Water taxi service could start by 2014

A new water taxi service to connect the massive King’s Wharf project in Dartmouth with Halifax could start as soon as late 2014.

Construction on the third and fourth buildings of the massive project will start in April or May, with completion slated sometime in the fall of 2014.

A water taxi service linking both sides of the harbour will start up soon after that.

As many as 500 people will inhabit those four buildings by that time, and when you add patrons of restaurants and shops planned for the project, that creates a market for people wanting to use a water taxi, said Francis Fares, the developer behind the massive project going up on the former Dartmouth marine slips.

“I think we would envision launching the service probably to coincide the end of those two buildings, and when there is enough critical mass that it will warrant … people wanting to come here,” the head of Fares Inc. said in an interview.

The first building, a 12-storey condominium tower known as the Keelson, was completed late last year, with tenants moving in before Christmas. The second 12-storey building, called the Anchorage, will be completed by April.

Once completed, the $500-million development could encompass as many as 13 buildings, including a 200-room hotel, a park, 70,000 square feet of office space and more than 1,300 residential units

The project’s signature building, called the Iconic Tower, will be 33 storeys and contain about 180 condominiums, as well as ground-floor commercial space.

Fares said an application to run the water taxi service has been submitted to Halifax Regional Municipality.

The service would be open to the general public, not just King’s Wharf residents, and be complementary to the Metro Transit ferry, Fares said.

The schedule would include daily and weekend runs across Halifax Harbour, including late-night trips.

“And who knows, maybe eventually we will go maybe to the Purcells Cove area,” Fares said.

Plans are to launch the service with a seven to eight passenger Boston Whaler.

“And if the need arises, we have a concept and a plan for a bigger vessel, and we may introduce a second, smaller vessel. It depends on the market for it.”

A partnership with Waterfront Development Corp. Ltd. has been forged.

“They’re helping us. They’re facilitating the docking on … on the Halifax side and it’s going to be as a joint venture,” Fares said, declining to name the downtown Halifax docking location.

“On our side, we’ve already built the wharf, we already have the dock and we’re ready to go.”

Fares said the plan is to create conditions that will entice someone else to eventually take over operation of the service.

“We’re not in the water taxi business, but hopefully we can set it up and make it commercially viable (so) that down the road an entrepreneur will want to take it over and build up on it.”