Currently the Halifax Waterfront has around forty retailers along the boardwalk and is looking to expand as the population of Nova Scotia grows and Build Nova Scotia is looking to make it a year round destination.
The Halifax Waterfront has undergone numerous changes throughout the years and as the population increases in the city, Gordon Stevens, the Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Finance of Build Nova Scotia, says they will continue to build upon the boardwalk by adding more retail opportunities and experiences for locals and tourists.
“We are pretty excited about how people have responded to the investments that we have made to the boardwalk during Covid, and traffic has grown by 50 percent over what it has traditionally always been. It was already the most visited destination in Nova Scotia and to grow by 50 percent coming out of Covid was a pretty big vote of confidence in that work that has been done and it will continue,” says Stevens.
Stevens has estimated that over 3 million people will visit the waterfront this summer and with around 10,000 new residents and counting – the waterfront is being desired year round instead of only summers. During Covid, the estimated number of visitors was 2.2 million, and last year in March they saw around 3.2 million – 50 percent higher than their highest year.
Stevens said throughout the years, the boardwalk has been through some major renovations such as upgrading Bishop’s Landing, Queen’s Marque, and the current project is Cunard where new retail spaces will be available next year.
During Covid, Stevens said Build Nova Scotia also spent around ten million dollars to improve public spaces on the waterfront, including over a kilometer of new floating docks, hammocks for people to enjoy on the docks, and currently they are developing a new building that will add retail opportunities.
“The Cunard building is under construction right now and has thirty to forty square feet of commercial space and they are thirteen months out which is pretty impressive in today’s environment and I think they are probably getting close to being full. Right now there is a 2,500 square foot space that was closed just last week, so expect to hear about that shortly.”
In addition to the Cunard building, Stevens says there is also a ferry project underway that will bring significant upgrades to the ferry terminal, will be looking at extending the boardwalk to include more retail space, and will be switching the boardwalk season from summer to year round.
These new developments will add new retailers on the boardwalk, which currently only has around 40 and some of these are only open during the summer months, including East Coast Lifestyle which has recently turned ten this year, The Beer Garden, Peace by Chocolate, ice cream shops, restaurants, and tourism experiences. The expansion plans for the boardwalk will take years and as things are still up in the air, Stevens says they will have an update later.
Switching to a Year Round Experience
Due to the increasing popularity of the boardwalk, Stevens says they are looking to extend the season to not only be for the summer, but year round which will be a welcoming change to locals and tourists.
To make this happen, Stevens says they are looking for retailers who would stay open year round as of right now, a lot of retailers on the boardwalk are only open during the summer. Having more retailers who are also open during the winter, will attract more people to the waterfront no matter what month it is.
“If you have lived here for a few years or more, you have probably formed an opinion of places and only think about the waterfront only from a summer perspective. And since we have done a lot of upgrades to the public space during Covid, a lot of locals rediscovered it but for anyone who is new to Halifax have no previous opinions so we see them coming down in March and we have a fire burning, places to eat, and they walk around – it is just becoming more and more of a destination and because of this we have been seeing more people visiting the waterfront during the off season.”
The Halifax waterfront was developed back in the 1970s and Stevens says was originally designed to be a highway but was later canceled and was not used by the public until 2003 when Bishop’s Landing opened. Since then, the province has placed a lot of effort into making it the top destination for people to hang out, eat, and shop. The Bishop’s Landing was the first major mixed-use development along the waterfront and since then the area has steadily been growing. The waterfront is also known to cruise ships and summer events such as Evergreen and Buskers Festival.