service” closed in the nineties and has sat vacant since.

According to the city, property taxes were unpaid for many years, the site attracted graffiti and sometimes, those needing a place to sleep.

Due to the tax bill and possible environmental concerns, no one wanted to touch the property – until now.

On Monday morning, demolition began, the start of what the city hopes is a new beginning for the site.

“I would say maybe the impetus for it is that there’s a lot better financial case for doing the work now in that with all the development that’s been happening in the city, the land has become a lot more valuable, but also environmental concerns around what could happen if the site remain dormant,” said councillor and chair of the economic vitality committee, Jason LeJeune.

LeJeune says the deal took years to figure out, but in the summer of 2023 the city was able to buy the property for one dollar with the understanding that the city would then take on the responsibility of remediating the site.

There’s also a separate agreement with the province regarding the outstanding property taxes.

“Currently, it’s zoned local commercial in our current zoning bylaws, so that would allow for local commercial use. There’s all kinds of different uses that could be, but it would also allow for some mixed-use development, which would combine kind of ground floor commercial with residential use as well,” said LeJeune.

The initial environmental assessment found that any hazardous materials had not migrated off the site, but more studies and remediation efforts will be done once the building is gone.

“There were storage tanks underground here, so there are some environmental concerns. So any of those related petrochemicals that would be in the soil, we want to remediate those because of the proximity to the wellfield, but also to redevelop the property too into its next use,” he said.

A popular staple in the community for almost three decades, the Sunshine Diner sat directly behind the auto shop. The owners say it’s the day they’ve been waiting for.

“We’ve been here going on 26 years, and that eyesore has been in front of us and blocking us from the rest of the world,” said Gisele Wilby. “We’ve dealt with certain issues because of the building. So now that it’s finally going down, we’re really excited.”

The hope is that the cost to taxpayers will be limited, once the property is sold for its next chapter.

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