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Project Experience

New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation Building Future Uses Study


In 1885 the Roman Catholic Congregation of Notre Dame (CND) established a convent and a school for girls in Sydney, a city on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. A modern school building was added in 1958. At the time, Holy Angels High School was the largest girls-only secondary school east of Montreal.

The closure of the Holy Angels complex in 2011 raised questions about the future of the property. In 2013 New Dawn Enterprises, a not-for-profit community development agency, purchased the building with the goal of adaptively re-using it as an incubator for the creative economy on Cape Breton Island. After a competitive bidding process, New Dawn hired Lord Cultural Resources in association with Architects49 of Halifax to study potential future uses for the building and develop a concept, facility plan and business plan to ensure ongoing sustainability.

Our study recommended that New Dawn reserve space for both non-profit and for-profit creative enterprises in such a way that the rents would support operations. Non-dedicated space was also set aside for the occasional use of other organizations. Operational plans and capital and operational costs were based on a series of assumptions developed in association with the client. The New Dawn Centre for Social Innovation opened in 2014 and is now home to tenants who work in the arts, immigration, education, and entrepreneurship. Having successfully operated for several years, New Dawn is planning further expansion.