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The future of the Nova Scotia Community College’s new Sydney waterfront campus will be dictated by the past.
Rob LeBlanc, head of the firm tasked with planning the relocation of the NSCC’s Marconi Campus, unveiled some of the criteria and influences that will be considered in the design of the site located where the Esplanade meets Kings Road at the south end of downtown Sydney.
“We’re looking at really interesting ways of incorporating the history of the community into this new facility,” said LeBlanc, president of Fathom Studio, the Dartmouth-based architectural firm once known as Ekistics Planning and Design.
“We’ve gone back in time to Mi’kmaq history, pre-contact history and we’re looking at the evolution of the city and the community and the industries that gave rise to it — we’re starting to look at a detailed timeline so this will all be part of the analysis that will eventually feed into the physical design of the facility.”
LeBlanc, whose firm was commissioned by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in 2014 to come up with a conceptual outline for the Sydney waterfront and again in 2017 for a downtown Sydney revitalization study, offered an update on the NSCC relocation project at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the CBRM council at city hall.
He told council that while all the usual criteria, including parking logistics, traffic impact, pedestrian flow and active transportation initiatives, are being taken into consideration, his team will also be going back in time to better understand the evolution of the waterfront which he described as initially being typical of early British colonial seaside towns.
“We’re currently looking through the archives and going through the history of the waterfront, we’re looking at the industries, the people, the places, the architecture and all of these things will inform the eventual design,” said LeBlanc.
“And we’re hoping that will be more than just signs on walls, we’re hoping it will be deeply embedded into the built structure of the building and the landscape itself such that into the future this facility will tell the story of the history of the community.”
LeBlanc went on to note some of the other considerations that will be factored into the design of the new campus. He said his team will look at the impact of weather conditions, including sunrise, sunset, winds, water, climate change and sea-rise impact. And, he added, they will rely on some of the findings of Ekistics earlier work in the community.
“We’re actually going to implement a lot of the policies and recommendations that were part of both the downtown plan and the waterfront plan, so we want to maintain those view corridors from downtown to the waterfront,” he said.
For their part, CBRM councillors were impressed and excited over the future of a downtown that will be revitalized by the NSCC campus relocation. And, some like Amanda McDougall, offered their opinions on certain aspects of the move.
“I want to see more peripheral drop-off points and creative maneuvering of human bodies back and forth by foot and active transportation, but less cars, less cars, less cars,” said McDougall.
As for vehicles, LeBlanc said the facility will likely have 200 parking spaces on a site that will incorporate the latest storm water management and green ecological design techniques. He also said the building will have four front sides and no back.
The province has estimated that the cost for the detailed design and development of the new campus, including its site preparation and land acquisition, to be roughly $18 million.