The $20-million transformation of the former coast guard property in Dartmouth into an ocean research and development facility has started.

The land is owned by the Waterfront Development Corporation, a Crown corporation, but the Nova Scotia Community College is heading up the renovation.

The buildings and wharves will be refurbished to make the site a hub for collaboration and innovation. It's called the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurs, or COVE. 

'Creating new technologies'

"We have a lot of institutional researchers as well as a lot of entrepreneurs who are creating new technologies," said Peter Bigelow, a senior planner with Waterfront Development. "This is where those people can all come together."

Peter Bigelow Waterfront Development Corporation

Peter Bigelow is a senior planner with the Waterfront Development Corporation. (CBC)

Modernizing the building interiors will get underway in February. Roof repairs to the office and shop space should be completed by March. 

Brian Fancy, project manager for the community college, pointed out the buildings are 70 years old.

"The mechanical and electrical systems as well as the sprinkler and fire alarm systems all have to be replaced," said Fancy. "The wharves are in poor repair."

Nearly half of the federal and provincial infrastructure funds will be used to upgrade the 28,000 of linear feet of wharf space.

"Wharf space is very hard to find around this harbour that small entrepreneurs can gain access to," said Bigelow.

The former coast guard property has 8.5 acres of land and a 13-acre water lot.

The new facility will be ready for researchers and businesses to use by April 2018.