Sorry, Wanderer’s Grounds is not available for Stadium

January 16, 2016

Dear Mayor and Council:

Friends of Halifax Common are writing to ask that you make a statement to refute rumours and media coverage indicating there will be a stadium built on the Wanderer’s Grounds.

“In the meantime the Wanderer’s Grounds could be greatly improved if the city removed the equipment and junk it stores there and if someone would unlock the gates to make it accessible”             (Map from 1994 Plan p.3)

The Wanderer’s Grounds is on the Halifax Common, granted “to and for the use of inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever”.  Many citizens and HRM staff are unaware that the Halifax Common land grant is 240 acres. The 1994 Halifax Common Plan commits the city to retaining & recapturing the lands as shown.

In our submission to the Centre Plan, FHC has requested that the 1994 Halifax Common Plan, adopted by the Council of the City of Halifax on 13 October 1994, as policy, shall be deemed to be incorporated, mutatis mutandis, into this Municipal Planning Strategy.

The Centre Plan proposes to densify the peninsula by adding thousands of new residents in the next 15 years as per the Centre Plan. It does not make any sense to build on any public open space-its already limited enough. And it certainly does not make any sense to continue the ad-hoc enclosure of the Common, building by building when presently less than 20% of it remains open.

HRM is finally starting to work on a long-promised masterplan for the Halifax Common. One of the recommendations in the 1994 Plan is to have a balanced use of the Common land. Hopefully the city will have a legitimate public consultation with commoners for an integrated plan for the entire Halifax Common.  In the meantime the present use of the Wanderer’s Grounds could be greatly improved if the city removed the equipment and junk it stores there and if someone would unlock the gates to make it accessible.

Friends of Halifax Common is committed to revert the continued enclosure of the Halifax Common, both green and blue space. We hold the bar high on a vision for what it might become. John Zuck, professor at the Dalhousie School of Architecture and Planning has for many years had students work on visionary plans for the Halifax Common. The FHC AGM had an excellent presentation by Kevin Hooper a graduate of that programme- where he showed us an impressive planning concept for the North Common

Many exciting examples of working with nature and restoring urban landscapes exist. Susannah Drake at dlanstudios has many exciting collaborations with Brooklyn and James Corner Field Operations well-known for the New York High Line is a specialist on creating landscapes for both people and nature.

We look forward to working with the city on the next steps. In the meantime HRM should be clarifying to the public that there will be no plan or opportunity for a stadium on any part of the Halifax Common.

Yours truly,
Friends of Halifax Common

Please Comment on 18 Spot Re-Zoning Projects

Please make on-line comments on the 18 proposed developments…
Project details:
Comment here:

There is worrisome trend for the developer tail to be wagging the HRM Centre Plan. And for some folks to not have to follow the rules.

Many citizens and HRM staff are unaware that the Halifax Common land grant is 240 acres.  Or that the 1994 Halifax Common Plan commits the city to retaining and recapturing the lands as shown: “For purposes of planning the area is divided into three precincts as shown on Map 2: North, Central and South.” p.3

Development Applications break existing regs. HRM is now considering 18 projects, presented at a public meeting on Wed Dec 7 as a way to get feed-back from citizens on design details. High-rises on and next to the Halifax Common and other areas, break present height restrictions that protect  neighbourhoods. If approved these will hand developers hundreds of millions of dollars in extra floors to rent or sell. High-rises privatize the public’s view of blue sky and sun without any public benefit, only extra wind and traffic. And there is no place in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan for these high-rises. With lots of vacant land throughout the city for smaller scale development and in-fill more respectful development can happen.

What the City is really up to?
Project details and visuals show buildings that are too bulky, too tall, cause too many demolitions, have too much parking (remember walkability), are too close to corners and traffic, and are too dominant over existing public green space and blue sky or residential neighbourhoods.
As well there isn’t enough detail on what is presently permitted on the lots-take the proposals in the Spring Garden Road area where now heights of 35, 45 and 50 feet protect the existing historic neighbourhood and trees.  No where is there mention of the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.
Please take the time to make comments on the buildings or the process at :

See this post for developments on and next to the Halifax Common:



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.


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