Officials predict boom in downtown Sydney, N.S. following redevelopment

Downtown Sydney, N.S., was bustling with activity on Tuesday, but the sounds of both vehicle and foot traffic will soon be replaced with the sounds of heavy machinery as part of a redevelopment project.

“It just feels like there's so much happening and with NSCC coming, this couldn't have come at a better time,” said Michelle Wilson, head of the Sydney Downtown Development Association.

A section between Dorchester and Pitt Streets will only be open to people on foot for about 14 weeks. Phase one of three in a $9-million makeover of the city’s core will begin next week.

“You'll see wider sidewalks. We will still have parking on both sides. We will have street trees, benches, it will be more accessible,” said Wilson.

The goal is to improve the overall experience for pedestrians, and it comes at a time when a major build is happening just down the road.

“Both will be done at approximately the same time. You are definitely going to see an interest in new entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs, we're seeing that happen now,” said Cape Breton Regional Municipality Councillor Eldon MacDonald.

Construction of the new Nova Scotia Community College is well underway on the waterfront.

Macdonald says it's a much-needed boost for an area that's been struggling for a long time.

“In 2018 before COVID, we had four businesses close in downtown Sydney and people thought that was a lot of businesses to lose. But they didn't realize that same year there was 20 new businesses that opened,” said MacDonald.

Wilson agrees and says this project is pushing momentum forward, which she says started with the announcement that NSCC was moving downtown.

“That following year we saw a huge increase in property sales and vacant properties and it was directly because NSCC was coming,” said Wilson.

Wilson says businesses in the area will remain open through the construction phase.