2020 – FHC Centre Plan Submission

Dear Centre Plan Staff,

Please find included in this email two previous submissions from Friends of Halifax Common

In return for the School for the Blind park, the public was promised a fully landscaped Park within a Park (200 trees & 200 parking places), a scented garden and a land-scaped path along the block of Tower Road the public reluctantly agreed to give to the VG. Maybe the VG Parking lot can be a new urban farm?

(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/