Author Archives: FHCwebadmin

City Plan for the Common needs public consultation

Howard Epstein, Friends of Halifax Common, says the Halifax Common Master Plan needs further public consultation.

Happy 105th Birthday Jane Jacobs! – Six Ways to Celebrate…

Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916-2006) was a Canadian-American urbanist who changed the way many people understand city planning and economics, and gave ordinary citizens the right to trust their own experiences and insights. In these COVID times FHC offers you 6 ways to vicariously experience or physically stroll about Halifax with or without a Jane’s Walk.
READ – Jane’s 1964 speech “A Great Unbalance” could be written for Halifax. As you read it consider the degraded Central Common Pool, the closed Centennial Pool, the languishing Halifax Memorial Library, the sold and privatized Bloomfield, St Pat’s Alexandra, St Pat’s & Halifax West schools lands, the +occupied+ Common lands at QEHS, CBC-TV and NS Museum. “We see the paradox of cities actually impoverishing themselves by capital improvements.” 
WATCH – Explore the Halifax Citadel and Our Colonizing History—From 2012 Alan Wilson historian, author and educator gives a bit of historical context to the Citadel Fortress, in a two-part video edited by Michael Lei. (~1 hour)
STROLL – Let’s go south, on the Common—Use notes provided by Blair Beed, well-known historian, author and tour guide, for a walk on the South Common starting at Sackville and Summer to University to South Park and back to Sackville at South Park. Along with history there’s also an expose of development on the South Common.  (~1 hour)
LISTEN –  The Camp Hill Cemetery – a 50 minute audio tour created by the Friends of the Public Gardens. It begins at the Summer Street entrance of Camp Hill Cemetery and explores the stories of some key historical figures that helped shape the history of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Download the tour before arriving or simply use your mobile data. 
WANDER – The Halifax Common Link has two nice loops in the interior of the Halifax Common linking the major green spaces in the heart of the city-especially the beauty of spring in the Public Gardens. Maps and info here: 
GRENZGANG – Walk the 4k boundary of the Halifax Common (1h) The 240 acres was granted to the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Commons forever. We aren’t sure but clockwise seems to have more hills- The perimeter streets are Robie, South, South Park, Bell, Ahern, Cunard. Become familiar with this gift and help protect it for future generations. 

Buildings For the Climate Crisis – A Halifax Case Study by Peggy Cameron

This new report “Buildings for the Climate Crisis – A Halifax Case Studyby Peggy Cameron, MES reveals the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) released up-front by high rise construction, developments, and demolitions. By comparing these to more climate-friendly in-fill buildings (carbon-neutral or carbon-positive) it offers scenarios that are better matched for what society and Earth need at this time.

For the report a Canadian interdisciplinary climate change strategy consultancy Mantle Developments, conducted preliminary estimates of global warming gases associated with:
— two Halifax based proposals;
— the associated demolition of 12-14 historic houses;
— the replacement of the demolished floor area, equivalent to a 12-storey building and,
— a 9-storey in-fill option modeled by the citizen’s group Development Options Halifax.
The report details impacts of the present developments and associated demolitions on the climate crisis and links this to the affordable housing crisis.

This report proposes options in the path forward including policy recommendations for what needs to change if we are planning for an inclusive society and for environmental remediation. With the release of this report the author aims to encourage all parties to seize this important and timely opportunity to re-think accepted practices of the building, construction, and demolition industry.

Globally, green houses gasses (GHG’s) from the materials and products used to build buildings is 11% as embodied or upfront carbon and approximately 29% as operational carbon from heating, lighting and cooling MORE>

More Pavement Slated for the Central Common

FHC has learned the Pavilion parking lot on the Central Common is slated for paving. Soon. The restricted (not public) lot is directly beside the wading pool and the pathway that follows the route of Freshwater Brook through the Central Common. Why is the city’s priority cars and paving the Common instead of landscaping the pathway? Hundreds of walkers and cyclists use the route everyday-why not make it beautiful, add some benches or how about a few tables with roofs?


“This brilliant illustration shows how much public space we’ve surrendered to cars” is from an article of the same name at

Citizens have raised concerns about safety for pedestrians in this area for years. Up to 18 or 20 cars crowd into the lot and until recently drivers would pull out along the public pathway and into the crosswalk on Cogswell Street to exit.

An easy solution would have been to ticket illegal vehicles and lock the gate. Instead, the city unnecessarily replaced the old gate with a new but still unlocked gate, and installed an unattractive chain link fence and a badly designed barrier gate along the pathway that interferes with cyclists and walkers. Cars continue to illegally park at the lot and are still a hazard to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Soon the vehicles will have an asphalt surface but the waders, walkers and cyclists will only get the run-off.

Want to stop more Halifax Common from being paved? Write the Mayor and Council at

Blockbuster Highrise Proposed for Quinpool & Robie

Presently there are 2 proposals by 2 developers for 3 block-buster towers of 28, 24 and 12 storeys near the Willow Tree intersection. (For comparison, Fenwick Towers is 32 storeys and Bell Aliant is 22 storeys) These highrises are not permitted under present planning regulations, set a bad precedent and will harm the Halifax Common experience. A public meeting will be scheduled. Please read below to learn what the implications are and how you can be involved.

When developers apply for special exemptions or changes to smaller parcels of land that ignore an existing master plan and are at odds with a big picture view of what is permitted under existing zoning regulations its known as block-busting or spot-rezoning.

Near the Willow Tree intersection (Quiinpool Road, Robie & Parker Streets), two developers are trying to increase height limits and reduce or eliminate open space and set-back requirements. These are applications for spot-rezoning. The proposed spot-developments are looking for major exceptions to present land-use by-laws that are based on broad and comprehensive public consultation. These existing plans and regulations provide a predictable framework that guides development.

Unfortunately this kind of block-busting creates exactly the sort of controversy that blames Haligonians for being against developers and change. Developer George Armoyan banned from city buildings due to threatening behaviour | The Chronicle Herald

Too bad, because a 2013 Stantec Report, commissioned by the city concluded projected density requirements can met under the existing planning rules.

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Effect of Spot-Rezoning on the Halifax Common
The 1994 Halifax Common Plan emphasizes that views, streetscapes and trees are an essential features of the Halifax Common and its perimeter. Spot-developments allowing high-rises will permanently alter the experience of being on the Halifax Common by blocking the view and sky, increasing the shadows and increasing the wind. When you walk home from downtown the western sky at this location will be blocked. People working or living in the private sky-scrapers will be the private owners or our Common view. As well, it sets a precedent for block busting and breaking height restrictions with any future developers who are hoping to re-develop their properties with high-rises anywhere around the perimeter of the Halifax Common.

An on-line public survey by HRM staff about these projects does not offer the option of “no change to allowable height” or “no change to allowable set-backs” but you can write this as you preferred choice in the comment section. The survey is also incorrect about the shadow effect of tall-thin buildings being less than shorter ones.

Some details:
APL Redevelopment: Presently, the corner of Quinpool and Parker Streets has a maximum allowable height of ~ 5 and 14 storeys, north-west of the Willow Tree. The APL re-development proposal wants 12 storeys (3 times the allowable maximum) and 28 storeys (2 times the allowable maximum).

Westwood Redevelopment: The former Cruikshank’s funeral home (2 storeys) and a single family home (2 storeys) at 2032-2050 Robie Street, north-west of the Willow Tree has a maximum allowable height of ~ 4 storeys. The Westwood re-development proposal wants 24 storeys or 6 times the allowable maximum height.

Setbacks: Existing regulations requires that apartments have a set back of 20 or 10 feet to reduce the effect on the neighbouring properties such as solar loss or wind. Both developers are looking for complete exemptions.

In 2013 study HRM commissioned a Stantec report that concluded there is enough existing development potential within the Regional Capital to meet future density targets set out in the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy based on EXISTING height allowances. Changing the rules to favour individual developers isn’t necessary to achieve density and existing neighbourhoods can continue to be protected.

The Halifax City Staff report favours density but ignores the results of its own Stantec Report.


Some Height Comparisons

  • Welsford Apt. – 19 storeys
  • Atlantic Hotel – 16 storeys
  • Quinpool Towers – 12 storeys
  • Aliant Building – 21 storeys
  • Fenwick Towers – 32 storeys
  • APL Proposal – 28 & 12 storeys (allowed now – 4-storey & 16 storey)
  • Westwood Proposal– 24 storeys (allowed now – 4 storey)

Concerned? Write the Mayor and Council directly at:


Halifax Common vs. Block Buster Highrises

 Presently there are 2 proposals by 2 developers for 3 block-buster towers of 28, 24 and 12 storeys near the Willow Tree intersection. (For comparison, Fenwick Towers is 32 storeys and Bell Aliant is 22 storeys) These highrises are not permitted under present planning regulations, set a bad precedent and will harm the Halifax Common experience.  Please read below to learn what the implications are and how you can be involved.
The proposed developments will block  the common view of the western sky and will increase wind, shadow and traffic.

The proposed developments will block the common view of the western sky and will increase wind, shadow and traffic.

Block-Busting – When developers apply for special exemptions or changes to smaller parcels of land that ignore an existing master plan and are at odds with a big picture view of what is permitted under existing zoning regulations its known as block-busting or spot-rezoning.
Continue reading

Interview ~ Invasive Species Phylum Paveia, News 95.7 – Rick Howe Show

Phylum Paveia, Lapilus civitis

Phylum Paveia, Lapilus civitis


Listen and learn about the invasive Phylum Paveia, responsible for the creeping disappearance of green space on the Halifax Common…


Catalogue Launch – Celebrate the Common 250

Celebrate the Common 250 2014In October of 2014, Friends of the Halifax Common organized four days of activities to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the Halifax Common. The Halifax Common came into being when the land was given to the “common folk” of Halifax by King George III “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common, forever”. To further mark this anniversary we published the Illustrated Catalogue “Celebrate the Common 250”.

Within the 24 pages of this historical documentary book are present-day photographs taken by Alvin Comitor interspersed with archival photographs and images. Accompanying text describes the gradual diminution of the lands allocated to the Halifax Common, south to north, over the past 250 years.

To view the catalogue on line CLICK HERE.

For beautiful print copies Contact Us. A donation of $10 per book is suggested but not required.

Photographic Exibition: Parking the Common, Documentation of Phylum Paveia

View On Line: Parking the Common, Documentation of Phylum Paveia

small-e-carde-card-page247This study classifies invading species of Phylum Paveia (parking lot) responsible for the creeping disappearance of the Halifax Common. Ecological examination reveals P.Paveia colonizes territory replacing endangered natives such as Lawnis tranquilis, Gardenia publica and Serenis communis.  Identified Paveias include Genera Bituminus (asphalt), Lapillius (gravel) and Cementus (cement) and species civitis (city), ecclesiais (church), hospitalis (hospital), imperium canadis (federal government), imperium nova scotis (provincial government), privatis (private), scholis (school), and universitis (university).  This study raises doubt about notions of improvement historically rooted in imperialist ideology that, unless mitigated, will result in further colonization.

North Common Roundabout – The Big Picture, News 95.7 Rick Howe Show


Listen to News 95.7 The Rick Howe Show Interview with Peggy Cameron

On July 7/14 Rick Howe interviewed Peggy Cameron (representing Friends of the Halifax Common) about The Big Picture and the $12.9 million dollars spent on the North Park Roundabouts. Peggy questions how this expenditure meets HRM’s stated long term goals.

North Common Roundabout Design (birdseye)Cogswell/Rainie/Ahern

Book Launch – Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good by Heather Menzies

Everyone is welcomed to attend events with award-winning author Heather Menzies in celebration of the launch of her new book, Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good.

Heather Menzies - Reclaiming The Common For The Public GoodHALIFAX BOOK LAUNCH
Tuesday June 3rd, 7PM
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, 1747 Summer Street

Community Picnic/Potluck Supper
Monday June 2nd, 3:30 – 6:00PM

Park Avenue Oven, Dartmouth Common

Monday June 2nd, 7:30PM
Mahone Bay Centre


A memoir of personal and political discovery, Menzies’ focus is on the need to reclaim common resources to work together to build a better society. Her message is especially relevant to Friends of Halifax Common who present these events in cooperation with Halifax’s Lifelong Learning Network, Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies (MSVU), Common Roots Urban Farm, the Council of Canadians, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Nova Scotia.

Wrap-up: Celebrate the Common 250

In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Halifax Common, Friends of Halifax Common organized one big party. On October 4, 5 & 6th, 2013 we  hosted 3 days of over 50 events to commemorate the gift of the Halifax Common “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever,” by King George III in 1763.

CTCLogoOver 11,000 people came out to join the festivities,  and share the food and fun during the 3-day celebration.

The events included a series of public walks & talks on and about the Halifax Common.  Eight commissioned works to Celebrate the Common included theatre, circus & dance performances, exhibitions, sculptures & installations.  Lots of activities happened throughout the entire area of the Common – meditation, yoga, cricket, baseball, kite-flying, henna tattooing, biking, bike-repair, drumming and potlucks.

Two books were published Continue reading

Celebrate the Common 250 – Media Release

for immediate release

September 24, 2013

Friends of Halifax Common Celebrate the Common’s  250th

(Halifax) On October 4, 5 & 6, Friends of Halifax Common invite the public to join in the free festivities to Celebrate the Common 250 and help mark the 250th anniversary of Canada’s oldest Common. Events at <> are being updated daily.

In 1763, King George III gifted the 235-acre gift of the Halifax Common to the “inhabitants of the Town of Halifax as Common forever.” Numerous free public walks and talks, like October 4th’s “The Halifax Common: 250 Years of Community Use (cows, cricket, circuses, Catholics, Sir Paul and the skaters)” will explore the history and changing landscape of Canada’s oldest Common.

Many celebration activities are planned. Continue reading