Why $19M Shannon Park was sold for $4M

The military facility at Shannon Park in Dartmouth was sold for $4 million, despite being assessed at a value of $19 million.

Former military facility needs costly upgrades

Shannon Park, once a thriving military community, has sat empty for several years. Last month, the federal government's real estate arm bought 33 hectares from the Department of National Defence. (CBC)

The military facility at Shannon Park in Dartmouth was sold for $4 million, despite being assessed at $19 million.

The Department of National Defence said it got a third party appraisal and received "fair market value" when it sold Shannon Park.

DND sold the 33-hectare former military community in Dartmouth to the real estate arm of the federal government.

"The appraisal for the Shannon Park disposal took into account the cost of building demolition and some environmental liabilities were transferred to Canada Lands Company," said Ashley Lemire, spokeswoman for the department. 

It's an amazing site.- Bruce Mans

Urban planner Bruce Mans has studied the property and said it needs work.

"It's been pretty much left abandoned for several decades. The infrastructure is decaying. The houses are unusable," Mans said.

He co-authored a 2010 infrastructure assessment on the park when he was a master's student. That report, and a more extensive study commissioned for the Halifax Regional Municipality in 2006, detailed the need for extensive repairs.

Most of the sewer and water lines are old and in poor repair. They are not connected to the municipal water system and would discharge untreated into Halifax Harbour.

"There's not much servicing options out there," Mans said.

He said it's worth the effort. "It's an amazing site. You don't come across that many acres with access to the downtown core," he said.

Need to connect to water

The Halifax Water Commission said any redevelopment of the land would require developers to pay for building new pipes and connecting them to HRM's existing Harbour Solutions lines.

"We're likely looking at the re-establishment of new services on private and public streets. This would be a large project," said Jamie Hannam, director of engineering for the Halifax Water.

Hannam said the existing lines passing near the site could accommodate development at the site.

French immersion school protected

While the park is largely abandoned, it has an active early French immersion school. It's the only one in Dartmouth. 

École Shannon Park is connected to city water, but the building needs $1.5 million in upgrades.

The school and 1.98 acres of land were not part of the sale. The Halifax Regional School Board asked the province to buy the school from the federal government and refurbish the building. 

"If we decide to move the school, it would be difficult to move 500 students somewhere else, so we need the facility," said chairman Gin Yee.

Karen Casey, the province's education minister, said the province is considering the request. 

"We know that they have put in a request to purchase that site, so I know they have given that some serious consideration," she said.