The real estate market in Halifax is hot – a trend largely driven by increased immigration, net-provincial migration, and a demographic shift in Atlantic Canada. As Nova Scotia’s population ages, and our employment and service economies become more centralized, there are handful of productive cities and towns that are set to benefit. While Halifax is the clear front runner in Atlantic Canada, second-tier regional hubs like Bridgewater are also poised for exponential growth.
Bridgewater: A Historical Context
Situated in Lunenburg County, along the banks of the LaHave River, Bridgewater is the largest town and the primary commercial centre in the southern half of Nova Scotia. Due to its regional hub status, Bridgewater is colloquially known as “The Main Street of the South Shore”.
Bridgewater was originally founded as natural resource boomtown, with lumber being the town’s primary industry and economic producer. The first lumber mill in the region was built in 1765, and was the foundation of the local economy for the next century. The first bridge was erected over the Lahave River in 1825, and by 1860 there was a bustling commercial centre on King St with over 29 merchants. Bridgewater’s regional hub status was cemented in 1889, with the establishment of the railway. The Lahave River made Bridgewater an ideal shipping and distribution centre for the greater region.
Over time, Bridgewater’s economy transitioned from natural resource to manufacturing and service. In 1970, the Michelin Tire Plant opened, which remains one of the region’s largest employers today, with over 1,000 employees. As the largest service centre in the region, much of Bridgewater’s employment base works in retail, healthcare, education, and government.
An Investment Opportunity
Bridgewater has a wide catchment area, with a population of 50,000 within a 30-minute drive, and it has become a magnet of growth for the region. There are a wide variety of amenities, cultural institutions, and employers that service the region – including the South Shore Regional Hospital, NSCC Lunenburg campus, and the Bridgewater Business Park. The Business Park features over 50 industrial, light industrial, and retail businesses (including Michelin North America), with over 1350 full-time employees.
Its regional hub status makes Bridgewater a strong market to invest in, with an attractive growth rate of 4% each census period since 2006. From 1996-2016, the population of Bridgewater increased by about 18% – which is well above the provincial average. The town is following the urbanization trend seen throughout the country, with both younger and older demographics looking to move from rural areas to centre cores for better access to employment and services. Bridgewater has made significant investments to accommodate this growth, including the implementation of a public transit system in 2017.
The region is also an affordable place to live with a high quality of life and a variety of educational and employment opportunities for newcomers. The town is strategically located within roughly an hour’s commute to both Downtown Halifax and Halifax Stanfield International Airport. This commute will become even easier when Highway 103 is fully twinned, a project that is currently underway. As Halifax continues to grow and real estate prices continue to rise, secondary markets and regional hub-cities like Bridgewater are well-positioned to benefit by proxy.