(Ki’jupuk / Halifax) HRM’s ad hoc planning (get it done) vs long term (do it right) once again drowns potential for the best outcome — in this case for the Halifax Common’s new aquatic centre.
Your car, my lungs –a powerful mural by Marta Frej, via @WarszawaBezSmog)
While always supportive of and recognizing the need for a new public outdoor aquatic centre, Friends of Halifax Common continue to be disappointed with a process that now has HRM diving into an unsuitable location with an unknown building design for the Central Common swimming pool re-design.
Ahead of any public consultation HRM established a new aquatic centre as a top objective of the 2017 Halifax Common Master Plan. On-going disregard for public consultation now lands the $16 million-dollar project ahead of a final Halifax Common Master Plan.
This predetermined outcome ignores considering other locations that would increase public open green space and save money with rationalized facility use. It also ignores the Feb 8, 2022 directive HRM staff received to “undertake public consultation and a review of the Master Plan and return to Regional Council within 18 months with the results of the consultation and any recommended amendments, along with implementation plans as may be advised.”
Most importantly better location choices would avoid the well-known harmful health impact of traffic pollution, noise and accidents that will result from the addition of at least 1500 cars using the QEII hospital’s two new $100 million dollar parking garages directly across the street. That the parkades are associated with the hospital redevelopment will not alleviate the grave and known impact that traffic emissions have on children’s health.
Locating the pool near the Citadel High School could have budgeted financial support for the completion of the upper floor(s) of the HRM recreational space inside the school. HRM has paid 7% of the building’s operational fee since 2007 but the upper ~10,500 ft2 remains unfinished and unused.
Or locating the pool on the Centennial Pool parking lot could have expanded public green space by landscaping/naturalizing that area. And use or expansion of the Centennial’s staff offices, change rooms and washroom facilities could have reduced overall building requirements and facility costs.
HRM staff’s record of public comments at the December 2017 consultation raised concerns about predeterming the prioritization of the pool and many asked that HRM “Wait for Master Plan.” That public consultation did not find that there should be a new building. The design for the aquatic centre area from that time did not show an increase in the building footprint which evidently is now two buildings.
There has been no public consultation on the present building design- an architectural black box – even though citizens will presumably be users of the year-round community room, kitchenette and performance space. Limiting public consultation can only curtail the imagination and creativity that might lead us to one day design and approve a natural, wild-space play area.
For the future FHC looks forward to a complete, approved and registered Halifax Common Master Plan. That final Plan should reflect proper and fully engaged public consultation and be informed by the 1994 Halifax Common Plan, not the desires of HRM staff. A Plan that protects and plans for the entire Halifax Common granted “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever” in 1763. And a Plan that is in place before beginning to implement, build, renovate or achieve any agreed-upon new elements to the Halifax Common.