New neighbours at the port
Port of Sydney Development Corp., ACAP Cape Breton to move into former federal fisheries building
The former Fisheries and Oceans Canada building that has sat vacant on the Sydney waterfront for the past few years will be getting two new tenants in the coming months.
ACAP Cape Breton will take over 1,800 square feet of office space on Canada Day, while starting on Aug. 1, the Port of Sydney Development Corp. has leased another 2,000 square feet.
Both will be located on the main floor of the brown brick building overlooking the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion.
Marlene Usher, CEO of the Port of Sydney Development Corp., said it was a matter of convenience to be moving back down to the Sydney Marine Terminal.
“We always wanted to be close to the terminal,” she said Wednesday. “Now that the cruise season has started we really see the inconvenience of not being there — not only for the public and cruise services but just for us, too, because we like to be at the site.”
Usher said it was a matter of having to “crunch the numbers” to determine whether the port could afford the move.
The corporation previously put in an $800,000 bid to buy the building as outlined in board minutes from November 2015, however that offer was rejected by the building’s owner at the time, Ian and Jamie McDonald of J.I.J. Holdings Ltd.
J.I.J. Holdings, which purchased the building from the federal government in 2001, sold it in December 2016 to real estate developer Patrick Donovan for $1,185,324.
The property’s current assessed value is $577,900 and it’s 33,837 square feet in size.
The port’s general manager Paul Carrigan said the board of directors approved a five-year lease agreement at its April meeting.
The small makeshift building used by the port’s office staff was torn down in December and they have made two moves since.
He said Donovan is currently upgrading the building’s first floor to Class A office space.
“He’s also going to be doing (work on) the façade and such,” noted Carrigan.
He said the lease agreement, including the cost of rent, won’t be released to the public citing the confidential nature of the information. However, the cost of office space will be included in the port’s year-end report.
Donovan could not be reached by the Post for comment on his long-term plans for the building. Its last tenant was laboratory testing company, Maxxam Analytics, which moved out in 2015.
Along with several dated apartment complexes located on Windsor Street and Spruce Haven Drive in Sydney, Donovan, through his numbered company, 3046975 Nova Scotia Ltd., also owns the vacant and vandalized former Sydney train station on Dodd Street.
The former train station is described as in the “pre-development stage” by Donovan’s other company registered under the name Falcon Realty.
The residential properties are also advertised for lease online at falcon-realty.ca even though Falcon Realty had its registration revoked in April for non-payment by the province’s registry of joint stock companies.
While at the corner of George and Townsend streets, ACAP Cape Breton recently sold its building to a yet-to-be disclosed buyer.
It was most recently listed for sale in March 2017 at $250,000, down from the previous asking price of $295,000. The property is currently assessed at $116,300.
ACAP Cape Breton executive director Jodi McDavid said the decision was made two years ago to sell its George Street building, which formerly housed an RBC bank branch.
Over the past number of years cuts in government funding has reduced staff from a peak of approximately 20 employees to its current level of four.
“We’re just downsizing,” she said, in leaving the 2,500-squarefoot space. “It’s not very energy efficient for us to be in a huge building and be an environmental organization.”
McDavid said the group isn’t concerned about losing its visibility in a high traffic location on George Street, noting the amount of outdoor research conducted on Sydney harbour and Muggah Creek make the move to the marine terminal a logical choice.
“We do tours of native plants and … we do talk to people about the legacy of the tar ponds so there’s an education aspect to what we do here as well as the environmental aspect,” she said.
“The other thing is we often are doing interpretation down near the harbour, talking to people about different things that are living there.”
As for possible collaboration between the port and ACAP, Usher said it’s too early to discuss if or how the two organizations could promote each other’s activities.
“Now that the cruise season has started we really see the inconvenience of not being there – not only for the public and cruise services but just for us, too, because we like to be at the site.”
Marlene Usher, CEO, Port of Sydney Development Corp.
A couple of passengers from the cruise ship Maasdam walk by the former Fisheries and Oceans Canada building at 90 Esplanade in downtown Sydney on Wednesday. The building will have its first occupants in some time when ACAP Cape Breton and the Port of Sydney Development Corp. move into the first floor of the building this summer.