Halifax to put Bloomfield Centre up for sale in April
Community group is critical and thinks plan needs to be revisited
February 12, 2020, 4:52 pm ASTLast Updated: February 12, 2020, 4:52 pm
Halifax is once again looking to sell the Bloomfield Centre property in the city’s north end.
Since 1982, the property has been used by numerous community groups, and before that it was a school. In 2014, the city closed the property and its buildings have since been vacant.
City staff are now preparing to put out a request for proposal (RFP), marking the third time the city has sought to sell the property located between Agricola and Robie streets.
“Now that the Regional Council has approved Center Plan Package A, staff are proceeding with the sales effort for the property. It is anticipated that the listing will be in April,” HRM spokesperson Brynn Budden said in an email.
But Susanna Fuller, a founding member of the community group Imagine Bloomfield, isn’t celebrating.
“I’m feeling totally annoyed, totally annoyed,” said Fuller. “We have been working for almost 20 years to save at least one of the heritage buildings and have an arts and creative community centre there.”
In the past, Imagine Bloomfield has worked with the city to use the space for groups and programs that support the north end’s community.
The upcoming RFP is based on the Bloomfield Master Plan, conceived by Imagine Bloomfield and the city in 2008. But Fuller said the plan is in serious need of an update.
“I think for them to put this up for RFP in a 10-year-old master plan is actually irresponsible, because the community has changed a lot,” said Fuller.
The development will include “a minimum of 20,000 square feet of affordable community and/or cultural space and a minimum of 10,000 square feet of commercial space, targeted to the creative industry, as key objectives and principles of the Bloomfield Conceptual Master Plan,” said Budden.
But Fuller doesn’t think it should be left up to the developer.
“I can’t think of one example in this city where the private sector creates community space,” said Fuller.
The property currently sits idle, partially surrounded by a chain link fence. Its windows are boarded up. Signs warning of falling bricks are posted on its walls.
The 3.28 acres of property includes three buildings totalling 90,000 square feet of floor area. The Commons building is the oldest, built in 1919. The Main Bloomfield building was built in 1971. The Fielding building was built in 1929 and is the only building that doesn’t need to be torn down.
Fuller said she understands the need for more housing on the peninsula, but also believes it’s important to preserve heritage buildings and green spaces in the north end.
“We also need places for the community to go, we also need places for social inclusion, for arts, for studio space, for just basic non-profits to be accessible,” said Fuller. “My feeling is that they could do both (and) they could maintain one of the heritage buildings.”
In April, 2019, Imagine Bloomfield submitted a business plan that would see the Fielding building restored and used as community space.
But the proposal wasn’t supported by the city.
In an interview before Tuesday’s council meeting, Coun. Lindell Smith ensured the space would still serve a communal purpose.
“Any community arts program could run that space,” he said.
According to Smith, community organizations will have to apply to occupy the designated community and cultural arts spaces. Whether or not the Fielding building will remain standing will depend on the RFP accepted by the city.
The city has tried to sell it twice. On Dec. 11, 2012, it entered into an agreement of purchase and sale with the Nova Scotia Housing Development Cooperation for “mixed use development” of the property.
But that agreement was terminated three years later when the province advised the city it intended to not proceed with the project. The agreement of sale was made under the previous provincial NDP government.
In 2018, Nova Scotia passed on buying property. The city hoped to sell it to the province, which was looking for a school property for the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial. The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said in a letter to the city that the site presented several challenges, according to a preliminary study done by their staff.
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