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NSCAD to move entire campus to Halifax Seaport

The arts university will lease space from the Halifax Port Authority minutes from the established Port campus

4 min read
Three people standing in front of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. One woman in a pink suit stands in front of a podium with a sign on the front of it that reads "NSCAD University," she is speaking into a microphone.
caption NSCAD President Peggy Shannon (centre) announces the university's deal with the Halifax Port Authority. Olivia Fay (SUNSCAD) and Captain Allan Gray (Port Authority) accompany (left to right).

NSCAD University says it will unify its three-campus operations at the Halifax Seaport by 2030.

University president Peggy Shannon announced the deal with the Halifax Port Authority, owner of the Seaport buildings, on Tuesday. NSCAD will take up a 100,000-square-foot space approximately 270 metres down Marginal Road from its current Port campus known as Shed 22 and 23.

An overhead image of the buildings that create the Halifax SeaPort. Two red-outlined shapes highlight the existing Port campus and the newly leased spaces., the two outlined squares are about 200 meters apart in reality
caption Distributed in the news release, an overhead image details the location of the newly leased space in relation to the existing Port campus

“Just imagine a reunited, purpose-built, accessible facility that will support and inspire the creativity of the next generation of students,” Shannon said in a news release.

Since 2007, the arts university has been operating on three campuses, spread out around downtown Halifax. Fountain campus is on Duke Street and Academy campus is on Brunswick Street at the base of Citadel Hill. Students often have to commute between campuses midday for different classes.

Plans to vacate Fountain campus can be traced back to 2015. Minutes from a February 2018 NSCAD Board of Governors meeting stated that “the condition of the Fountain Campus will not be fully compliant with Bill 59 Accessibility Act.”

The move to Seaport will be completed in alignment with the Nova Scotia Government’s Accessibility Act. Passed in 2017, the act mandates that all public spaces must be physically accessible in Nova Scotia by 2030.

“We want to foster a post-secondary system that is safe, accessible and represents the diversity of our province from one end to the other,” said Brian Wong, Nova Scotia’s minister of advanced education. “It’s exciting to think that NSCAD’s new proposed future campus fits into this vision.”

Shannon said there has been no conversation about what will happen with the buildings that form the Academy and Fountain campuses.

“I think we have two buildings that are not purpose built for our design,” she said in an interview. The move will allow for a space that is created with the needs of an art and design school in mind, she added.

Losing 20,000 square feet

Isabelle Nault, the facilities director at NSCAD, said with the move, the school will lose 120,000 sq.ft. of campus space between the Academy and Fountain campuses. This means there will be a 20,000 sq.ft. deficit with the move.

Nault said the Shed 22 and 23 renovation will allow for a more efficient and physically accessible use of space. The Fountain campus, above Granville mall, comprises 19 buildings and “is a maze of corridors and stairs,” as the buildings’ floor plates do not align, she said in an email.

“We are downsizing any spaces that are for academic or student-life purposes,” she wrote.

Mixed reaction

Shannon said the next steps in the process include design consultation and hiring an architect. She said she hosted two student consultation sessions before Tuesday’s announcement and there are  more to come.

“I think there is hesitancy from before,” she said. “Students just felt like they weren’t heard.”

Olivia Fay, president of the Student Union of NSCAD, said student reaction on the move is mixed. She said many students are attached to the downtown space where NSCAD has been centred since the 1970s and are confused as to why the school would move away from this asset. NSCAD owns the row of buildings that form its Fountain campus.

“I don’t think people are aware of the amount it would cost to renovate our old campuses,” she said.

Fay sees the move as the cheaper and necessary option to create an accessible campus.

NSCAD didn’t release the terms of the lease with the Halifax Port Authority.

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Ry Pembroke

Ry is a journalism student at the University of King's College. They have a Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary Studies and Religious Studies from...

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