Halifax Common Master Plan, Wanderers Block & Public Garden Greenhouses Needs Full Public Consultation

FHC want the Friends of Public Gardens’ proposal for new greenhouses on the Wanderers Block to be included as part of the on-going public consultation for the Common Master Plan.

Plans for a Victorian greenhouse proposed by the Public Gardens Foundation on the Wanderers Grounds. – Public Gardens Foundation https://www.saltwire.com/halifax/news/8-million-year-round-greenhouse-proposed-for-wanderers-grounds-100796396/#.Y3agxJ3VqCM.twitter

While supportive of the concept FHC worries that so far HRM staff and consultants refuse to include the Wanderers Block during the any phase of the public consultation although asked to. The on-going lack of real and transparent public consultation has led to a loss of open space and failure to recapture or add to that space.

HRM’s secret dealings with Derek Martin’s Sports Atlantic have privatized the use of the Wanderers Playing Field. Martin is now looking to turn his for profit trial ‘temporary pop up stadium’ into a 10,000 seat permanent venue. “Because there is a history of projects proceeding on the Halifax Common on an ad hoc basis, there is a significant lack of cohesion within the Common – it is a collection of parts,” writes Howard Epstein, FHC Director.

According to a November 17 Herald article Area Councillor Waye Mason emailed the Community Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting that the city was working with proposals from the Halifax Lancers and the Wanderers Club. This is another example of HRM planning without a Plan or public knowledge. For Tim Brennan, vice-president of the Wanderers Lawn Bowls Club the greenhouse proposal to HRM was the first his group had heard of the plan or that it intended that the Club would be moving from the space they’ve occupied since 1887. It is worrying too that the clubhouse’s Heritage Property designation has been recently removed meaning it could be demolished.

See details in the FHC letter to HRM’s CPED Standing Committee and Jen Taplin’s Chronicle Herald article below.

November 16, 2022
Dear HRM Community Planning Economic Development Committee Members,

Re: Halifax Common Master Plan and the Wanderers Block
While Friends of Halifax Common support in principle the proposed plans put forward by the Friends of Public Gardens for new greenhouses and we commend their efforts to improve these facilities and hope this supports new opportunities for the public to enjoy the gardens we write to remind you of a couple of things.

HRM staff chose to exclude the Wanderers Block from the public consultation process when the Halifax Common Master Plan began in 2017. HRM Council had just finalized a private approval & contract with the private, for-profit Wanderers Club directly ahead of the consultation’s start. And even though a 2017 HRM staff report on the deal suggested the future of the Wanderers Field would be part of the process HRM staff subsequently refused to engage in this topic.

Last fall HRM Mayor and Council directed HRM staff to bring the draft Master Plan back to the public for further consultation. The public had not seen it for some time because of COVID and in fact there was insufficient time for Councillors to review the 500-page document. But HRM staff has not had any further public engagement. Any sense of “further collaborative planning” for the Wanderers Block has been with individual parties rather than the general public.

The Wanderers Block is a large area and with several significant parts including:

  • Natural History Museum
  • Halifax Lancers buildings and grounds
  • The HRM maintenance depot 
  • Lawn Bowling pitch
  • Power House
  •  The QEII 8-storey parking garage
  • The Wanderers Field

Because there is a history of projects proceeding on the Halifax Common on an ad hoc basis there is a significant lack of cohesion within the Common-it is a collection of parts. The draft Master Plan itself emphasizes the need for broader integration. 

FHC and the public are very concerned about the privatization of the Wanderers Field which began with a so-called temporary pop-up stadium. The professional sports team owner Derek Martin has been publicly advocating for a permanent stadium for 10,000.

HRM’s 2017 staff report provides a lot of evidence as to why if a temporary pop-up stadium were to be successful a subsequent permanent stadium would have to be on non-park land and re-located. Presently the Field, which was previously used to capacity by amateur players, is now exclusively used by the professional team.

We hope you will take this occasion to remind HRM staff that they were tasked to take the draft Halifax Common Master Plan back to the public for more public consultation. The Wanderers Block should be treated as part of the whole rather than risk fragmentation because of the lack of integrated planning. HRM staff need to work with the Friends of the Public Gardens to ensure that their proposal is included in a good fulsome public consultation.

Best wishes,
Howard Epstein, Director, Friends of Halifax Common

Chronicle Herald, Jen Taplin: $8 million year-round greenhouse proposed for Wanderers Grounds: https://www.saltwire.com/halifax/news/8-million-year-round-greenhouse-proposed-for-wanderers-grounds-100796396/#.Y3agxJ3VqCM.twitter