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Owner of Sydney building with 'blank canvas' hopes to land farmers market

The former Bargain Shop location has been gutted to make room for potential tenants.

Former Bargain Shop location gutted to make room for potential tenants

The former location of The Bargain Shop could become the new home of the Cape Breton Farmers' Market.

One of several empty storefronts in Sydney's downtown has a new owner and a new lease on life.

The former Bargain Shop location has been gutted to make room for potential tenants, including the Cape Breton Farmers' Market and the Island Folk Cider House.

"It's a blank canvas," said Lindsey MacIntosh as she stood inside the big, dark empty building. "Huge ceilings, wide open space, just ready to invite the community inside."

The building has its front on Charlotte Street and its back entrance on Bentinck Street.

Community economic development

MacIntosh is the manager for project development at Offshore Technical Services, a company that has an office across the street.

She said Rodney Colbourne, the company's president and general manager, bought the building in August 2017 with the intent of using it for community economic development.  

Lindsey MacIntosh stands outside the former Bargain Shop location. (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC)

The Cape Breton Farmers' Market, which is located on Keltic Drive in Sydney River, has long said it wanted to move back downtown.

But MacIntosh said the farmers market can't afford downtown rent prices so she is trying to lure tenants to rent the 745-square-metre space upstairs to help offset costs.

Renters subsidize market

"Our solution to make it viable is that we get like-minded community supporters to rent the upstairs, fully knowing that their rent is helping subsidize the market downstairs," said MacIntosh.

Several potential renters have expressed interest, but so far none have signed on.

Lindsey MacIntosh is the manager for project development at Offshore Technical Services. (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC)

No one from the Cape Breton Farmers' Market returned calls from CBC News.

'Huge potential'

Cape Breton Regional Municipal councillor Eldon MacDonald has worked with the Sydney Waterfront District to bring the market downtown, and said the market could be a centrepiece.

"I think it's got huge potential," said MacDonald. "I think if we can get the farmers market settled in there, I think it will be a gamechanger."

MacIntosh said Offshore Technical Services would prefer three or four tenants on the top floor, which she said could be renovated to suit them.

The deal to bring in the cider-making company is on hold until the issue with the top floor is settled.

"We have been in a holding pattern for the last couple of months, but the last week and a half has been very encouraging," said MacIntosh. "But we really can't sanction the project until we can ensure that the upstairs is viable in helping the downstairs."

About the Author

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith

Reporter

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith was born and raised in Cape Breton. She began her career in private radio in Sydney and has been with CBC as a reporter, early morning news editor and sometimes host since 1990.