Centre Plan Threatens Halifax Common

What ever happened to planning for the Common good?
Deliberately or otherwise and despite FHC’s submission to the Centre Plan, the new draft Centre Plan growth scenarios are about to continue the obliteration of the Halifax Common in at least five ways.
1. The Halifax Common Planning Boundary continues to be mislabeled.
2. Highrise growth is targeted on the Halifax Common at Carlton and Spring Garden Road.
3. Highrise growth is targeted next to the North and Central Commons at the Willow Tree.
4. The Halifax Common’s perimeter along Robie and South Streets are targeted growth areas.
5. Opportunities to re-capture VG Parking lot lands and create a promised Grand Allee from the Citadel to Point Pleasant Park are ignored. (See illustration below, taken from 2007 HRM staff report.)

1. The Halifax Common Boundary continues to be mislabeled on Centre Plan maps:  FHC’s submission asked that the Halifax Common’s 240-acres be properly labeled as in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan. On page three that document states “For the purposes of planning the area is divided into three precincts as shown on Map 2: North, Central and South.” Map 2 is shown above.

Still Centre Plan maps label the ~30-acre North Common as the Halifax Common. So ~210 acres are missing. Why is the city avoiding marking the proper boundary for the 1763 Halifax Common land grant? Does it make it easier for HRM to give it away, barter with it, or consider it as an asset that they can permit buildings on?

2. The Centre Plan Targets Highrise Growth on the Halifax Common: On the Centre Plan map, yellow identifies proposed targeted growth areas where buildings can be 7 or more storeys. Note there is no stated upper height limit. One such site is on the Halifax Common at the historic Carlton St and Spring Garden Road neighbourhood where presently height is restricted to 35 feet.

This area is the last historic streetscape on the Halifax Common. It is a charming mixed -use neighbourhood with many small-scale commercial and residential properties. 10-12 historic buildings are directly under threat. Is densification the city’s way appease the desire of developers, who have acquired land knowing full well what can or can’t be developed on it, over those of the commoners?  The 2013 Stantec Report confirms population projections for the city aren’t so high that there needs to be further development on the Halifax Common – within the Regional Centre 35,000 apartments could be built under existing rules.

3. The Centre Plan targets highrise growth at the Willow Tree next to the North and Central Common. The yellow block at the east end of Quinpool at the Willow Tree ignores the existence of the residential neighbourhood along Parker and Welsford Streets.  It also ignores the input of public consultation for St Pat’s and the Willow Tree proposals for 29, 24 and 12-storey buildings where citizens overwhelmingly rejected the approval of highrises.

Why do HRM staff support developers desire for highrises here? St Pat’s outcome is delayed until after the Centre Plan but by then new rules may support 7+++ storey highrises and the public will have no further say about the effect of blocked views, more wind and dark shadows on the North and Central Commons.

4. The Centre Plan incentivizes the demolition of buildings on the perimeter of the Halifax Common. Twelve secondary growth corridors (orange on the map) where heights will increase to 4-6 storeys will encourage development of higher buildings for higher profits.  Robie and South are two such streets. These streets are borders of the Halifax Common with character historic streetscapes, established neighbourhoods, trees, setbacks with vegetation and open view of sky. The Centre Plan puts them at risk. Streets  adjacent to the secondary growth corridors will also be impacted as properties will have taller buildings in their back yard.

5. The Centre Plan must act on opportunities for land re-capture.  When HRM traded the former QEHS from the Halifax Common with the province it made a deal to get back some of the VG Parking lot along South Park Street. The city should be acting to re-capture this important green space on the SE corner of the

November 2008 QEHS landswap gave VG Parking lot land back to the city.

HRM’s Nov 18, 2008 QEHS landswap agreement with the province gave part of the VG Parking lot back to the city. The intention was to make it landscaped public open space with walking paths next to South Park St., a Grand Allee denoted by blue dashed lines. Why is it still a parking lot?

Common along South Park St.
“In a broader context, the Halifax Common and Point Pleasant Park are parts of one open space connected by Young Avenue.  This larger system should be strengthened.” (1994 Halifax Common Plan p. 3)