Future of Halifax's Cunard Centre debated after events company shifts focus

·2 min read
Halifax's Cunard Centre, which is currently under renovation, has hosted large-scale events in the city for years.  (Steve Lawrence/CBC - image credit)
Halifax's Cunard Centre, which is currently under renovation, has hosted large-scale events in the city for years. (Steve Lawrence/CBC - image credit)

It has hosted everything from conventions to beer and cider festivals, bingo nights and funerals, but now Halifax's port authority is looking for a new use for the Cunard Centre.

The centre is a 45,000-square-foot room on the waterfront. For years, Halifax-based RCR Hospitality Group has operated the space, booking about 80 large-scale events a year that filled the calendar.

But the popular space has sat empty since the pandemic hit.

"There doesn't seem to be — in the near future anyway — the opportunity to host the types of events that we would be doing there," said Shannon Bruhm, president of RCR.

"It's unfortunate. We're disappointed as well. But every door that closes, another one opens."

Donald John Vaters
Donald John Vaters

Bruhm said much of their business came from conventions and included international participants.

"We're optimistic that that sort of thing will be happening again, but when is that? Is it in a month's time? Is it in two months' time? Is it in six months' time? I'm not sure," he said. "It's a significant asset to sit empty until that happens."

Potential market location

For now, the company will focus on smaller size events while the Port of Halifax has the task of re-envisioning the space.

Lane Farguson, a spokesperson for the port authority, said everything is on the table.

"The reality is, this is a large open space on the peninsula of Halifax with parking," Farguson said. "We'll talk to different groups and see if there's interest in doing something there."

One idea that's been floated is creating a new home for the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market. The market is using nearby Pavilion 22, the cruise ship terminal, after leaving its other waterfront home in March.

"That is one of the possibilities that we'll look at, is whether the farmers' market will be something that could take up part of that space, but again we're still early days and there's a lot to look at and a lot to explore," said Farguson.

Steve Lawrence/CBC
Steve Lawrence/CBC

The port authority began renovating the Cunard Centre during the shutdowns. It's currently getting a new roof.

Farguson said more work may need to be done, depending on if they find one or multiple companies to move in.

"In all likelihood, we'd likely do some renovations to the building to accommodate their needs," he said. "Those are all questions that we are exploring right now."

While the search begins for new tenants, RCR will continue to use the kitchen facilities in the short term.

RCR said while most of its employees lost their jobs during the pandemic, all who wanted to return to the business are now back and reassigned to other RCR facilities, so this decision will not lead to job cuts.

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