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Dartmouth's Shannon Park development finally takes step forward

The MacKay Bridge as seen from Shannon Park in Dartmouth, N.S., in 2019. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
The MacKay Bridge as seen from Shannon Park in Dartmouth, N.S., in 2019. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

The long-awaited Shannon Park development that would see a new community built on the Halifax Harbour is finally seeing progress.

The Halifax municipality's Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council moved the proposed development agreement along on Thursday, sending it to a future public hearing.

The proposal would see a mixed-use community with 3,000 new residential units in a range of building sizes on 23 new city blocks in Dartmouth near the MacKay Bridge. It would have commercial space, a transit hub, active-transportation paths, and about three hectares of green space including a waterfront park.

"Finally it's here," said Coun. Tony Mancini, who represents the area and sits on the community council.

"There's been many delays along the way to get us to where we are, and some of those delays … were justified."

There was extensive public consultation in 2016 on what the new neighborhood should look like. Although the housing on the 34-hectare former military community was demolished the next year, the area has sat largely empty except for  the existing Shannon Park Elementary.

One of those delays was waiting for the centre plan to be finalized, Mancini said, which did not happen until 2019. The plan set development guidelines for the urban core of Halifax and Dartmouth.

CBC
CBC

Shannon Park was also floated as the potential site for a football stadium. But regional council voted in 2019 to contribute $20 million for a possible $110-million stadium — only if it wasn't in Shannon Park and a long list of conditions was also met.

The site was also part of the city's failed pitch to be Amazon's second North American headquarters.

"Then this pandemic that impacted the whole world slowed things down. But we're here now," Mancini said.

"And this is good. Because we need … units because we're growing so quickly. We need places for people to stay."

Property owner Canada Lands, the Crown corporation that develops former federal real estate, is leading the project. It will build the new roads and infrastructure before selling the plot to new developers who will finalize the buildings and neighbourhood, Mancini said.

While municipal policies usually require developers to contribute money that non-profits can use for affordable housing, In the case of Canada Lands, Mancini said it has guaranteed in the past that affordable housing will be built on a certain percentage of the lands they sell.

"Do we do both? Can we do one or the other? Those are things that need to be discussed at the public hearing with our staff and with Canada Lands," Mancini said.

The Shannon Park proposal notes that the street network will be designed to withstand storm surge and predicted rising sea levels which is key as it is among the areas most vulnerable to flooding in Nova Scotia by 2050.

Canada Lands Company
Canada Lands Company

Mancini said he hopes a public hearing will be set within the next two months. At that point, the community council can suggest changes or green-light the entire proposal, and construction could begin this year.

Canada Lands is also working with Millbrook First Nation to develop about four hectares of land on the shoreline in cooperation with the larger Shannon Park development.

Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade has said they are looking to do a mix of residential and commercial development along the waterfront.

The land, which is also known as Turtle Grove or Turtle Cove, was acquired by Indigenous Services Canada and declared reserve land to fulfil an outstanding Mi'kmaw claim dating back before the Halifax Explosion.

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