NSCAD announces new plan for waterfront campus | The Coast Halifax

NSCAD announces new plan for waterfront campus

A “unified campus” at the Seaport will replace the historic Granville Street buildings, eventually.

A rendering of what the new NSCAD on the waterfront might look like.
A rendering of what the new NSCAD on the waterfront might look like.

It’s 1.3 kilometers from NSCAD’s Fountain Campus, at 1895 Granville Street, to the region of the Halifax waterfront known as The Seaport, where a statue of Samuel Cunard presides over the slate-coloured waters. By car, that’s a four-minute journey; on foot, it’s more like 20 minutes. For the school itself, though, relocating from its longtime base of downtown Halifax historic buildings, which were once Victorian-era shops, to a new home by the boardwalk has taken years—over a decade in all.

But, today the trek got a step closer.

At a press conference this afternoon, NSCAD president Dr. Peggy Shannon announced that the art school has signed a long-term lease with Halifax Port Authority for Shed 22 and 23 on the waterfront, part of the complex on Marginal Road that houses NSCAD’s Port Campus, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. The two sheds are multi-use, flex spaces totalling 100,000 square feet—adding, as a press release puts it, to “NSCAD’s existing footprint at Port Campus to better serve the spatial and programmatic needs of the art school’s vision for the future.”

The lease is part of a new partnership between the school and the Halifax Seaport District. Today’s announcement also included news of a plan-in-progress at NSCAD to create a fully accessible campus on the waterfront that’ll replace all other NSCAD footprints (both the Fountain Campus on Granville Street and the NSCAD Academy Building, located at 1649 Brunswick Street).

click to enlarge NSCAD announces new plan for waterfront campus
An overhead map of The Seaport, with NSCAD's Port Campus and newly leased spaces boxed in red.

This vision of a “unified campus”, as the release puts it, has been a long time coming: A formal decision to make a relocation plan from the Fountain Campus was passed by NSCAD’s board “on or before the end of 2019”, as The Coast quoted the verdict at the time. (The Port Campus opened its doors in 2007, but depending on what you’re studying at NSCAD, it’s possible the bulk of your degree would still see you spending time at the Fountain Campus–a confusing interconnected collection of buildings that have charm to spare, but are an accessibility and upkeep nightmare: In a 2018, then-president Dianne Taylor-Gearing told CBC "We have leaking roofs.")

Today’s release doesn’t give a firm move-in date, but does state that Fountain Campus-based programs like jewellery, textile and fashion are in the process of a renovation project at the Port Campus. “It will take some years to develop the plans and work schedule to create a unified campus at the Halifax Seaport, so there’s no current timeline for when we expect to vacate our other two campuses,” it adds.

The last time NSCAD dropped news like this was in 2021, when it sent an email newsletter saying that it was pulling the plug on a four-year-held plan to move into a complex with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia elsewhere on the waterfront, near Salter Street. Since then, of course, the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (a project that would've replaced the current gallery on Hollis Street) has gone on an indefinite pause, as the provincial government announced it would no longer provide major funding to the project in a surprise announcement this August.

As for the future of 1895 Granville Street? Last June, the Globe & Mail reported that NSCAD’s highly publicized firing of its then-president, Aoife Mac Namara—which happened abruptly and only a year into her tenure—“began soon after she pushed back against a proposal to sell historic campus buildings to a Halifax developer.” But, nothing in today’s announcement referenced what will come next for the Fountain Campus—including if there are any potential buyers for the buildings. The Coast is looking into this further, and will update when we know more.