Colourful core: Downtown St. John’s, NL

Posted on June 30, 2024 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


Exterior view of shops on Duckworth Street in downtown St. John’s, N.L. from June 2022. (Stock photography)

Is downtown St. John’s still the heart of the city?

Creativity, colour, a strong sense of community, deep historical roots, unbreakable resilience and (of course) the most friendly people you’ll meet… all are crucial to the cultural reputation of downtown St. John’s, N.L. Walking the core streets of Water, Duckworth and George, one can find an 85-year-old music and instrument store, a tea and plant shop, cafés and restaurants for every taste, clothing boutiques for men and women, escape rooms crafted by local artists and gamers, and much more. The discoveries are seemingly endless.

But, the area isn’t without its ailments. Increased vacancy rates, low residential density, social issues, parking debates and long, harsh winters are common challenges facing business owners in the area.


Storefront of O’Brien’s Music—an 85-year-old music and instrument store located on Water Street. (Photo: Ritche Perez)


Dave Rowe has never lived more than a five-minute walk from downtown St. John’s. Growing up, he’d frequently visit his uncle and grandparents who at one time each owned and lived above the family’s 85-year-old music and instrument store on Water Street. The current owner of O’Brien’s Music and its latest above-the-shop resident, Rowe is a life-long advocate of the downtown core.

The historical vibe and proximity to nature are two things he especially appreciates. He says walking past old buildings on Water or Duckworth Street feels like being in another place and time. And while downtown has its office buildings, retail shops, eateries and vibrant nightlife, folks can also enjoy the views of the harbourfront and nearby hiking trails on Signal Hill.

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