Cathy Jones thrives on an ability to make people laugh, to get a rise out of a live or TV audience. But the 64-year-old St. John’s-born comedian doesn’t see the proliferation of proposed highrise developments on peninsular Halifax as a laughing matter.
“My point here today is to challenge city council to do better for the city of Halifax,” Jones said Thursday from the steps of city hall. “Who is the city council working for? The people of this city elect a city council believing in some small way that they actually represent them, when in fact, the proposals of these kinds of buildings for our downtown are so off base.”
Jones referred to proposed developments as city duncity instead of density. She was talking particularly about two separate development proposals that would bring four towers of 30, 26, 20 and 16 storeys to a one-hectare block of property at Spring Garden Road and Robie, Carlton and College streets. The projects would accommodate two multi-use developments and would move the Cold Cure Institute building and the McCoy Building a short distance from their College Street foundations to 1452-1456 Carlton St. Several buildings would be demolished. Those developments are scheduled to be discussed at council Monday evening.
Jones also commented on the three developments that were approved late Wednesday night after regional council burned the midnight oil for three public meetings.
An eight-storey plus penthouse building on Wellington Street in south-end Halifax passed by a vote of 11-3 Wednesday. A redevelopment and addition to the corner of South Park Sreet and Victoria Road and a three-building, 100-unit development on a 72,000-square-foot property between Bayers Road and Young Street also passed.
“Last night, in the middle of the summer when many people are not in town, the city pushed through a proposal for three new highrises,” said Jones, who has lived in Halifax for nearly 26 years.
“The city is losing all of its livability and its character and its practical community quality because of these monoliths that the city council is approving left, right and centre, going up without consulting properly the people who live here,” Jones said.
“When all the nice neighbourhoods are destroyed, the walkability and livable quality, nobody who used to live there will be living in these buildings. I have been on TV for 30 years and I couldn’t afford to live in one of these buildings. All over this city are people looking for housing, families who want to stay downtown.”
Development Options Halifax calls for all developments presently under consideration and proposed changes under the Centre Plan to be modeled before approval. They are asking citizens to sign a petition found HERE.
“I want the city to say, no, we’re not doing these developments,” said Peggy Cameron of Development Options. “I want them to recognize that this (Carlton developments) is a heritage neighbourhood. In 2012, 2016, the heritage trust asked for this whole neighbourhood to be considered for a heritage district, they were ignored. Yet, the city quite happily entertained two developers for four towers. It’s too massive, it’s too large, it’s 80 per cent the size of the Nova Centre and it’s not necessary.”
Hadrian Laing, an architectural student at Dalhousie University, has produced a 3D model of the Carlton development projects, showing what the block of property looks like now and what it will look if the developments go ahead. Laing said he has massed an alternative development proposal that would create 303 new residential units without exceeding nine storeys in height. It would also save a couple of existing buildings.
Janet Brush, 72, a lifelong Halifax resident who now lives on London Street, said destroying buildings is not a sound idea.
“One thing that really outrages me is tearing down perfectly good buildings to put up these monoliths,” Brush said. “All that stuff goes in the landfill and there are empty spaces where they could allow something like this, like the old St. Pat’s site for example. To tear down perfectly good buildings is to me an outrage. Climate change, our landfills filling up, it’s just such a horrible waste. We have the technology to build buildings that will last thousands of years. We build buildings and tear them down.”
Jones, a veteran of the This Hour Has 22 Minutes satrical and parody comedy show, joked that she and her supporters were the new city council.
“As of 10:30 this morning we took over and we have a much better plan for the city,” Jones said.
None of the elected councillors or the mayor popped out of the city hall building to comment.
“I thought one or two would come out,” Brush said. “I am very disappointed, especially in the mayor (Mike Savage). I thought he was doing a good job the first few years but I’m beginning to change my mind on that.”