SHEET HARBOUR – Seven years in the making, the new Eastern Shore Lifestyles Centre (ESLC) should be up and running in 2027, says a senior member of the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) planning team in charge of the $9 million project.
“The project is approved for the 2025-26 and 2026-27 fiscal years,” HRM’s Director of Facility Design and Construction Philip Dugandzic stated in an email to Councillor David Hendsbee (Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore), who forwarded it to The Journal last week.
According to the email, the completion date for the 21,000-square-foot facility has been extended to March 31, 2027 to ensure that it can meet the financial terms of its three, equal-cost-sharing partners — HRM, the provincial and federal governments.
Said Hendsbee: “I am quite cognizant of the funding deadlines and that’s why I had this project advanced by a year in the HRM capital budget schedule to ensure any problems with contractors, sub trades, supply chain issues and any other delays will not jeopardize the federal-provincial funding conditions.”
The news — originally announced at a June 2 meeting with city officials arranged by Hendsbee at the request ESLC’s citizen committee — is generating everything from delight to cautious optimism among community leaders who have watched the project evolve from a simple roof replacement on the Lion’s Centre to a full-scale fitness complex, meeting hall, library and potential new home for the local fire department.
“This project is actually on schedule considering the various components and services that will be combined in this facility,” said Tom McInnes, chair of the ESLC committee, who indicated that construction could begin in 2025.
“There are always government regulations and investigative work that must be complied with on projects of this magnitude... [but] the funding is in place.”
Said Janice Christie, chair of the ESLC committee’s community fundraising efforts and president of the Sheet Harbour Chamber of Commerce and Civic Affairs: “We are now in our seventh year of planning, [so] I felt some relief when the project team accepted the invitation to meet with us in Sheet Harbour to provide the timeline they are now working with and what they see as a realistic date for the project to be completed. The community deserves timely action on this facility [as] the aging Lion’s Centre is consistently closed one half of each year.”
She added: “At our last ESLC committee meeting, I expressed frustration with HRM and their lack of communication with us and the community as to their progress of the steps involved in bringing the lifestyle centre to fruition. Our board chair has consistently requested a timeline getting to construction and ultimately an opening date, which they [had] continually failed to meet.”
According to McInnes, the ESLC committee “turned the whole thing” over to HRM in February, including site selection, management and construction. Since then, he said, “They’ve chosen a site that none of us had looked at, really... a wonderful site just adjacent to the existing fire hall [and they’re] doing the due diligence on that.”
He said the plan, according to HRM, is to finalize the location by November and, shortly thereafter, follow with a request for proposal (RFP) from architectural and/or engineering firms. That timeline, he hastened to add, is not cast in stone.
“But we’re presuming they’ll have the call out for architects over a period of two or three months. Some people say the design may take close to a year. The architectural/engineering firm will have to come to the community on at least two occasions to have public consultations. And then [the project] will go to construction.”
As for specific next steps, Hendsbee said, “Expectations are running high and we anticipate to have some good news to announce shortly.”