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ROGER TAYLOR: Banc will not be fast tracking the redevelopment of Halifax's Bloomfield property

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The Bloonfield Centre seen in Halifax Thursday December 3, 2020.

TIM KROCHAK PHOTO
The Bloomfield Centre seen in Halifax on Thursday December 3, 2020. It was sold in January by HRM for $22 million. - Tim Krochak

The Halef family-owned Banc Group of Companies isn’t planning an immediate start on the redevelopment of the Bloomfield Centre in Halifax’s north end.

Alex Halef, president of Banc Properties, told me it is very unlikely work will begin on the site in 2021.

“We don’t know what it will look like,” he said.

“We don’t even know how many buildings.” 

Banc bought the 1.26 hectare Bloomfield Centre property from Halifax Regional Municipality in January for $22 million.

Halef said plans for the mixed-use project have been pretty well stipulated in the rules the municipality established for the bidding process.

Banc’s project will include about 400 apartments, with 10 per cent of those units designated for affordable housing. It also includes about 20 per cent open space, public and private, and 20,000 square feet of community and cultural space, which will be leased at below-market rates.

Halef said he and his team have three other major projects on the go in Halifax absorbing most of their attention.

He was referring to the Margaretta, a mixed-use project just off Spring Garden Road and across from the library; the Lock Suites on Wellington Street; and another mixed-use project with luxury apartments called the Interchange, at 3514 Joseph Howe Dr.

Community concern

About 200 residents of north-end Halifax took part in Arms Around Bloomfield in May 2020 to protest Halifax Regional Municipality's intent to sell the former Bloomfield Centre property. - Eric Wynne
About 200 residents of north-end Halifax took part in Arms Around Bloomfield in May 2020 to protest Halifax Regional Municipality's intent to sell the former Bloomfield Centre property. - Eric Wynne

The redevelopment of the Bloomfield site has been controversial. A former school, it was operating as a community centre when it was deemed surplus property by the municipality in 2002.

But nothing in the Bloomfield saga moves quickly.

In 2009 that regional council adopted a Bloomfield master plan and issued a request for proposals for consulting services to research management models. It wasn’t until 2012 that the city finally issued a request for proposals for the purchase of the Bloomfield property.

In December 2012, council approved a sale and redevelopment plan proposed by the Nova Scotia Housing Development Corp. That deal with the provincially owned corporation happened while the NDP was in power but, after the next provincial election, those plans changed.

The Liberals won and by May 2016 council agreed to terminate the arrangement with the province to redevelop Bloomfield.

The three buildings on the Bloomfield site have been vacant since 2014, but council directed municipal staff to hold off on trying to sell the property again until the Centre Plan development rules had been established.

The Centre Plan outlines a process for the area that includes peninsular Halifax, and Dartmouth as far as the Circumferential Highway. The first part of the plan, Package A, was approved by council in September 2019. 

The community design advisory committee is still working on completing the second phase. It was held back by the pandemic but, according to the Centre Plan website, and the second package isn’t expected to be adopted until the latter half of 2021.  

In 2017, Bloomfield was briefly considered as a possible location for a new school but that idea was rejected by the province in 2018. 

It wasn’t until May of last year that Halifax finally put Bloomfield back on the market, after the adoption of the Centre Plan.

About Banc

By January this year, the municipality was finally able to close the sale of the property to Banc, the winning bidder. Even after all that, it hasn’t been without opponents who objected to a prime piece of public land being sold to a private developer. 

Banc Group was founded in 1998 by Alex’s father, Besim Halef, who started metal fabrication company Banc Metals. Over time, Banc moved more of its attention to land development.

It was the developer of Bedford Commons, Mount Royale subdivision, the Trinity Harborview project, Rockingham South and Kelly Crossing, and is owner of a large portion of land in the Bayers Lake business park.

Alex Halef also acquired the 1.3 hectare site of the former St. Patrick's school property, at the corner of Quinpool Road and Windsor Street in Halifax, in early 2020 for $37.61 million. He said he won't start construction on that project for a while for the same reason he’s not moving quickly to develop the Bloomfield property.

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