SYDNEY — A little more than a year ago, as the first official occupant of the building, Sydney businessman Darcy Campbell roamed the halls of the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation alone.
“That (company) kinda organically grew here, which is cool,” he said.
Campbell said the centre is an inspiring place to do business.
“It’s nice just to have activity around. There’s a good, eclectic mix of different people, different organizations, so there’s young to old, to community not-for-profits, to a tech school above us,” he said. “When you’re wandering the halls … there’s different things that are going on, so that’s nice.”
Corey Katz Photography and the Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative are in the same space as NovaStream, and together the three entities share office, studio space and sometimes equipment.
Katz said having the opportunity to share space and rent costs is helping him as a small business owner.
“I like being here. It’s nice to be around everybody and the atmosphere is really positive,” he said. “It’s been great. As a result of us being here, we’ve worked with a lot of the other businesses in the building.”
It’s all part of the creative economy development and growth that New Dawn officials had envisioned when they purchased the buildings 18 months ago.
“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,” said Erika Shea, director of communications with New Dawn Enterprises. “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.”
And now a future-uses study, completed over the last year by Lord Cultural Resources, has given New Dawn a clearer sense of the path forward and the work required to bring the entire site into use.
One of the key findings of the study is that the property will be financially self-sustaining.
“The property will not require ongoing subsidy or funding to meet its operational expenses,” said Shea, explaining that the rent from businesses and organizations in the building is covering their costs of operation. “There’s two types of rental spaces — we have permanent rental spaces and then we have what we call flex rental spaces like the gymasium, and the lounge and the chapel in the convent.”
The other piece of good news in the study was an architectural report that Shea said states that both the former school and convent have “incredibly good bones, that they’re really sound, and can be repurposed.”
While some upgrades and renovations to the former high school building will be done over time as needed, the study confirmed the unoccupied convent building requires substantial work to make it usable rental space, including the replacement of all windows and significant upgrades to the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Shea said the cost of renovating the convent is estimated at $6 million and the New Dawn board will now work to identify sources of capital funding to complete the work.
Current tenants in the New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation include:
• Uhma Institute of Technology Start-up Immersion
• Celtic Colours International Festival box office
• Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia
• The Art Room
• CBU’s Cooperative Study Club
• Cabot and Rose
• ICEAP ACCESS Program
• Nova Stream (formerly Shot on Site Media)
• Corey Katz Photography
• New Dawn Homecare
• Green Lotus Yoga
• Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative
• All Kids Early Intervention