I think we should have a thread where everyones opinion on HRM by Design can be together. For anyone unfamiliar with HRM by Design it is a committee that has put together what they think downtown Halifax should look like in the future. This includes the area bordered by Upper Water St., Cogswell, Citadel Hill, South Park St, Morris, Barrington (minus DalTech), Barrington Superstore, and Pier 21. There is a draft up on their website (www.hrmbydesign.ca):
Downtown Halifax of the future
Final draft of HRM By Design report to be released today
By MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE Staff Reporter
Mon. Apr 7 - 5:34 AM
THIS IS A CITY in which residents still refer to one of two spans across Halifax Harbour, a structure that opened 38 years ago, as "the new bridge."
It’s a place some folks have said, perhaps facetiously, should adopt the following motto: Halifax — Progress Without Change.
Old habits die hard here, but the first decade of the 21st century is going to bring a shift in the way urban planners and developers do things downtown.
As a result, if all goes well, Halifax’s central core will evolve into a lively, people-friendly place with downtown residents, workers, business owners and tourists living in harmony.
Heritage properties and new highrise buildings will coexist in the Halifax Regional Municipality of the future. Affordable housing will be available, and public transit upgraded.
The cost? So far, that’s unknown.
But many costs associated with the renewal effort are to be handled by the private sector, developers who’ll likely be improving existing properties and paying to build more esthetically pleasing new ones.
Plans for downtown’s refurbishment come from the city’s HRM by Design study, an urban revitalization plan in the works for about 20 months. A 17-member task force assigned to the $405,400 project envisions a downtown that’s livable, distinct and vibrant.
Planners want 16,000 people to move downtown within the next 15 years, Halifax regional council heard at a city hall meeting in February. They’d also like to see a million square feet of new office space downtown in the next decade or so.
On Monday, the municipality’s final draft of the downtown plan is to be released. Public review of the proposal is to continue until April 23. Copies of the plan will be available electronically and in print.
City hall is encouraging people to review the draft and submit comments to the HRM by Design gurus. An open house will be held April 16 at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.
The proposed downtown vision, guided by consultants from Toronto, would manage growth and development in the central core over the next 25 years.
Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown), a task force member, said recently that a renaissance for the downtown, parts of which have been neglected for years, is long overdue. She urged residents, workers, employers, visitors and property owners to contribute to the planning process by commenting on the consultants’ final draft.
"We’re hoping that by June, we’ll be bringing the full contents of the (final) report to regional council forward," Ms. Sloane said.
A public hearing on the study will probably be held before July.
According to the city’s consultants, a new-and-improved downtown should include:
•"Defined and distinct . . . precincts."
•A protected and "vibrant historic heart."
•Various open spaces and "streets that support . . . walking."
•A downtown that’s transit-oriented.
•A central core that reinforces civic pride.
Project manager Andy Fill-more, a city hall staffer, said the precinct idea is relatively simple. Planners are proposing nine downtown neighbourhoods be designated.
Mr. Fillmore said "a clear mission statement" for each district — areas that share a common geography but have distinct elements — would be established.
"The policy for each precinct is developed around acknowledging, protecting and perpetuating those . . . characteristics." Not everyone agrees with the HRM by Design concept, of course, and the consultants have received candid criticism from opponents.
Haligonian Janet Morris is worried the city’s historic structures will suffer under the proposed revitalization scheme. Tall buildings near heritage properties, she feels, should be verboten.
"Halifax is known as the City of Trees," she said last year in comments posted on a local website. "This is a clue — the height of our buildings in the historic core should not exceed the tree canopy. Let there be light and air for everyone."
A summary of feedback provided to the municipality’s design team at a public forum in November shows the perennially contentious issue of height is not in danger of being knocked down soon.
"Height is fine," an observer wrote, "in the right spot."
Another warned about tall buildings affecting such heritage sites as Halifax city hall, Province House and Government House.
One person noted there are unattractive low-rise buildings downtown and was concerned they could be joined by taller mistakes. "Ugly short buildings may be bad," the commenter wrote, "but ugly, tall, overpowering buildings are even worse."
Said a tall-building supporter: "I would like to see more height in the Cogswell area. I am also concerned about the height restriction in a lot of the downtown area."
Planners are recommending a height limit of about six storeys for part of downtown, the "vibrant historic heart," Mr. Fillmore said. He said that district would include Historic Properties and parts of Barrington Street.
Outside of that zone, "a balance" will have to be struck between heritage preservation and allowing for modern architecture, Mr. Fillmore said.
When it comes to reviewing, approving and appealing future developments, downtown planners want municipal politicians to have the final say, on appeal, instead of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. Mr. Fillmore said proposals would be considered and authorized by a "site plan review" group of municipal staff and a design-review committee made up of citizens.
Progress without change?
Not in the scenario shaped by the HRM by Design team.
Mr. Fillmore said changes are definitely in the offing, such as the approval and appeal processes for development proposals. But he acknowledged several are subject to amendments to provincial legislation. He said the city is making progress on that front.
On Monday, to obtain a free copy of the final draft of the downtown plan, a five-volume report, go to www.hrmbydesign.ca
or go to the planners’ office at the Halifax ferry terminal on George Street.