A victory for North Sydney
Proposed downtown park touted as ‘catalyst that rejuvenates North Sydney’
The public got its first look at a planned park that a community group says would transform North Sydney’s waterfront and revitalize its downtown district.
The Victory Park Society unveiled its plans to turn a virtually vacant lot between the Ballast Grounds and the Irving gas station on Commercial Street into a vibrant outdoor gathering spot.
Group chair Ryan Duff showed the approximately 60 people gathered at Emera Centre Northside on Thursday night the proposed design for the one-acre property. Prepared free of charge by architects at Ekistics Planning and Design in Dartmouth, the plan features a boardwalk that runs the length of the park from the street to the harbour.
In between there’s an accessible playground, splash pad, large community fire pit, food truck plaza, kiosks and market stalls for local vendors, outdoor seating under trees, rope lookoff deck and a floating dock for boats to tie up.
The estimated price tag for the park is $1.3 million, not including the cost of the land. Duff said that investment would pay off by bringing more of the 300,000 passengers who travel on Marine Atlantic ferries each year into the downtown.
“We need something that really pulls them downtown and holds them there and supports the businesses,” he said.
The owner of the property has agreed to pull it off the market until May 2019 so the Victory Park Society can raise the money to buy it.
They are still hoping to eventually secure the neighbouring twoacre lot but decided to go ahead with their plans for the smaller parcel, which Duff said is more than adequate for the park.
“I want to step back from portraying this as a really small piece of land that we’re trying to get by with and squeeze stuff in there where it doesn’t really fit — that’s not the case at all. It’s a one-acre site, which is still a good size and we can comfortably get everything that was on our must-have list,” he said.
“Even when you drive by it, it’s really hard to get a sense of how big it is. To get a sense of how big it is, you have to walk down there, walk down by the water and look back to the street, and it’s amazing when you do that. We were shocked.”
Cape Breton Regional Municipality Dist. 2 Coun. Earlene MacMullin said the park has the ability to change North Sydney’s future.
“That may sound a little big for a park, but in all reality with the planning we’ve done and the location of the park, and working with the business community and working with other non-profit organizations, because Marine Atlantic is on one end and that is literally the last piece of property that’s on our downtown, it wraps it up so nicely that it will actually contain people down there,” she said.
“We’re already known in North Sydney as the food hub — we have some darn good restaurants over here — and we have people coming from all over CBRM, different parts of the island, to take enjoyment in that. We have 300,000 (ferry passengers) that come through every year that are starting to realize that North
Sydney’s got a little something. Our difficulty with the passengers right now is that they only come out so far. With that park being located where it is, that’s the opportunity that North Sydney’s needs to increase the rest of the downtown, to help the businesses, to put more money in, to put more foot traffic, that can literally rejuvenate our entire town. That could be the catalyst that rejuvenates North Sydney.”
Duff said the Victory Park Society, which formed after the sale of Archibald’s Wharf in North Sydney, is already working to raise the undisclosed amount of money needed to purchase the one-acre property.
The group is hosting a golf tournament on June 23 at Seaview Golf and Country Club in North Sydney, and also has a weekly flea market at the Community Cares Youth Outreach
facility in Sydney Mines.
Duff said the plan is to buy the land, then turn to government and corporate sponsors to help pay for the park itself.
“Because we don’t own the land yet, that’s really a complicating factor in getting government money,” he said. “Once we own the land, it’s time to pony up.”
This conceptual image prepared by Ekistics Planning and Design shows a planned park on one acre of land between the Ballast Grounds and the Irving gas station in downtown North Sydney.