The 1763 Halifax Common grant was for 235 acres ” to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area was to be considered for planning purposes in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.
At the invitation of the Halifax Master-plan Consultants’ Team FHC reviewed and highlighted Ten Items from the 1994 Halifax Common Plan of Current Significance in creating a New Halifax Master Plan…
Recognition that the need for a Plan for the Halifax Common was and is brought about “…partly from concern about the increasing number of changes and demands for use and the need for a plan and additional protection for the Halifax Common.”
That the 235 acres of the Halifax Common, originally granted to the people of Halifax by royal decree in 1763 and specifically identified in 1859, must be considered as an entity with varying areas and fully addressed with the new Master Plan, otherwise either the boundary of the Halifax Common should be redrawn or the current planning effort re-named.
That “First and foremost the Halifax Common is a public place...”, as the original charter provides, for “the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax forever.”
Recognize that the Halifax Common has a “distinct character and identity” and “that the distinct character and integrity be recognized and strengthened and that a common design language be developed to create a cohesiveness throughout the Common.”
That “aspects of the special character include: [in order of presentation] open space, trees, views and landmarks, historic significance, Freshwater Brook, public buildings, wide streets, wide sidewalks, black iron fences, and strong edges.”
That thru its open spaces, trees, and pedestrian and vehicular circulation systems, the Halifax Common ties together the diverse residential, commercial, institutional and historic areas of Halifax, and that the boundaries of the Halifax Common are themselves important.
That the Halifax Common serves as a neighbourhood park for many areas of Halifax as well as a destination park for the larger region, and that the private use of the Common be examined carefully and allowed by Halifax Council only if it is in keeping with the Common Plan.
That the “recapture” of lands being used for non-public uses inconsistent with the intent of the Common Plan be undertaken by the [Municipality] wherever possible.
That detailed planning guidelines and solutions be developed to address the numerous specific areas and needs of the Halifax Common.
That the Plan “examine options and provide a recommendation on legislation to be used to protect the Halifax Common and assure that the Plan is followed.”
Two recent articles in Halifax Magazine about the Halifax Common are nicely informative with beautiful photos.“For the Common Good“ by Katie Ingram describes FHC’s efforts to have the City honour its 1994 promise to keep the Common’s public open space and recapture its lost open space. This is contrasted with HRM staff’s efforts to help developers such as George Armoyen’s APL with his 20-25 storey building at the Willow Tree and HRM’s council’s support for Derek Martin’s Atlantic Sports & Entertainment’s private 6-7,000 seat pop-up-stadium on the Wanderers’ Grounds. (HRM’s information about shadows is untrue)
“A Tale of Two Commons“ by Heather White compares the Halifax Common with the Boston Common but discovers a history of very different governance, protection, uses and give-aways. Enjoy the read(s)! And thank you to Katie, Heather and Halifax Magazine.
CBC’s Bob Murphy interviews Common Roots Urban Farm’s Jayme Melrose about its impending move from the former QEHS site on the Halifax Common. FHC’s Peggy Cameron follows (at 09:40) to describe the search for a new location as a chance for the city to expand its parks and live up to its past commitments. More green space is essential for the Farm, for our health, and for our growing population.
The draft Centre Plan proposes adding 33,000 new residents in the next 15 years without any new public parks. Three examples using government-owned land to expand Common green space and relocate the Urban Farm are:
St Pat’s on Quinpool- next to St Vincent’s seniors complex is an excellent sunny central location for the Farm. And plan to continue with green network extending to the North West Arm.
The Cogwell Interchange near the Centennial Pool (and a new outdoor pool nearby) as plan to extend a green network to the Halifax Harbour
In return for the School for the Blind land being given to the VG, citizens were promised a fully landscaped Park within a Park (200 trees & 200 parking places), a scented garden and a landscaped path along the block of Tower Road. Maybe the VG Parking lot can be a new urban farm?
Common Roots Urban Farm will need a new home after this growing season. Plan to attend the public engagement session – Wed, April 11, 7-9 pm, at Citadel High’s Atrium to explore ideas for its future.
Its time to think bigger! That’s how we got the Urban Farm in the first place. Back in 2007 HRM and Capital Health brokered a land swap for the Queen Elizabeth High site even though it was to return to the Halifax Common. The backroom deal was done before any public consultation. FHC challenged the sale of the Common and managed to convince some smart folks at Capital Health that a good interim use would be a farm/garden. Then FHC introduced them to gardening doula Jayme Melrose and slowly after a genuine public engagement process and a lot of hard work the Common Roots Urban Farm grew.
We need more Common not less.Despite growing evidence that public open space is vital for health and well-being HRM’s draft Centre Plan proposes adding 33,000 new residents in the next 15 years without any new public green space or parks, just higher buildings & more shade, especially on and near the Common. And the Health Authority which sits on 50-60 acres of Halifax Common isn’t clear it places any value on open space (unless you count parking lots).
While other cities around the world are creating new parks HRM can only imagine how to sell, give or trade its public lands, surplus schools and even streets on the Peninsula for development.
We are losing ground. The Halifax Common’s open space is already about 20% of the original 235-acre grant. Recently, without any public process, HRM rushed to support a private-for-profit-pop-up-stadium for a professional soccer team on the newly refurbished Wanderer’s Grounds, even though the field is fully booked with amateur players. And days before the consultation for the Halifax Common Master Plan was announced, HRM silently watched Capital Health purchase the CBC TV Building instead of ensuring its return to the Common. There easily another dozen other examples of HRM approved losses.
We can increase public green space by using city-owned land to extend the Halifax Common and expand its green network. Here are 3 ideas for three directions.
East- Create a green park on the Cogswell Interchange that goes from the Halifax Common to the Halifax Harbour. Place the Farm on the Centennial Pool parking lot with a new outdoor pool nearby.
South- Have the city and province honour their 1986 commitment that the former School for the Blind site would a landscaped Park within a Park and public pathway. (see image)
HRM is too careless with our Common. Short term profit is no match for the long-term pay-back of expanding our city’s green space and improving our health, habitat and especially our ability to weather climate change.
So far HRM has not included either the Health Authority, Dalhousie or private lands on the Common in the public consultation process for the Common’s Masterplan. Again this ignores the 1994 Halifax Common Plan. It also pretends that HRM cannot assume its normal government role to regulate planning throughout the entire Common. Being hands-off does not protect the Common but it certainly serves the purposes of developers be they private or institutional.
Its time to cultivate a green attitude. Faced with a dwindling Halifax Common its pretty clear that if we want a Common we better be prepared to defend the Common. Giving away the Common is a bad HRM habit. Every bit counts. So speak up and ask for more not less!
Please listen to the interview and then let CBC know what you think:
1-888-686-6246 or email@example.com
HRM Councillor Shawn Cleary has crafted a deal for a new public hearing for a 25-storey proposal for George Armoyen at Robie and Quinpool instead of the 20-storey proposal presented to the public on January 16. Its more bad dealing- 25-storeys may get 10 affordable housing units for 15-years but the Centre Plan would have required 36 affordable housing units for 15-years.
And the public interest and opposition continue to be ignored. A recent opinion poll conducted for the Willow Tree Group by Corporate Research Associates found 52% support 16-storeys or less (26% support 16-storeys; 22% support the current building height of 10-storeys). And only 15% want 20-storeys and 10% want 25-storeys.
Existing regulations to protect the 2 & 3-storey neighbourhood’s affordable housing and Halifax Common by limiting the size, height, mass, density etc. are being ignored. The developer has misused HRM’s bogus on-line survey but HRM staff has not corrected this. Recent public submissions totaled 1038 against and 333 for, but the Clerk’s office counted 851 cards signed by opponents as 1. The common public participate but who is looking out for the common good?
Disruption to Halifax’s built environment proposed under the Centre Plan is of a scale equal to or greater than that of Cogswell and Africville together. Please attend the open houses (see schedule below) to inform yourself about the Centre Plan and provide feedback.
The Centre Plan is ignoring the on-going Halifax Common Master Plan Consultations
The draft Centre Plan threatens public enjoyment of the Halifax Common. The colours indicate increases to permitted height. This will lead to short or long-term demolitions of existing building and replacement with taller ones on and next to the Halifax Common.
and 1994 Halifax Common Plan. Despite substantial evidence that high-rises are not the way to add density and that they kill liveability HRM continues to plan for high-rises at “Centres” next to (Robie & Quinpool ) or on (Southwest Spring Garden Road) the Halifax Common. And the plan increases heights for most of the perimeter of the Common for “Corridors” (traffic sewers) along Robie, Chebucto to Cunard, and along South Street.
Although urban green space plays a huge role in mitigating the effect of climate change and nature improves mental and physical well-being HRM is not creating any new public green space for the peninsula just more shade and wind that will degrade what we have. Without knowing what the Plan will permit Capital Health or Dalhousie to do on the Halifax Common the Centre Plan is already drafting for continued incursions and enclosure of the Common. Especially troubling is the plan incentivizes short term or eventual demolition of hundreds of buildings and will result in on-going clashes with near-by properties.
A sensible solution to densifying the Centre Plan Area, would be to intensify land use development in areas where the character of the city would be the least affected. Examples include the 16 acre Cogswell Exchange, the large parcels of land designated as Future Growth Nodes (shopping malls and Shannon Park) or under-utilized commercial lots, vacant lots and automotive dealerships.
Instead the Centre Plan will disrupt many older, established neighbourhoods by increasing height limits along corridors (4-6 storeys), higher residential areas (4-6 storeys) and targeted growth areas (20-storeys). There is no consideration for the social, cultural, environmental, economic advantage of protecting Halifax’s built environment. Nor for protecting present or future opportunities for small-scale local businesses, women-owned businesses, affordability and diversity.
For details please see the interactive map. Note, typical story height is 3.9 meters for offices, 3.1 meters for hotels or residences and 3.5 meters for mixed- use.
Open house meetings March 19-April 5: Mon, March 19, 6:30 – 8:30 pm: St. Joseph A. McKay Elementary School
Thurs March 22, 6-8 pm, NSCC Ivany (Waterfront) Campus
Mon, March 26, 1-3 pm and 6 – 8 pm Dalhousie SUB
Wed, March 28, 1-3 pm and 6 – 8 pm Mic Mac Aquatic Club
Tues April 3 6 – 8pm Halifax Forum
Thurs April 5 1 – 3 and 6 – 8 pm Dartmouth North Community Centre