HRM Planning Information Meeting – Wednesday Dec 7th 19 proposals at 1 meeting

Please attend this important meeting and make comments on the 19 proposed developments…

Wednesday, December 7th at the Atlantica Hotel
12–2pm and again
from 6–8 pm

The classic 3-storey Coburg Apartments, is an Edwardian-era building on the South Common that is under threat from the Two developers hope to erect 16 & 30 storey and 20 & 26 storey high-rises in the single block between Carlton, College, Robie and Spring Garden Road under debelopment agreement applications. targeted growth area- Spring Garden Road bounded by Robie, College, Summer Streets and Camp Hill Cemetery.

The classic 3-storey Coburg Apartments, an Edwardian-era building at Spring Garden and Robie, on the South Common,  is one of a dozen+ buildings that will be demolished by two developers if their plans for 16 & 30 storey and 20 & 26 storey high-rises in the single block between Carlton, College, Robie and Spring Garden Road are approved.

Most of the 19 proposals are for highrises that break existing height restrictions and are out-of -scale with neighbourhoods. They’ll cause dozens of affordable small-scale, mixed-use residential units, commercial spaces and historic houses. to be demolished. Several will harm Halifax’s Common in various ways. Four examples include:

  • 13 storey tower on Robie St south side of Cunard St to Compton St
  • 14 storey tower on Robie St at Pepperell St to Shirley St
  • 16 & 30 storey towers on Spring Garden Rd west of Carlton St.
  • 20 & 26 storey towers on College between Robie St and Carlton St.

These development agreement applications are being considered prior to the adoption of the Centre Plan (which will bring in new regulations and planning guides) and as such, are unconsidered and uncontrolled last-minute attempts to circumvent the process before the plan comes into place!

Since 2010, HRM Planning staff have worked on 179 development agreements that have been breaking existing HRM construction regulations. Instead if working on the Centre Plan, the attention of City Staff has been divided between these ‘special applications’ that are unnecessarily using up staff time and money and pre-empting plans for future land use and design for HRM’s building.

“Exceptional” projects are creating tension between some developers that break the rules and citizens who don’t what out-of-scale projects.

These developers must be asked to wait until the Centre Plan is in place and we have time to consider that there are many buildings of great value at stake here.

Its time to say no to special treatment for developers who want exceptional development approvals and to demand that the city develop specific criteria for controlling when demolition permits may be issued.


Halifax's municipal government has a long history of ignoring the common and breaking the rules. In 1986 it allowed the demolition of the Hart House and several working class Victorian row houses on Summer St despite a petition with 18,000 signatures of citizens who objected. Halifax then permitted the 21-storey Summer Gardens to be built and negotiated set-backs and gazebos in concession. Dalhousie University had been left the buildings but then sold them to the developer. Isn't it time to stop trashing the neighbourhood? (photo-Alvin Comiter)

Centre Plan – The Good, the Bad and the Just Plain Stupid

There’s one good change for the Halifax Common in the draft Centre Plan but the rest seems like more bad news…

The Good
The draft Centre Plan designates the Halifax Common a “Cultural Landscape” (p 54) but now it needs to make it meaningful by adopting the 1994 Halifax Common Plan as part of the Municipal Planning Strategy so the primary goals to not give up and to re-capture open space on Halifax’s Common are met not just platitudes.

The Bad
Robie Street and a dozen other streets such as Cunard, Agricola, Chebucto are designated as “Corridors” with a goal of “redevelopment of new housing, commercial spaces and job opportunities in mixed use buildings” (p 96). By increasing permitted building heights to 4-6 storeys along Robie Street, the Centre Plan will create an incentive for developers to chew through a long-established, small-scale, mixed-use, Continue reading

HRM Planning Jamboree – Developers Take a Lesson from The Donald

 Mr. Trump in 1980 with a model of Trump Tower. Though it was built with 58 floors, he billed it as having 68 floors. Credit Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Mr. Trump in 1980 with a model of Trump Tower. Though it was built with 58 floors, he billed it as having 68 floors. Credit Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

If  you’ve been watching the Halifax development scene maybe you weren’t surprized about the US election. You already know there are no rules.  A one-stop shopping jamboree for 18 new development agreement applications, with an open house style HRM Public Information Meeting on Wednesday, December 7, 12–2 and 6–8, at the Atlantica Hotel will determine the fate of a neighbourhood near you. If approved, many of the proposals will impact the Halifax Common, its perimeter and existing small scale mixed-use residential units, commercial spaces and heritage houses. Some example proposals include:

  • 13 storey tower at Robie between Cunard and Compton (NW corner of North Common);
  • 14 storey tower on Robie at Pepperell (near Common Roots Farm);
  • 16 & 30 storey towers at Spring Garden Road west of Carlton St.;
  • 20 & 26 storey towers on College, between Robie and Carlton St.

Yup, it feels like we’re living a paragraph out of a book that The Donald wrote. Got some architecturally note-worthy property? Go ahead demolish it. Want to replace it with a building that’s too tall for the lot size and doesn’t match the zoning?  Win approval by promising mixed-use, retail, office and residential. Want even more height?  Get more storeys in exchange for a “public” atrium, call it “public space” and put in kiosks to sell your own stuff. Or add art and parking. Maybe a bench? The higher, the richer. Don’t fuss, go ahead wreck the character of the neighbourhood. Call it densification, colour it walkable and sell it as sustainable.  Of course the developers can plan how the city will look – don’t they own the land? Don’t they make the rules?
This week Centre Plan presentations and consultations are at Dartmouth Sportsplex on November 16 & Dal on 17th.  December 2nd is the deadline to submit comments. Details here:

Good Planning Needs Adequate Notification & Time to Reflect – – A letter from Howard Epstein, FHC to Jacob Ritchie, HRM

FHC Board Member, Howard Epstein, has written to HRM’s Jacob Ritchie following a recent meeting to relate points of common understanding and to reiterate FHC concerns with about the Halifax Common and the proposed Centre Plan.

In summary:

The Halifax Common is a special place distinct from normal parks. The 1994 Halifax Common Plan could be integrated into the Centre plan. Intensive development on Spring Garden Road at Robie is not compatible with the 1994 plan.

The Proposed Centre Plan should:

  • favour medium-height buildings
  • distribute density
  • delay consideration of any new proposals until Plan is final and density bonusing is in place
  • respect public input such as in the case of the proposed Willow Tree developments
  • include a mix of affordable housing; prioritize in-fill of vacant lands
  • justify the case, if there is one, for towers and place more emphasis on sustainability with real targets for GHG emissions reductions, timelines and measures.

The letter follows here: Continue reading

Mayor & Council Vote to ‘Fenwick’ the Common

[ alternate link to sound file ]

Imagine a building the height of Fenwick Tower a the corner of Robie & Quinpool

Imagine a building the height of Fenwick Tower a the corner of Robie & Quinpool

What is the racket at city hall? Despite overwhelming public opposition to George Armoyen’s proposed 29-storey highrise at Robie and Quinpool, City Council has voted to support the project as-is. Four Councilors – Watts, Mancini, Mason and Nicholl – voted to support the recommendation by City Staff for a 20-storey limit – see: Staff Report.

Click PLAY> above to hear News 95.7 host Sheldon McLeod interview Peggy Cameron about why all the other councilors (except the absent Whitman & Johns) voted for 29-storeys.

Under present regulations, the height limit at this site is 14-storeys. If built, the tower will be Halifax’s second tallest building, just 29 feet less than Fenwick Tower.



Centre Plan -population forecast, Steve Parcell, August 2016

“Centre Plan Headed in Wrong Direction”

Letter to the HRM Community Design Advisory Committee by Dalhousie professor Steve Parcell, for Wednesday Aug. 23 meeting.

Dear CDAC,
My comments below are in two parts. The first section is new, addressed to you. The second section (with its attachment) is a copy of my comments on the Centre Plan growth scenarios that were sent to two weeks ago. (I don’t know if the Planning department forwards a copy of the comments they receive to you.)

1. Comments for CDAC, 20 August 2016
I’ve read Howard Epstein’s letter to CDAC. I agree with him that the Centre Plan is headed in the wrong direction.

As a member of the Willow Tree Group (which has been monitoring proposals around Robie and Quinpool for several years), I’ve been struck by the significant mismatch between the implicit urban vision of the Planning department and responses by the public. This predates Continue reading