North Sydney group to reveal plans for waterfront green space

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North Sydney group to reveal plans for waterfront green space

A community group hoping to develop a green space on North Sydney's waterfront has downsized its original plan.

The Victory Park Society wants to build a recreational and commercial development on a vacant section of the waterfront between the Ballast Grounds and the Irving gas station.

"Originally we — and we still do — hoped to develop the whole site," said Ryan Duff in an interview with Cape Breton's Information Morning program on Wednesday.                         

The site is 1.2  hectares.

"It's quite a large project for a group of volunteer people to take on through a non-profit," Duff said. The society is now looking at about a .4-hectare development.

Securing all of the land has also proved difficult.

So far, the group has come to an agreement with one of the two main landowners involved. 

"We have an agreement that takes the land off the market for a year. So no one else can buy it for a year," said Duff.

Ekistics Planning and Design has produced a plan that includes all of the elements the society had envisioned for the green space condensed on the 1.2 hectare site.

That includes parking spots for food trucks, kiosks for local vendors, an accessible playground, a splash pad, a boardwalk and a floating dock.

"The other interesting thing that the architect included is a big fire pit," said Duff. "And the idea there being the reason it's called Victory Park is because that site is where victory bonfires were held after World Wars I and II."

What's been sacrificed to the new plan is the amount of open lawn.

The cost of construction would be about $1.3 million, said Duff, noting the cost of the land purchase is still in negotiation.

He's now beginning to seek corporate support and the society has a number of fundraisers planned.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has been willing to discuss the project, but can't provide funding until the group owns the land, said Duff.

The society came together after CBRM sold the Archibald's Wharf property — which included a playground, boardwalk and restaurant — to Canadian Maritime Engineering Ltd. in 2015.

"I kind of try to distance it from directly just replacing Archibald's Wharf," said Duff. "What happened there happened. Can't change it. It's gone. So this is about something completely new, hopefully better."

The ultimate goal is to increase foot traffic in the downtown.

"Because there's businesses down there that are struggling and need help," said Duff. "And we have 300,000 people — over 300,000 people — that go through Marine Atlantic every year, and we are not doing nearly enough to get them downtown and supporting those businesses. That's a huge lost opportunity."

The society will present its plan to the community at a public forum Thursday night at the Emera Centre.

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