June 4th – Letter to Heritage Advisory Committee re Carlton Street proposals

Howard Epstein’s June 4th letter to the Heritage Advisory Committee requested that the HAC strive to achieve a better balance between the interests of developers and those of citizens as they consider the Rouvalis and Dexel proposals.  For example, more reasonable were proposals from the Centre Plan Public Consultation where HRM story-boards suggested adding 400 residents to the area in two ten-storey buildings or one ten-story and two five-storey buildings. Other concerns are thematically organized and can be found in the letter below under the following headers.
1. Cultural Landscape
2. Planning for the entire Halifax Common
3. Carlton Street Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation District
4. Centre Plan Public Consultation Story-boards
5. Development Options Halifax drawings and 3-D model
6. Better Options for the Buildable Land Area
Dear Members of the HRM Heritage Advisory Committee,

Re: Rouvalis and Dexel proposals
Friends of Halifax Common would appreciate it if you would consider the following questions as you review these two proposals.

1. Cultural Landscape: The Centre Plan drafts indicated that the Halifax Common will be designated a cultural landscape-how do these proposals fit in with this designation?

2. Planning for the entire Halifax Common: As you may be aware the 1994 Halifax Common Plan committed the city to plan for the entire 240 acre Halifax Common. It also placed a lot of emphasis on retaining, recapturing and not giving up open space, and respecting the cultural and historic nature of the original Halifax Common and its streetscapes. How is this reflected in these proposals?

3. Carlton Street Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation District: In 2012 and again in 2016 Heritage Trust made formal requests to have the Carlton Street area neighbourhood designated as a conservation district. Carlton Street is designated “Heritage” at the municipal, provincial and national level – about half of the buildings in the area are heritage designated with another 11 qualifying. This is the last historic neighbourhood on the original Halifax Common and reflects the kind of neighbourhoods that used to exist all along Spring Garden Road to South Park Street. Now that newer heritage conservation districts are being considered why isn’t this “old” request(s) being given consideration?

4. Centre Plan Public Consultation Story-boards: At Centre Plan consultations in June 2016 HRM Staff proposed adding 400 new residents to the South West Spring Garden Road area. HRM Staff showed their information board with illustrations that proposed choices between two 10-storey buildings or, one 10-storey and two 5-storey buildings. Another HRM Staff information board described this area as being the second most constrained for sewage and water of all proposed growth areas.

None of the information considered the already approved 18-storey building that Killam can build at the north end of Carlton Street. The late professor Phillip Pacey’s submission on the Centre Plan at that time informed Staff that this Killam building would accommodate 70% of the proposed 400 new residents. The balance of residents could be housed in a 5 or 6 storey building along with in-fill or additions.

Surely there is something wrong that HRM now considers 16, 20, 26 and 30- storey buildings for this area knowing what HRM staff proposed to the public, knowing that the density doesn’t require height changes, and knowing that sewage and water are constrained?

5. Development Options Halifax drawings and 3-D model: This volunteer citizen’s group produced the only publicly available drawings that show these two development proposals together. The group also produced a 3-D model of the four towers within the context of the neighbourhood for the public- another first. The drawings and the model help the viewer understand the out-of-proportion scale of the developments relative to the Carlton Street Heritage Streetscape and Robie Street homes. They also illustrate the problem with introducing almost 800 cars into this small. (Note that this does not include cars from the 18-storey Killam proposal at the north end of Carlton St). The group’s request to present the model to the Heritage Advisory Committee has gone unanswered. Why wouldn’t the HAC be willing to view the 3-D model as an aid to evaluating the proposals and in making such important decisions about these developments?

6. Better Options for the Buildable Land Area: Development Options Halifax 3-D model helped determine that there is 48,000sqft of empty space within the interior of the block –a donut hole. A building with a Floor Area of 46,000sqft per floor and Gross Floor Area of 368,000sqft for 8 floors would allow 213 units 2- bedroom units at 1800 sqft which could each house 2-3 people for 534 people total. The FAR would be 7.66. This would not involve any demolition and instead would add to the existing neighbourhood in a complementary fashion.

The 7-storey Doyle Block, and 9-storey Mary Anne and Margarita are recent examples of developments in a more expensive area of Spring Garden Road area where developers have presumably made profitable business cases for more reasonably sized buildings. Why is HRM considering such over-sized and un-necessary proposals when smaller, less-destructive options are possible?

In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, written in 1961, Jane Jacobs observed, “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.”

We hope that as members of the Heritage Advisory Committee you are able to vote against these proposals, they are over-sized, unnecessary and harm this historic neighbourhood.

We offer best wishes for reaching a better balance between the interests of private developers and public citizens.

Howard Epstein, Director Friends of Halifax Common
CC; Friends of Halifax Common membership