DARTMOUTH – Construction on the next phase of the King’s Wharf development in Dartmouth could start as early as this summer after HRM councillors signed off Thursday night on a new development agreement for the project.
The new plan submitted by the developer, Fares and Co. Development Inc., lays out a significant overhaul of the site. It features new townhouses, public parks, new building designs, and a second access point for pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
It also dramatically increases the height of buildings allowed on the site, paving the way for a 40-storey tower perched at the water’s edge.
All told, the agreement allows for buildings on 13 more lots. Including the four towers that are already there, the completed development will hold 1,500 residential units and more than 27,000 square metres of retail space.
Project planner Sean Day told the Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council Thursday night that the new plan spreads the site out more, offers better public space, and more variation between the buildings.
He said it’s a big improvement over the old plan, which was first approved more than a decade ago and held developers to very strict guidelines that didn’t allow for adaptation.
For the most part, the council agreed.
District 2 councillor David Hensbee said the new plan is a “marked improvement” over the last. District 5 councillor Sam Austin also gave his approval, saying the new plan is the best way to balance the needs of everyone involved.
“The design, no matter which way you look at it, is an unqualified improvement over what was there before,” said Austin.
Members of the public also weighed in on the project at last night’s meeting. Most said they were happy with the new plan. Many said they were thrilled, and that the finished project would be a huge boon to downtown Dartmouth.
But some did raise concerns, especially around the new second access point, which will be for pedestrians, cyclists, and emergency vehicles only. In other words, not for cars.
Many thought that a single road leading out of the community wouldn’t be enough to support its massive population.
“I can’t imagine our development with 1,500 units of people trying to come in and out,” Sharon Robinson said.
Alex Handyside echoed her concerns, reminding the council that “many residents moved in with the understanding there would be a second [vehicle] access.”
Greg King, another area resident, offers his unqualified support for the new plan.
“I think it’s time that shovels hit the ground in Dartmouth and we get this thing done,” he said.
Before casting his vote to approve the new plan, Austin expressed his sympathy for those concerns.
“I really feel badly for the folks who bought into the units expecting a second access point to be built, because that was the original promise. And it’s not a promise that should really have ever been extended based on what the development agreement said,” he said.
Responding to those concerns, Day said the project was always supposed to be pedestrian-oriented, and that the latest plan is the best way to make the project work as a whole.
We feel that the new vision for King’s Wharf, which was crafted with people, not cars in mind, will dramatically increase vibrancy in the downtown,” said Day.
He also pointed to traffic studies that show the single road into the development is enough to support the community.
The agreement approved last night is Stage 1 of a two-stage agreement. The second stage will cover more specific details, like building materials and design, but won’t change anything major like building height or road alignments.
It will also need to pass muster before anything else can be built on the site.
David Quilichiai, the project manager for King’s Wharf, said that, if everything runs smoothly, his teams can start work by early summer of this year.
The next building to go up, he said, will be an 82-metre (24-storey) tower across from the four already-standing towers.