June 23 marked the 255th anniversary of the Halifax Common, the 1763 Crown Grant by King George III for 235 acres of land and five acres of roads given “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever.”
Maura Marche uses a hula hoop on the Halifax Common earlier this month. The lands were given in perpetuity to the people of Halifax, but their overall size has been shrinking. (TIM KROCHAK / Staff)
Clamoured for by the poor and landless, the grant is bound by North Park Street, Ahern Avenue, Bell Road, South Park, Robie and Cunard streets. But true to history, Halifax’s ruling class has steadily colonized the Common south to north so now only roughly 20 per cent is public open space.
Recently, HRM began a public consultation process for a Halifax Common master plan. Unfortunately, this offers an uncertain prospect for remedying the enclosure of our shared land. Continue reading →
We need nature. Whether its a plant or a park, the evidence that public open space has important physical and mental health benefits is growing. But even-tho the Centre Plan wants 30,000+ new residents within HRM’s urban core we are shrinking the Common. On April 24, one day before a public consultation for the Halifax Common, Mayor and Council approved a private pop-up stadium on the Wanderers Grounds. While the field has been used by sports teams since the 1880s it was for amateur players. Now amateur soccer, rugby, football, Frisbee players will have 20% less field time-which by they pay for- so a developer can profit from our Common.
The Halifax Common grant in 1763 was for 235 acres ” to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever.” This entire area is to be considered for planning purposes as per the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.
Dear HRM Mayor and Council
Re: Request to postpone decision on Private-for-profit stadium on Halifax Common’s Wanderers’ Grounds until completion of on-going Halifax Common Master Plan Consultation.
Presently HRM is in the midst of a public consultations for the Halifax Common’s Master-plan, a process which began in the December 2017. The consultant team, Upland Studios, CoLab and HTFC, are undertaking a range of opportunities for public feedback to help inform the creation of the Halifax Common Plan as per the attached map. In fact, this Wednesday, April 25th, the 3rd of five public consultations will be held.
At present less than 20% of the 235-acre Halifax Common remains as public open space. The draft Centre Plan intends to add up to 35,000 citizens to the Peninsula but does not plan for additional public green space or parks. We need to keep this important civic space available for public use. Friends of Halifax Common (FHC) therefore requests that the decision to sign a contract for a private pre-fab pop-up stadium on the Wanderers’ Grounds be deferred until the Masterplan is finished. We stress that the Masterplan is for the entire Halifax Common as per the direction of the 1994 Plan (see attached map). Continue reading →
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.
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!
The 1886 lease for the Wanderer’s Grounds to the amateur, non-profit Wanderer’s Amateur Athletic Club for sports such as baseball, lawn bowling, rugby and snow-shoeing ended in 1959 when the city took over management of the property.
Friday June 23rd is the 254th anniversary of the granting of the 235 acre Halifax Common “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax, as Commons forever”.
No difference to HRM Council which fast-tracked its further privatization by approving a for-profit private stadium at the Wanderers Grounds. Rick Howe interviews FHC on why this privatization is not in the best interests of the Common or the commoners.
Citizens are increasingly upset with HRM’s disregard for both their interests and the common good. About $1 million in citizens’ tax dollars is being spent to improve the Wanderers Grounds but amateur sports players will have at least 20% less field time. The developer has a stated agenda of locating a permanent sports and entertainment venue on the site. FHC is not opposed to the Stadium, just the location and it objects to yet another ad hoc decision being made before there is a Masterplan as committed to by the city of Halifax in 1994.