PORT HAWKESBURY: The town has plans for the waterfront.

The Cape Breton Partnership and Town of Port Hawkesbury are working on the creation of a Port Hawkesbury Waterfront Plan to guide future development, as well as a feasibility study for a Marine Innovation Centre.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said the plan will try to maximize the potential of the waterfront, and get feedback from citizens and stakeholders, “so that we can create a vision for the waterfront, and then tie all the pieces together so that we can get a really good balance.”

The mayor said the balance is creating a destination for residents and visitors, within a working harbour that has to retain and attract business.

In addition to the boardwalk and marina, Chisholm-Beaton said this plan includes all of Granville Street.

Using the example of Destination Reeves Street, she said the process will start with consultations, then use that feedback to help draft a business and development plan with specific projects.

“Once we do have that outline and we do have that key consultation with businesses, with stakeholders, then we can see what is possible in that plan and how are we going to address those key features like beautification, like safety and function, like accessibility, like business retention and attraction,” the mayor noted.

In September 2019, the Cape Breton Partnership opened the Cape Breton University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre, the first of several innovation spaces to be developed across the Island as part of the Creative Island Network.

“A significant portion of our ocean and innovation-related sector is strategically located near the Strait of Canso, so we are excited to be part of this work,” says Carla Arsenault, Cape Breton Partnership President and CEO. “We look forward to continue our working relationship with the Town of Port Hawkesbury to look at the possibilities for growth and development of the waterfront area.”

A Marine Innovation Centre would be constructed on the former Port Hawkesbury Creamery site, and would create a space to encourage and support development within the Strait area’s ocean and innovation sectors.

The innovation spaces provide entrepreneurs, students and industry access to supports and training. A Marine Innovation Centre on the Port Hawkesbury waterfront would be part of the innovation space network.

Chisholm-Beaton said the Creamery has been vacant for some time, and this use was brought up in previous discussions about future uses for the space. She said the NSCC wanted a space at the waterfront, and the town spoke with the Cape Breton Partnership, as well as Develop Nova Scotia, along with other key partners.

“The idea that really stuck was looking at an innovation space for that building that could serve, not only the Town of Port Hawkesbury but also the region, and could focus on oceans innovation, and really other more general innovation as well,” the mayor recalled. “We could really capitalize on that important knowledge base that comes with having the nautical institute in the Town of Port Hawkesbury.”

Group ATN Consulting Inc. will prepare the waterfront plan and Marine Innovation Feasibility Study using extensive outreach and engagement in the community.

“They’re in the process right now of compiling a list of stakeholders down at our waterfront, and stakeholders that will be keys to our waterfront; businesses or industry, and certainly our partners like NSCC,” Chisholm-Beaton explained. “So there will be some engagement with stakeholders, as well as citizens. So that is something that will inform the final plan.”

The Port Hawkesbury Waterfront Plan and Marine Innovation Feasibility Study are being supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and Develop Nova Scotia.

The Cape Breton Partnership launched the Creative Island initiative in 2018 to grow and celebrate a culture that values creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as to attract and retain entrepreneurs in Cape Breton.

Group ATN Consulting is a diversified consultancy serving the public and private sectors, First Nations and Indigenous Interests and Non-Government Organizations. Group ATN also specializes in tourism analysis, communications and marketing.

“It’s exciting to see some energy and some planning going into our waterfront,” the mayor added. “Having a town that is located right on the ocean and being able to capitalize on having that kind of real estate, is quite important. And certainly as a province we do have the potential to become global leaders in ocean innovation, in ocean development and business and industry.”