Tag Archives: public space

2020 – FHC Centre Plan Submission

A Park within a Park was promised In return for the School for the Blind lands  with 200 trees, 200 parking places, a scented garden & a landcaped path along a block of Tower Road that was de-listed. The public reluctantly agreed to the plan but the promises weren’t fulfilled.

Dear Centre Plan Staff,

Please find included in this email two previous submissions from Friends of Halifax Common (2018 & 2016) . Our suggestions seem even more relevant in this time so we ask that you will please take the time to re-read these.

Green Space: As the Centre Plan intends to add 15-30,000 new residents to the area it is imperative that there be greater attention given to protecting existing green space and to increase it. This is for all the benefits known — human mental and physical health, safe social distancing, improved walkability and active transportation, habitat, gardening, coping with climate change etc.

Health Benefits: A 2016 World Health Organization[i] report suggests sizes of and distance from green space. ie 5 minutes from 1ha is one standard. It also emphasizes connectivity as well as buffer zones for green space – these should be adopted as goals of the Centre Plan. Why not envision a network of green space from Point Pleasant Park to Africville and from the North West Arm to the Halifax Harbour that traverses the Halifax Common? Why not daylight Freshwater Brook as a landscaped route through the city[ii]? This is happening around the world[iii] and has been considered for Freshwater since 2006[iv]. The Centre Plan should create these opportunities.

Also attached is a landscape design of the proposed Park within the Park (see illustration) that Peter Klynstra created and which the province and the city used to convince very reluctant citizens that the grounds of former School for the Blind should be converted to a parking lot for 200 cars with 200 trees. The block of Tower Road that was closed was supposed to be a landscaped path. None of this was ever fulfilled. This is an example of where the Centre Plan needs to be planning for recapturing public open space on the Halifax Common as per the 1994 Halifax Common plan. This should be scheduled on a timeframe to be accomplished within three years.

Approximately 20% of the Common is used for parking-that is about to increase with two new parking garages planned as part of the QEII re-development.

Contrast that with Paris, where the Mayor was recently re-elected with a promise to remove 60,000 parking spots. The goal has recently been increased to 70,000. All with the intention to create a city with clean air where citizens walk, bike or use public transportation to move about. How can the Centre Plan propose to be reducing reliance on cars when it has no targets or timelines for doing so?

Corridors, Emissions and Health: It is a major concern that the Centre Plan is premised on Corridors which concentrates people living next to major transportation routes. One outcome is the very serious health concern that the Halifax Common is surrounded by major driving routes and that the new developments on and next to it have large parking capacity for cars. Electrification is not coming any time soon-Halifax has just ordered 150 new diesel buses. The health of people walking or playing on the Common is at risk.

Vehicle pollution is deadly.[i] Dr. Michael Brauer, a Canadian expert on air quality recommends that people live at least 150m from major transportation routes-this is not news. Traffic pollution was recently noted for the first time as the cause of death of a 9-year old girl.[ii] Canada traffic emissions are a principal source of air pollution and the leading cause for us 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. And of course traffic also leads to motor vehicle and pedestrian collisions.

Protect the Halifax Common: It is also a major disappointment that the Centre Plan has not protected the Halifax Common by focusing on a built form that would minimize the impact of development on the Common. The fixation with high rises is unnecessary, costly to neighbourhoods due to demolitions, superblockers that lack of porosity, wind and shade, loss of privacy and unaffordability. This is not promoting the scale of development that the city needs-the missing middle in distributed density. It is not a sustainable plan for moving forward. The attached illustration demonstrates different ways to achieve capacity for 300 units. The exact glass, steel and concrete building developers in Halifax are constructing are what New York city is banning[i].

Common Writ Large: Some final questions about the public common writ large:

  • Solar Rights: How does the Centre Plan intend to protect solar rights for existing or future installations?
  • Rights of Way: Will there be a process to identify public rights of ways that should be retained? -for example the former Garrick Street that transects O’Regan’s was promised to retain a public right of way by Mayor Walter Fitzgerald when it was traded to O’Regan’s for frontage on Robie Street. Another example is the steps in front of St David’s Church that lead between Grafton and Queen Street. Another is access through St Pat’s and St Pat’s Alexandra.
  • Lighting Design: Is there a detailed lighting design guide that minimizes light trespass, pollution and night blindness[ii]? And that reduces impact on birds?
  • Trees, canopy, pervious surfaces: Is there a plan to protect trees from development and to ensure that the tree canopy remains and that impervious surfaces are not increased?

FHC executive would be pleased to meet with you to discuss these ideas and sincerely hope that you can take them in the spirit that they are offered.


Peggy Cameron,
for Friends of Halifax Common

[i] Urban green spaces and health— A review of evidence https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/321971/Urban-green-spaces-and-health-review-evidence.pdf?ua=1

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/14/utrecht-restores-historic-canal-made-into-motorway-in-1970s
[iii] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/aug/29/river-runs-global-movement-daylight-urban-rivers
[iv] https://www.halifaxcommon.ca/freshwater-brook-sawmill-river/
[v] health-deadly-https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/air-pollution-study-1.5339472
[vi] https://r.search.yahoo.com/_ylt=AwrEeGGXau5fTB0ArxUXFwx.;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzMEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Ny/RV=2/RE=1609489175/RO=10/RU=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cbc.ca%2fnews%2fworld%2fcoroner-rules-air-pollution-contributed-to-young-girls-death-1.5845117/RK=2/RS=BBAAYRXLH7f2ecYe065LT7UqAXo-
[vii] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/mayor-bill-de-blasio-nyc-is-going-to-ban-glass-and-steel-skyscrapers
[viii] https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/planning-development/official-plan-guidelines/design-guidelines/best-practices-for-effective-lighting/

Rick Howe News 95.7: Health Do$$ars to Build Parking Garages – Governments Going Backwards

This rendering by Marcel Tarnogorski shows the proposed parkade at the Halifax Infirmary site, with the pedway spanning Summer Street. - Contributed

Proposed 512-stall parking garage at the Halifax Infirmary site with the pedway spanning Summer Street. A second 1000-stall parkade and steam plant will be at Summer/Bell. (rendering by Marcel Tarnogorski)

News 95.7 Rick Howe speaks with Peggy Cameron on “Why do HRM mayor and council hold the Common in contempt?”

Eliminating green space to build expensive new parking garages is a turn in the wrong direction. Over 50% of hospital staff are interested in other transportation options. So why aren’t governments working to improve transportation options and stop giving up health benefits of green space?

Welcome Spring Around the Common!

FHC’s 2014 photographic exhibition “Parking the Common” found 20-25% of the Common is parking, a private use of public space. Making the Common Halifax’s first car free zone would be an investment in our future. Imagine Central Park as you walk the 4km perimeter to welcome Spring! Cunard, North Park, Ahern, South Park, South, Robie.

Why not welcome Spring with a walk around the Common?  The perimeter  is ~4km and it takes ~1 hour to circumnavigate. Until now public directives telling us to stay at home to help flatten the COVID-19 curve have not banned being outside. That’s lucky, as while our society prioritizes health benefits associated with rigorous physical activity – sports, running, gym-workouts – having regular outdoor time has important physical and mental health benefits such as reducing anxiety, stress and negative emotions; improving memory, immunity, healing, focus, vision, longevity; and managing weight or growing food! See FHC bibliography greenspace

Remember to respect the 2m social distancing directive as many countries have shut parks Continue reading

Rick Howe Interview – No More Parking on Common

The provincial government has plans to build a new $29.5 million parking garage by the Museum of Natural History for the Halifax Infirmary. Peggy Cameron, co-chair of Friends of Halifax Common, takes issue with more Common being used for parking. Between 20-25% is already used for parking – there are better options!

This map from FHC’s 2014 photographic exhibition “Parking the Common” shows 20-25% of the Common is used for parking.

Don't take the public blue sky for granted. Its time to protect the public's view of the sky and access to light and warmth of the sun. photo by-http://ih.constantcontact.com/fs108/1102470517241

Protect Public Blue Space Too!

Don’t take the view of public blue sky for granted. No, Halifax developers aren’t painting the town red, but they are trying to get rich by occupying public blue space next to green space. Presently there are proposals for 25-, 28-, 18-, 11-, 25-storey buildings around the Halifax Common.  As well, on Halifax Common land, an 18-storey building next to Camphill Cemetery on Carlton St. is already approved; a 30-storey building is proposed for Spring Garden Road at Carlton-Robie; and another in the works on the JustUs/Medical Arts block.

Halifax developers are misusing development agreements to by-pass the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy and build out-of-scale buildings.  When developers build highrises next to public green space, they privatize the public’s blue space/view selling and make higher profits, not just from extra floor space to sell or rent but because these condos, hotel rooms and apartments have a privatize luxury view.

Write the Mayor & Council (clerks@halifax.ca) & ask for regulations to protect the public’s “Blue Network” to ensure access to the view, the light and warmth of the sun and against the wind and shade effects from highrises. Continue reading

FHC Letter- South Park Loft Breaks Public Values & Trust

HRM’s Design Review Committee has approved Olympus Property’s South Park Loft an 11-story tower spanning the block between South Park and Brenton Streets directly across from the Halifax Common’s Victoria Park. The proposed building is the 3rd recently approved highrise in the single block of South Park Street between Spring Garden Road and Clyde St.

Two historic houses at South Park Street will be demolished. Approving the high-end Trillium in 2008 resulted in 5 historic houses being demolished.

Two historic houses at 1469 and 1473 South Park Street will be demolished. Approving the exclusive 19-storey Trillium in 2008 resulted in 5 historic houses being demolished.

Three multi-unit houses at 1469-73 South Park St and 1474 Brenton St. will be demolished. The 1994 Halifax Common Plan makes frequent mention of historic character of the houses and places of historic importance and the Halifax Common designated as an historic site under the City Charter in 1971. The “intent of the Common Plan was to improve the Victoria Park itself, the view of it and the view from South Street up South Park to the Citadel-that is the context or surrounding area and its “distinct character”.  As no new high-rises were contemplated Continue reading