New Dawn Centre a beehive of activity

The buzz is growing

The New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation is becoming such an increasingly publicized community hot spot that we might soon be able to stop referring to it as the former Holy Angels High School.

To be sure, “Holy Angels” trips off the tongue easier than “the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation” or even “the Centre for Social Innovation.”

Perhaps, if it doesn’t already have one, the Sydney centre needs a pithy nickname, kind of like the Big Fiddle for the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion. The Big Beehive, maybe?

The centre has certainly become a beehive of activity since New Dawn Enterprises purchased the vacant property about 18 months ago. And the buzz is growing.

As the Cape Breton Post’s Laura Jean Grant reported earlier this week, the section of the site that housed the former school has reached its capacity for tenants — approximately 15 businesses, community groups and service organizations.

The tenants are as varied as a yoga studio, a business school and the Celtic Colours box office.

“This building filled up much quicker than we had anticipated and it really is a mix of tenants that we had hoped for in the earliest of days,” Erika Shea, New Dawn’s director of communications, told the Post on Monday. “In the early days you could become overwhelmed when you were here by yourself walking through all of this space, but to see how quickly this has filled up is great.”

Even better, according to Shea, a recently completed “future-uses study” determined that the former school property can be financially self-sustaining through rental income — both from permanent tenants and those who want to rent a space such as the gym for a specific period of time.

“The property will not require ongoing subsidy or funding to meet its operational expenses,” said Shea.

It’s not surprising that the folks behind the centre sometimes felt overwhelmed by the prospect of fully leasing the former school property, given the often negative spin around Sydney’s demographic makeup and economic environment.

That makes the strides made already all the more impressive, proving that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

And the centre’s success in fully leasing the former Holy Angels property in a financially self-sustaining manner bodes well for its next big challenge: Renovating the nearby former convent, to the tune of a potentially overwhelming total of approximately $6 million, so that space, too, can eventually be rented out.

But those behind New Dawn Enterprises, and the Centre for Social Innovation in particular, have proven that they won’t be daunted by seemingly overwhelming challenges.

Staff, The Cape Breton Post, October 1st