July 23, 2012 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Park tender issued for Sydney tar ponds site

By REMO ZACCAGNA Business Reporter

The transformation of the notorious Sydney tar ponds and former coke ovens site into a park and common area is one step closer to reality.

The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, a provincial and federally funded organization tasked with the five-year $400-million remediation of the site, officially launched a tender Monday looking for construction companies to turn the nearly 100-hectare site into a massive public green space.

The $20-million project would turn Sydney Steel’s former location into a recreational area and park that could include boardwalks and bridges that will serve as a route to the downtown area from Whitney Pier and Ashby.

Walking trails, an outdoor concert area, a play area and splash pad for children, and a possible skating area are part of the vision put forward by Stantec Inc. after a series of hearings that included participation from a 15-member citizens liaison committee.

Dawn MacNeil, contract manager for the project at the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said the goal is to turn the area into a place "very similar" to the Halifax Commons and to make it into a place "for the residents to be able to access and to enjoy for many years to come." "It’s to eventually make it into an area that rejuvenates the (space), to turn it over so that it creates a new legacy for the area, where it was once a heavily contaminated site for many years and to be able to turn it over to the public so that they can make use of it," she said in a telephone interview Monday.

The project also includes a separate tender to add a variety of artistic pieces, "which are focused on the heritage and the past steel production, as well as the different cultures and that sort of thing in the area to kind of be reminiscent of where we were and what we came through and where we are today."

The remediation of the site, which was once considered one of Canada’s most contaminated industrial areas, began in 2007 and is nearing completion, with capping the final portion of the project with clay a few months away. "Based on the schedule that we have, we’re looking at either before Christmas this year or early spring next year," MacNeil said.

Government funding for the remediation and transformation of the area into a park runs out on March 31, 2014, which means construction of the site into a park "would have to be done in the fall of the previous year."

The tender closes Aug. 8, but MacNeil said the agency has so far received enquiries from three construction companies. "We’ve already had people showing up and picking up (packages) and we just opened it today ... so I think we’ll get a pretty good turnout."