Halifax Waterfront

We have been building on the greatness of the ocean since 1976. As Waterfront Development, our goal was to create experiences and opportunities by investing in infrastructure at the water’s edge. The waterfront has always been the historical core of commercial and naval Halifax. We began with a focus on the Halifax Harbour, and have since expanded our operations to the Bedford, Dartmouth, and Lunenburg waterfronts.

A bustling working harbour in a growing city.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Halifax waterfront featured a busy working harbour in the heart of the city’s downtown development. While there was a movement initiated by the business community (a group called the Halifax Civic Improvement League) to make Halifax “the most beautiful city in Canada,” their vision didn’t relate to the waterfront specifically.

The rise of container shipping and the decline of commercial fishing.

The post-WWI downturn in traditional waterfront activity was followed by containerized shipping growth, which led to property deterioration as businesses moved elsewhere in the harbour. Over this same period, Halifax declined as a fishing port due to improved transportation connections to more remote coastal areas.

Protecting our waterfront from highway traffic.

In 1960, a proposed Harbourfront Highway—similar to other North American “urban renewal” projects—came to light. However, the community of Halifax refused to let this happen and demanded a more progressive strategy for their waterfront.

Waterfront Development is born.

All three levels of government came together to develop a plan that would generate economic and social property on the waterfront. Their committee was soon transformed into a Crown Corporation for Nova Scotia, named Waterfront Development, with the mandate of redeveloping and revitalizing the lands surrounding Halifax Harbour (and any other lands designated by its shareholder, the Province of Nova Scotia).

Decades of inspiring developments.

Since our inception in 1976, we have worked with partners on a number of key development projects, including the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel and the award-winning Bishop’s Landing in Halifax. The current portfolio includes Queen’s Marque and Cunard in Halifax, the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE), Dartmouth Cove, and the Waterfront Lands at Mill Cove in Bedford. In Lunenburg, we work with the community on various projects with the goal of turning sustainable waterfront operations back to the community. Today, Halifax and Lunenburg waterfronts are two of the most visited destinations in Nova Scotia.

Engaging the Community

Central to successful growth and placemaking is engaging the community to create authentic, local places for everyone.

How do we do this? Here’s one example:

Children’s Playground

….ideas and drawings based on the imagination of children

The popular playground near the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on the Halifax waterfront was replaced in 2011. Who better to draw ideas and inspiration from than those who love and visit playgrounds?

Based on input from local children (and their families, many who recalled playing on the structure growing up) during a weekend of fun consultation sessions, they divided into groups to draw, colour or shape their ideas under the direction of artist Holly Carr.

What emerged from the imaginations of children and families who took part and experts ranging from boat builders and designers to safety consultants, were two key features—a two-dimensional octopus wall and a 45-foot submarine. New lighting, seating and landscaping were also part of the project.

Before the new playground took shape, dozens of children and families gathered to pay tribute to the well-loved 25-year-old playground and get a sneak peek of its replacement. The original playground featured a wooden play boat called Halcyon, a mythical Greek name for the Kingfisher that had magic powers to calm the waves in winter. The tribute recognized the team who designed and built the original play area and gave people a chance to share their memories of it.

The submarine for the new playground was built in Gold River, Nova Scotia by boat builder Bruce Thomson and his team at Tern Boatworks. They used the same strip-planking method used in the Bluenose II restoration project. The structure includes a slide, periscope, portholes, climbing feature and interactive elements. The first level is also wheelchair accessible.

The playground team included McGowan Marine Design, Projectworks Artistry, Fogo Creative, Grace Kells Playground Safety Consultants, and BMR Structural Engineers, who refined the concepts to ensure safety while maintaining a custom design for the Halifax waterfront.

Project partners include Halifax Port Authority, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax Regional Municipality, and Outside! Planning and Design Studio.

Looking Ahead

Today, as Develop Nova Scotia, we are expanding our focus to work with communities across the province to build places that attract people and investment, many of which are at the water’s edge.

Thanks to Stephen Archibald’s “Noticed in Nova Scotia” Blog for a selection of images.

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COVID-19 Update from Develop Nova Scotia. Learn More.