FHC Letter- South Park Loft Breaks Public Values & Trust

HRM’s Design Review Committee has approved Olympus Property’s South Park Loft an 11-story tower spanning the block between South Park and Brenton Streets directly across from the Halifax Common’s Victoria Park. The proposed building is the 3rd recently approved highrise in the single block of South Park Street between Spring Garden Road and Clyde St.

Two historic houses at South Park Street will be demolished. Approving the high-end Trillium in 2008 resulted in 5 historic houses being demolished.

Two historic houses at 1469 and 1473 South Park Street will be demolished. Approving the exclusive 19-storey Trillium in 2008 resulted in 5 historic houses being demolished.

Three multi-unit houses at 1469-73 South Park St and 1474 Brenton St. will be demolished. The 1994 Halifax Common Plan makes frequent mention of historic character of the houses and places of historic importance and the Halifax Common designated as an historic site under the City Charter in 1971. The “intent of the Common Plan was to improve the Victoria Park itself, the view of it and the view from South Street up South Park to the Citadel-that is the context or surrounding area and its “distinct character”.  As no new high-rises were contemplated

In the last 5 years developers have destroyed approximately 12-14 affordable, small-scale mixed-use commercial and residential buildings in a single block next to the Halifax Common's Victoria Park to build highrises.

In the last 5 years developers have destroyed approximately 12-14 affordable, small-scale mixed-use commercial and residential buildings in a single block next to the Halifax Common’s Victoria Park to build highrises.

at the time of the Plan, there’s no mention that these should not be permitted as existing height restrictions would have excluded any understanding of future developments. Now many of the houses that create “distinct character” have been demolished.
FHC’s  Dec. 10, 2015 letter to the DRC, Mayor Savage and Council presented the following reasons why the proposed South Park Loft shouldn’t be permitted:

  1. 1994 Halifax Common Plan: The 1994 Halifax Common Plan provides goals, objections and specific direction based on the foundations laid through extensive public consultations, and are in support of recognized important public values such as the need for public open space or views to open space and public open green space. It is the role of the Design Review Committee and the Mayor and Council to understand that these public values still remain and ensure that they are respected. (see details in Appendix A)
    There are any number of general problems with the effect of this proposal on the area and on Victoria Park, located on the Halifax Common and which contravene the 1994 Halifax Common Plan. The development is too high and massive; casts too much shadow; creates too much wind; destroys too much built, character, affordable housing; occupies too much green space and open sky; dominates views from and of Victoria Park and the Public Gardens; and degrades and overpowers the historic Schmiditville District.
  1. Climate Change- Insurance Bureau of Canada Report We’re rapidly building our city and our province into a bigger and deeper green house gas emission mess. A recent Insurance Bureau of Canada Report, https://www.ibc.ca/on/resources/media-centre/media-releases/new-study-estimates-future-costs-of-climate-change describes future costs for Halifax (and therefore the province) from climate change. What is the governance structure in place to address the urgently needed reduction of ghg emissions associated with this (and other) building that includes a lifecycle analyses? This would track ghg associated with demolition materials and disposal, new materials production and composition and other associated infrastructure; energy consumption etc. What building standards are in place to ensure this design will withstand high winds, protect right-to-light, promote passive solar, solar thermal, solar pv, increasing permeable surfaces, green space etc. Based on present construction in the city we still seem to think that White Juan and Wet Juan are out of the ordinary rather than potentially a new norm.
    The Greenest Building is the One that is Already Built:
    “building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction. Moreover, it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process.”
    Older, Smaller, Better – more economically viable The mixed-style, small-scale, multipurpose character that much of Halifax has is exactly what keeps it interesting, livable and economically viable. For proof beyond my opinion I draw your attention to  “Older, Smaller, Better”  a 2014 report by The Preservation Green Lab. It provides the most complete empirical validation to date that neighbourhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings of diverse age support greater levels of economic and social activity than areas dominated by newer, larger buildings. For details see: https://www.preservationnation.org/information-center/sustainable-communities/greenlab/oldersmallerbetter/report/NTHP_PGL_OlderSmallerBetter_ExecSummary.pdf
    There are many options for developing a sustainable city but buildings such as this have no place in that urgently needed type of plan. After the Paris Climate Change Conference we need to reconsider the path we are on. For some inspiration please see Vancouver’s Greenest City Plan as one example of a better way to envision our future: https://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/greenest-city-action-plan.aspx