A big developer and a real estate investment trust are shopping for a development agreement for the former Penhorn Mall lands in Dartmouth.
Clayton Developments Ltd. and Crombie REIT (the real estate investment trust created by Sobeys’ parent company, Empire) have applied for a development agreement for the lands at 549 to 569 Portland St. The application documents were posted to the municipality’s planning and development website on Tuesday.
It’s the first half of the planned redevelopment of the area, with the existing commercial space — a Sobeys corporate office, grocery store and gas station, and a few restaurants and other businesses — remaining untouched for now.
The proposal includes eight development blocks with 11 buildings between three and 12 storeys tall on 25 acres of the site. There’d be 950 units total, 45 of which would be townhouses separating the high-rises from the low-rise neighbourhood in behind.
“The Penhorn Future Growth Node presents a brownfield redevelopment opportunity in HRM’s Regional Centre with significant access to transit, parkland, and commercial amenities,” Clayton Developments’ vice president of planning, Kevin Neatt, and urban designer, Stephanie Mah, wrote in their planning application, dated Dec. 8, 2020.
“A former shopping centre, the site is now partially vacant, with the rest having been redeveloped as a retail and office complex adjacent Portland Street … These vacant areas provide a near-term development opportunity of approximately 25.2 acres, to be reimagined into a residential development.”
The first half of the city’s Centre Plan, approved in 2019, designated the site a “future growth node.” That means that, rather than having prescribed heights or permitted densities for buildings in the area, it’s to be dealt with using a development agreement.
“Future growth nodes are lands where there is potential to accommodate significant growth due to the site’s size, location, and proximity to services,” planning staff wrote in the proposal summary online. “These parcels of land are intended to be comprehensively planned to ensure they meet the objectives of the Centre Plan.”
According to Clayton Developments’ application, more than 2,000 people would live in the area under this proposal, and in the future, another 1,900 could live in the areas currently occupied with commercial space.
Neatt and Mah wrote that they’re prioritizing the “pedestrian environment” with the plans.
“Enhanced streetscapes, ornamental street lighting, decorative plantings, and general site landscaping are significant elements of the plan to ensure a fine grained, attractive look and feel to the neighbourhood,” they wrote.
They’d also connect the new streets through the proposal to nearby Penhorn Lake and the Brownlow Park.
The application letter suggests the partnership will sell off the lots after receiving the development agreement and preparing them for development:
“The absorption rate for the multi-residential units are expected to be strong with all blocks being sold within a four to five year time horizon following the first year of infrastructure development. Vacancy rates in HRM hit an all-time low in 2019 falling below 2%, while fill rates of newly constructed buildings have averaged between 10-12 months per 100 units completed.”
According to the summary online, “The application has been submitted and is undergoing initial review by municipal staff and may change as a result of staff comments.” It will follow the development agreement process, with a public information meeting still to come, followed by a staff report to a community council, and then first reading, a public hearing, and second reading.