The Need for Neighbourhood Businesses: Mallard Cottage is Creating Culture, Not Congestion

A properly zoned and developed neighbourhood is not a burden on a community, it’s a boost to it.

Everyone loves Quidi Vidi, so everyone should hate seeing its best piece of land just sitting there, unused, with a carcass of a building wilting away to nothing, and a barred-off parking lot stealing public access to a nice view of the harbour. At least those condos that stole everyone’s view of The Gut have people living in them.

The space referred to here used to be The Flake House Restaurant, but union issues shuttered it up in the ‘90s. The city recently approved its acquisition by Mallard Cottage, who intend to take over the property with a “responsible development plan.”

We can trust them on that. When they purchased Mallard Cottage, one of the oldest residential homes in Canada, they treated it with respect. Heritage regulations only required them to maintain the look of the building’s exterior, but co-owners Todd Perrin & Stephen Lee spent two years meticulously fashioning the interior of the restaurant, taking out its boards one at a time, refinishing them, and re-installing them. They hired a fourth-generation boat-building family from Trinity to take their time and renovate with care.

This City Needs Trailblazing Neighbourhood Builders to Retain Folks Under Forty

We can all agree the Old Flake House is in good new hands, so what’s left to agree on is the need for us, as a city, to think more openly about neighbourhood businesses, and how they build a community, not a parking nightmare.

If a place like Georgestown Bakery does cause traffic, it’s only a sign that the people going there are going there because their own neighbourhood doesn’t have a (good) bakery. This logically implies the person who has invaded Georgestown and parked their car only did so because their own  neighbourhood is not self-sufficient.

Go to Montreal and find me a neighbourhood that doesn’t have its own delis and cafes and bookshops and bars. Conversely, explore St. John’s and show me a neighbourhood that does. Except maybe Georgestown, but look at the fights they’ve had to win to help the city evolve into the kind of place that can attract or retain young people (ie, the future of our workforce).

The vast majority of our city’s culture – our restaurants and pubs, our shopping and entertainment – exists on 2-3 streets downtown, out of walking distance for most of the city’s residents. For the new generation, the lifestyle their city affords them is as important as anything, their career path included, and living on a street that’s nothing but houses is soul-crushing, especially with people settling down later than ever.

In other words: access to locally sourced and amazing food matters more than a couple of extra cars in their neighbourhood. Besides, you can call the cops if some asshole parks on your lawn, and, really, has that ever happened?

In Mallard’s case, the notion they cause congestion is greatly exaggerated. They are a pretty small restaurant, whose patrons stay there for two hours; it’s hardly a McDonald’s drive-thru in terms of traffic turnover.

Complete Communities Are Good for Tourism As Well

As our government sinks more money into making us a more popular tourism destination, many travellers, who’ve been to communities worldwide, will come here with expectations of our city. Is it enough, for example, for Petty Harbour to be picturesque? Considering the long drive in a rental, shouldn’t it also have a few spots to eat lunch too, and hell, go zip lining?

This piece is not advocating that we turn our Quidi Vidis and Petty Harbours into Disneylands, but rather, it’s suggesting we support Mallard Cottage or WaterShed Cafe when they try and make their communities better rounded, for the greater good.

It is 100% evident that places like Mallard Cottage are tourist destinations now. I have yet to eat there and not spot tourists, and of course they’re there: a true traveller wants cultural experiences and a restaurant whose menu consists entirely of Newfoundland foods is a cultural experience. I don’t leave a city I visit without trying something local I’ll never have again.

Plenty of tourists email The Overcast asking for daytrip suggestions, and a surprising number ask “Is a day trip into Quidi Vidi as good as I’ve heard?” How couldn’t it be with those views complemented by neighbourhood businesses like The Plantation, Quidi Vidi Brewery, and Mallard Cottage? And you could fill a camera with the curiosity shop that is The Inn of Olde.

A properly zoned and developed neighbourhood is not a burden on a community, it’s a boost to it.

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5 Comments

  • The problems with Mallard cottage go beyond congestion. There are residents of the village who can’t open their windows because of the order coming from the smoker. Mallard cottage is attached on one side to a separate residence and the age of the buildings means there is no proper sound insulation between the two properties, luckily the owners of 3 barrows road are elderly and hard of hearing. The extension they added to the exterior of the building looms in the same neighbors yard blocking light. Many would argue that Perin is not s good neighbour.

    • What is the problem with some people in this city?
      All I hear is, we don’t want this, and we don’t want that in our back yard.
      Criticize, criticize, criticize, that is all I hear from a select group of people in St.John’s.
      It is 2016 is it not? Do you want the city to grow or stay like it was back in the early 1900’s?
      What am I missing?
      For petes sake STOP the foolishness! If a small cat house was built here someone would complain, just for the sake of complaining.
      What next will people complain about?

  • St. John’s is so far behind the curve on this stuff that it’s killing this place. Glad to see Mr Perrin get this going, because that building is seriously prime real estate and all it’s been doing since I was very young, was rotting. To the locals complaining: You are the problem with this city being stuck in a mentality from 200 years ago and why this city is completely seized up against development, and why we have massive tracts of housing-only developments with nothing but cookie-cutter houses like Southlands, Clovelly and Kenmount terrace that are just awful semi-suburban residential-only dead zones with no vibrancy or life in them.

  • Well said. It’s quite normal and a benefit to communities in England that they all have their own “high street” with shops, pubs and restaurants. Suburb-culture is indeed soul-destroying.

  • Yes indeed. The few people who oppose it will be the squeaky wheels, always heard first . Nice to read an article that’s supportive of responsible business initiatives.

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