Shannon Park in Dartmouth is a waterfront ghost town that could one day rise again as a sort of fanciful, mixed-use redevelopment.
Just what this modern layout should look like was the subject of a public forum last week in Dartmouth hosted by the Canada Lands Company—the federal Crown corporation overseeing the proposed refurbishment of the surplus property, which was obtained last year from the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.
Canada Lands Company's "ideas fair" attracted dozens of people to the first of two sessions at Shannon Park Elementary School. The corporation will act as "master land developer" in any private sector, market-driven project in the former military-housing neighbourhood, located near the MacKay Bridge.
Over the years, proposed uses for a reimagined Shannon Park have included a stadium, condominiums, affordable housing, retail and other commercial components, a seaside park or a multi-use, community facility. It had been the preferred spot for major Commonwealth Games structures before Canada's ill-fated bid for the 2014 sports spectacle was yanked eight years ago.
Dartmouth resident Richard Bonner says a mixed-use property would be nice, including wooded trails and some parkland situated by proposed residential and commercial elements. "I'd like to see a combination—I do not want to see a stadium in this location, mostly because I'm worried about traffic," he says. "There just isn't enough space to put enough roadway in to handle" thousands of vehicles.
Other suggestions provided to Canada Lands included a medium-density residential area, seniors' housing, bicycle paths and a commuter ferry terminal.
Attendees of the ideas fair heard that nothing is on the drawing board yet. "I won't be as cliché as to say, 'Be bold,' but let's be visionary, let's be aspirational, let's think in a dynamic mode," Chris Millier, real estate director for Canada Lands, told the session.
At this point in a multi-stage process, redevelopment notions are being collected by Canada Lands staff. Though demolition at Shannon Park could conceivably begin this fall, its potential renaissance is probably years away from completion.
A Canada Lands official said environmental issues have to be dealt with prior to razing. Currently-standing structures that were likely built with lead paint and asbestos floor tiles will be torn down. The first step is for a consultant to identify any harmful substances in the buildings. (Also, underground materials must be removed.)
The company has acquired most of the 39-hectare Shannon Park site. The land's military link stretches back to 1949, but by 2003 all DND personnel were out of there.
Almost four hectares have been transferred to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The Millbrook band has a claim on that parcel of land, better known as Turtle Grove—that Mi'kmaq settlement by the water was destroyed by the 1917 Halifax Explosion.
Today, Shannon Park is a sad-looking spot. In plain English, it's an eyesore. Glass windows on low-rise buildings–about 40 are on the property–have been shattered by vandals, doorways are boarded-up and there's grass growing through cracks in unused streets. At least one of the many No Trespassing signs has graffiti on it.
A community liaison group monitoring the redevelopment is to be formed. If all goes well, three or four design options should be unveiled by the end of this year, Millier said. A "preferred" proposal would be subject to Halifax city hall's planning procedures, "which hopefully doesn't bring us all the way back to the beginning for public consultation."
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