December 17, 2020
Dear Premier McNeil,
As you leave your role as Premier, we write to ask that you reconsider the decision to build a $30 million dollar, 8-storey, 500-stall parking garage on one of the last remaining public open green spaces on the Halifax Common. Approximately 20% of the Common is used as parking, almost all for provincial health care facilities.
The 1000-stall parking garage planned for the former CBC building site will certainly provide enough parking for years – build it first and the parkade on the Museum of Natural History grounds becomes unnecessary. The decision for the Museum property parking garage taken by Minister Lloyd Hines, requires careful second sober thought.
As I am sure you are aware, the Halifax Common was granted “for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common forever” (1763-2020). Of the 245 acre grant, less than 20% remains as public open space. Please consider better options for dealing with parking beyond expanding onto greenspace. For example:
- The parking lot next to the Veteran’s Memorial Hospital should be where a robotic parking garage is built. This turnkey build would be a cheaper, more compact, more efficient, less polluting, provide faster parking delivery and pick-up service than a conventional parking garage and is near the hospital entrance. It is an option that is technologically proven and is used in many North American and European locations with a similar climate to Halifax. This option was investigated and put forward to John O’Connor by the QEII project’s lead engineer and architect. Yet, for no apparent reason the robotic parking garage option was explicitly excluded as an option in the RFP without a legitimate consideration.
- Work to provide other transportation options. Over 50% of hospital parking users are hospital staff who work between 8am – 5:30pm. Over 50% of those surveyed as part of the re-development work agreed that they would consider other transportation options. This is such a wonderful opportunity to support citizens willing to reduce their reliance on individual car use. Many options are possible for incentives (i.e. free fare transit passes, preferred parking for car pools, car-share, park and ride, showers and lockers for active transportation etc.)
- Many of the traditional ways that health care is delivered are changing. A certain amount of new work and healthcare solutions such as telecommuting, e-appointments and consultations will continue to reduce overall parking demand.
- Consider the health and safety impact of over 1500 vehicles arriving and leaving within the same small area as the Citadel High, the NS Museum, the hospitals, the skate park, the aquatic centre, the Oval, the playing fields and hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists commuting to and from downtown. Traffic emissions are a principal source of air pollution and the leading cause for Canada having one of the world’s highest rates of new childhood asthma. It is also linked to other lung diseases, higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS.
We ask you, as the Premier who has successfully and with care led Nova Scotians through the COVID crisis, to carefully reconsider the placement of the parking garage and show the same kind of leadership ability by choosing better solutions. We want you to cancel this parking garage and instead make beautiful again the space around the Museum, including restoring the Freshwater Brook that is now uncovered where this garage is planned.
The FHC is a non-partisan, volunteer-sector organization, with a membership and contact list of some 3,300 persons. We look forward to hearing from you.
Peggy Cameron, Co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common (by email)
Cc: Dr. Brendan Carr, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Randy Delorey, Labi Kousoulis, Iain Rankin, Gary Burrill, Tim Houston, Andy Fillmore, Shawn Fraser, Mayor Savage, FHC Membership