There are rare moments where your life flashes before you… not your past, but your future life. The simple clarity of pure potential was very memorable the first time I arrived at the old Horton band room and bus garage, which now houses our business and our home. It was November 6th, 2013, and I had arrived after motorcycling across the North American continent in just 5 days. I was immigrating from Hawaii to Nova Scotia to start our family and our business at this uniquely historic and community oriented property. The wonderment has only been solidified over the years, as the scope of potential, creativity, and impact, seem to be expanding without limit. There will be much to share in this “big picture” realm, which is where my mind and my passions reside. For now, I’ll share the history of the property… along with an outline of our vision and strategies for empowering others to help us steer it all in wonderful new directions.
The Horton District High School was opened in 1959, and closed in 1998. Rather than trying to piece together the history, I will share this incredibly detailed 87 page file, compiled by the former English department head, David E. Sheppard: HDHSHISTORY
The events after the school closing, were as follows:
-1999 Apollo Venture Capital acquired the lands
-2000 Apollo applies for zoning change and development agreement
-2001 Zoning/development approved
-2005 Apollo sells to MIR 1 Development
-2006 MIR 1 Development applies for new development agreement
Details on this period as well as the current development agreement can be viewed in in this 92 page municipal document: February 27 07 PART B -Background and Development Agreement
It is unclear at what point the band room/bus garage was renovated, but is was split 50/50 front to back for commercial/residential use, and was completed by 2012. The 6000 sq/ft mixed use building was split into three units. The back half (Unit 1) houses the triple bus garage and apartment, while the front half houses 2 commercial spaces… an office space (Unit 2) featuring a 4th single garage bay, and the cafe space (Unit 3).
MIR 1 Development’s first tenant in the building was a coffee shop called “Paper Pleasures”. While I was still in Hawaii, Ariell had some early collaborations with the owner in Spring 2013, offering our first Edible Art lunches outside the frozen meals and baked goods sold at the Wolfville Farmers Market. By the Fall, we were ready to take over, with plans to launch the Edible Art Cafe on Nov 18th. Shortly after our opening on November 18th, 2013, MIR 1 broke ground on a 40 unit “seniors living” apartment building, which would end up as their first foreclosure in January of 2016.
For highlights on our grand opening and first three years in business, which also included two baby boys, check out this video:
Having built a successful business, and seeing our landlord’s downward spiral, we kicked things into even higher gear in anticipation of the second foreclosure on the former band room/bus garage. Despite moving into the apartment in the back of the building on October 1st, 2016, the second foreclosure still moved forward in August of 2017. Details on our transition and crowdfunding, can be found here. To sum it up, we nearly lost our home and business over 10 months of uncertainty, eventually forcing a bank owned sale on June 1st, 2018, after raising over $80k with incredible support from the community. The details of what transpired are nothing short of astounding, and will most certainly be the topic of another blog post at some point, so keep your eye on the “History & Vision” section of this site for this and other cool stuff.
Making our own history…
With no more landlords or bankers holding us back, this is where the story gets more personal and interactive for everyone. People ask all the time why we chose this place over the Oahu “paradise”. The short answer is the long term potential of this property. If our only prospect for a business location was a strip mall, we would definitely not be here. The grand chess game of securing this property over the last five years could potentially pale in comparison to what is coming. One of the main reasons for this is that we have literally built an island. This is true in several ways. Having burned our boats a long time ago, we’ve focused and isolated ourselves to the point that our business, family, and personal lives are virtually indistinguishable. We are also an island both geographically and on paper legally. If you take a look at the Development Agreement, as well as the survey, we are just an acre “flag lot” in the middle of ten acres that are still bank owned from the first foreclosure on MIR 1.
The remaining lands are owned by Harbour Edge Mortgage Investment Corporation, who was forced to complete the 40 apartment building started by MIR 1, and have been trying to fill the units for over two years under Safeguard Property Management. Harbour Edge is definitely not in the business of being landlords or developers. They cite 6% annual returns to their shareholders, who they’re certainly more interested in than the valley community. Having only interacted with them through their property manager, with none of my phone calls ever being returned by their corporate officers, their future plans for the land surrounding us in unclear.
Our plans are becoming more clear every day, which is the main purpose of this blog post. The intention is to purchase the surrounding land, possibly under a non-profit entity, which ties in perfectly with the amazing benefits of our long term vision. Because of the scope and multi-generational timeline of the vision, I will share it in an outlined form featuring updated links below. This will be updated over time, since there will be A LOT of information. Ultimately I hope this page will become a resource for anyone interested in getting involved with things happening on the property, also bringing new ideas and skills to the table. We can only do so much as individuals, and the long game is more about empowering other people and organizations for maximum impact.
DETAILED OUTLINE COMING SOON
The current development agreement is based on outdated models for multi-unit residential, and commercial development that have hardly changed at all since the 1940s. Because we are in the middle of the property, as well as a sounding board for the community, we hope to steer the whole thing in a more positive direction. We don’t have all the answers, but want to empower other people and organizations to do great things here. The bottom line is if the community would rather have a faceless corporation funneling money out of the valley (whether the current bank or a future buy out), or something amazing on the old Horton grounds that contributes to humanity on a global scale. There is no in-between in my mind, but people, investors, and local government can’t make the choice if they don’t even understand it. Since we have the most skin in the game with our business and family, we have much to share. Our goal in the long run is for more of the “smart money” to show up and help with some projects (outlined below), which are much needed in NS for sustainability, education, and tourism.
My greatest hope is to expand our island, avoiding more of what I can only describe as blah. None of this comes with a political agenda, or carbon guilt trip. Just simple and beautiful systems that make sense from a financial and human standpoint. The premise is to gently replace the systems that no longer serve us, with a holistic approach on food/energy production, and a strong focus on sustainable architecture. If you had to put a label on it, I’d call it a…
Sustainable Development Retreat & Learning Centre
-(In process) connecting a trail 1km through the back of the property to the main trail between Grand Pre’ and Kingston
-Establish parkland and permaculture food forest/u-pick along the trail, a foundational template for other sustainable development
-Showcase multi-unit sustainable architecture to include Michael Reynolds’ proven “Earthship” developments, and Nader Khalili’s CalEarth SuperAdobe structures
-Demonstrate and teach healthier and more efficient farming methods such as aquaponic and aeroponic systems
-Installation of Electric Vehicle charging stations, and other renewable energy infrastructure
-Community event space, and educational facilities with training, and workshops on the above mentioned technologies and disciplines.
-Formation of a nonprofit as a purchasing/holding entity for the property, collaboration with global organizations, and funding through grants, investors, fundrasising, tourism, rentals, etc.
I lived the above lifestyle for many years before coming to this county, and know that it is attainable. Some experiences include being an early EV adopter, helping to launch the first EV charging stations on Oahu, designing/building off grid systems myself, and running an off grid permaculture farm in the Palolo Valley rain forest. It was a challenging yet incredibly fulfilling mission of freedom, independence, and collaboration that I hope to rekindle here in Nova Scotia. The cafe has been the engine to get us this far, but even with plans for massive growth, we will be seeking more people of like mind who share our vision. Sharing the scope of the long term vision is the first step, and those who read this post will be the first to hear it.
Thank you for your time and consideration. Stay tuned for updates!