Nova Scotia Lands will take over ownership of the former DSME plant in Trenton.
After an unsuccessful attempt to find a buyer for the large facility which most recently was used to build wind towers, a court-appointed receiver is expected to transfer ownership of DSME Trenton lands to Nova Scotia Lands Incorporated – effective Sept. 7 – and begin the process to auction most of the remaining on-site equipment, the province announced Friday morning.
"We have made every effort to find a buyer for this site. For more than two years, the receiver has marketed this property internationally, without success," Business Minister Geoff MacLellan said in announcing the decision. "Now is the time to move forward and begin the next phase, one that will allow Nova Scotia Lands to explore other economic opportunities."
While their initial hope was to buy a single buyer for the 430,000-square-foot facility that sits on 116 acres of land, MacLellan said the sheer size of the building made it a tough sell.
“When we had conversations with potential buyers, they always were very keen on certain aspects of the site,” he said in an interview with The News. But he said no one was interested in taking on the entire magnitude of the site and the liability that came with it.
That’s why he believes the transfer of ownership to Nova Scotia Lands will be a great fit. Nova Scotia Lands is a Provincial Crown corporation which as part of its mandate, remediates and redevelops crown-owned properties. The corporation has turned other industrial sites in Nova Scotia into areas of economic activity, including Port Mersey Commercial Park near Liverpool and Harbourside Commercial Park in Sydney, and MacLellan believes they can do the same in Trenton by subdividing the property and either leasing or selling portions to private sector companies.
The next steps will involve NS Lands doing an assessment to determine the best approach going forward. Their tendency in the past has been to lease portions of land to the private sector, but he said they will try to choose the best option.
Money from the sale of the equipment in the building will go to the province, which was a shareholder in the DSME facility.
There are some buildings on the property that will likely be demolished, MacLellan but there are others that he believes, based on his previous tours of the facility, could be repurposed.
Residents should expect to see activity on the site soon, he said.
Trenton Mayor Shannon MacInnis was disappointed to hear that no buyer was found.
“It wasn’t what we were originally hoping for,” he said.
He is hopeful though that Nova Scotia Lands may be able to make use of the property and bring in businesses even if it means selling one building at a time. While it’s not the ideal, anything would be better than nothing at this point, he said.
“We’ll just wait and see how it plays out.”
Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn said he too was disappointed at the news, but believes that the receiver did the best job they could of trying to find a buyer.
“It’s very disappointing for me being from Pictou County and knowing the history of the plant and the number of employees that worked there over the years,” he said.
There were many times in the past that the plant, which once built railcars, employed 1,400-1,500 people. At peak production, there was a time that 2,400 people were working there.
“To see the facility in its present form, is kind of heart-wrenching,” he said.