At 6pm, Tuesday May 21, at a Public Hearing at City Hall Mayor and Council will decide what their appetite is for a proposed 8-storey + penthouse building at the corner of Robie, Cunard and Compton Streets. Changing the existing height restriction of 35-40’ along the western edge of Robie Street to permit the development will drastically alter the character streetscape that citizens view from and near the Halifax’s North Common.
“The multi-coloured, multi-facaded building is like an over-sized pizza with the works but so far, feedback from about 80 citizens at two Public consultations confirming this has been largely ignored,” said Peggy Cameron, Friends of Halifax Common co-chair. “It’s troubling that while cities around the world are recognizing the importance of distinctive, historic buildings as critical for economic, social, cultural and environmental reasons, Halifax would even consider changing the rules to tear down another 6-8 character buildings* and continue our conversion into an any-where, any-city streetscape.“
Citizen’s group Development Options Halifax is calling for 3-D models of all developments being considered now and under the proposed Centre Plan before its approval. “3-D models show details that otherwise are being missed,” says the group’s Larry Haiven. “In this case we could better understand what the result will be if city changes the exiting height restriction to permit this massive building on the western edge of the Halifax Common, what the effect on the neighbourhood is or how adding 75 cars impacts Compton Street and the nearby busy intersection at Robie,” said the retired Saint Mary’s business professor.
Two properties adjacent to the proposal on Cunard were recently bought and renovated into attractive, multi-unit buildings that are-in-keeping with the character of the neighbourhood. Studies prove that older, smaller, neighbourhoods are more sought after for successful destinations.
Neighbourhood restaurants like Jane’s on the Common (now re-located to Gottingen Street), Studio 21, Elliot & Vine, Robie Street Station, El Chino Snack Bar and Tony’s are examples of what makes this part of the city interesting. The new offering gives nothing to the community while proposing huge advantages to the developer.
*Some of the multi-unit historic buildings to be demolished are:
FHC has joined other citizens to form Development Options Halifax. Recently the public saw our 3-D print model of 4 towers that 2 developers want to build at Carleton, College, Spring Garden and Robie. This technology is readily available, effective and cheap but it’s the first time it’s been used to model developments for Halifax citizens.
In January we developed and showed the public drawings of the two proposals together, again for the first time – even though they’re on the same block HRM processes and meetings have been entirely separate! The model is so successful we call on HRM to provide 3-D print models of all proposed developments and Centre Plan changes in advance of its approval. The public has the right to know what HRM plans for the city. This “to scale” model captures how out-of-scale the proposals, at 80% the square footage of the convention centre, are. It allows a comparison of before and after, and helps explore better options for in-fill respectful of Halifax Common’s last historic neighbourhood.
HRM planning needs a more open, transparent process. During June 2016 Centre Plan public consultations, HRM Staff story-boards suggested their target of addition 400 residents to the area could be accommodated in two 10-storey buildings or one 10-storey building and two 5-storey buildings. But Staff didn’t include the already approved 18-storey high-rise that Killam will build on Carlton by Camp Hill Cemetery – it would house 70% of the 400 residents!
There are so many unanswered questions. How is it volunteers are showing the mass and scale of these developments together to the public for the first time? And presenting the first 3-D model? Why are the 2012 and 2016 requests by Heritage Trust for the last historic neighbourhood on the Halifax Common to be designated as a conservation area being ignored? Almost 50% of the buildings are heritage and another 11 qualify. Why is HRM planning for the wasteful destruction of up to 12 buildings? Its a small-scale, mixed-use, commercial and residential neighborhood with many affordable units and hidden density.
There are better options. The 3-D model helped us visualize and calculate that 8-storey buildings could be constructed in the 48,000 sq ft of parking area in the centre of the block. These could accommodate approximately 213 two-bedroom units or ~534 people. Similarly a low-rise building could be built at Killam’s property at 5880 Spring Garden Road next to the Glitter Bean. The towers are not necessary.
Please ask the Mayor and Council to not approve these 2 developments. Sign the petition: https://forms.gle/3enTs6PfSkmMmNW48