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Lunenburg waterfront steering committee staying the course

by Robert Hirtle


From left, Jane Ritcey Moore and Judith Carey chat with Craig Collins, principal of the Nova Scotia Community College - Lunenburg Campus, as he registers a membership with the Lunenburg Waterfront Association during the fourth annual waterfront symposium held June 14 at the Lunenburg fire hall.
 LUNENBURG - The first half of 2008 has been an eventful time for the Lunenburg Waterfront Association Inc. (LWAI) as it continues to consolidate and establish new businesses on the town's historic waterfront.

 That's the message Jim Eisenhauer, president of the LWAI, told a packed house at the fourth annual Lunenburg Waterfront Symposium, which was held June 14 at the Lunenburg fire hall.

 The symposium was the third such gathering to be held since the Waterfront Development Corporation, in conjunction with the LWAI, purchased 22 buildings and eight wharfs from Clearwater Seafoods in September 2005 for $5.5 million.

 "Since then, the Lunenburg Waterfront Association has participated as members of a steering committee which has been made up of representatives from Waterfront Development Corporation … and members from Nova Scotia Economic Development," Mr. Eisenhauer explained.

 Mr. Eisenhauer said significant deals were completed on a number of the former Clearwater properties in 2006 and early 2007, and negotiations are proceeding or have been completed on several others.

 They include the April purchase of the building at 194 Montague Street by the Lunenburg Fish Company, and the lease of the former Scotia Trawler office building located at 250 Montague Street, which now houses the consolidated offices of Clearwater Seafoods' entire fleet operations.

 Mr. Eisenhauer said a lease is in the process of being finalized with the owners of the Picton Castle for the warehouse and adjoining wharf located at 174 Bluenose Drive, and properties located at 182 and 188 Montague Street have been upgraded and placed on the market with a local real estate firm.

 A marketing plan has been prepared for the property located at 146 Bluenose Drive which most recently housed the Lunenburg Forge Company. Renovations have been carried out on the building and it, along with the adjacent wharf, will be actively shopped for new tenants this summer. Mr. Eisenhauer said the steering committee expects that a call for expressions of interest to develop the property may be issued later in the year.

 "That's a property that we see as a very important property, with lots of … unidentified potential," he said. "Obviously, with all of these properties that are on the waterfront, our preferred effort is working waterfront activities. Working waterfront needs boats. Without boats, we only have work on the waterfront. There's a difference."

 One intriguing possibility involves the former Scotia Trawler marine stockroom, located on the waterfront next door to Clearwater's new location, which has been identified as a possible site for a federal marine operations base.

 Mr. Eisenhauer said the steering committee has been encouraging the government to have an operating presence in the town, and federal officials, including Ministers Peter MacKay and Loyola Hearn, have visited the site on various occasions.

 "They are probably the largest vessel owners and operators in the country, and we would like to find vessels that they could operate from here," he said. "We're working with them and are in the stages of preparing a presentation to the minister of Fisheries and Oceans."

 Perhaps the most exciting development, however, involves Covey Island Boatworks of Petite Riviere, which is negotiating to take over what was once the Smith and Rhuland Boat shop, the site where Bluenose II was constructed and launched in 1963.

 In his address to the gathering, Covey Island Boatworks president John Steele said the process of negotiating a deal has been "fairly long and somewhat foreign."

 He said the idea of his company coming to Lunenburg was first broached three or four years ago when the consulting firm O'Halloran Campbell was working on a development plan for the waterfront.

 "[They] came to us just to get some input and ideas as to what we thought might or might not work and get a bit of insight into the industry and see if there was a fit there for the development plan," he explained. "That began a process whereby we gradually became increasingly interested in the opportunity that Lunenburg offered to ourselves."

 Last year the company submitted a proposal to take over the former Smith and Rhuland property, and expand their operations into Lunenburg.

 If a deal can be finalized, the firm plans to utilize two areas of the property for boat construction, one for those in the 40-to-60-foot range, with larger vessels being built on the site of the Smith and Rhuland shop.

 He said plans also include the development of a marina at the site to take advantage of Lunenburg's potential as "a terrific cruising destination.

 "Part and parcel of what we have in mind for the building and servicing of yachts is also to make a lot more people on the eastern seaboard aware of Lunenburg as a cruising destination, improve the mooring fields … get some water taxis going and bring more boats to town," he added.

 Mr. Steele said the company's goal is to be in a position to turn sod on the new facility this fall, with the yard to be operational by next summer.

 Cost of the project is estimated to be in the "$7 to $10 million" range, but that has "yet to be pinned down.

 "We've got a ways to go, but we are getting there," he added.

 Also making presentations at the symposium were Mayor Laurence Mawhinney; Craig Collins, principal of the Nova Scotia Community College - Lunenburg Campus, which opened a branch of its heritage carpentry course in the former Scotia Trawler mill earlier this year; and Susan Corkum-Greek of The Dory Shop.



posted on 06/24/08
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