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  #61  
Old Posted Mar 5, 2012, 7:41 PM
halifaxboyns halifaxboyns is offline
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That sounds like a great type of event.

The adversarial relationship between the city/heritage people/developers is at the heart of a lot of Halifax's problems. Really the city should be talking to developers to find out what their requirements are and then that should figure highly into any plans that are made. Sometimes lip service is given to economic feasibility but that is insufficient. Without the economic foundation the plans don't work, regardless of how happy they make people at public consultations.
I found it very interesting because in one example; it was a project I dealt with. They didn't put it in to be mean, it was a great example of how NIMBY's really could effect the project and so a 20 storey building got shrunk to 12 stories. The costs really went up per unit.
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  #62  
Old Posted Mar 6, 2012, 4:00 PM
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Up in the air: Public ponders how high Halifax can go

(from the CH online)

When it comes to figuring out how to build a modern sustainable city, there are no definitive answers. But that doesn’t stop people from putting their ideas forward, nor should it.

Most suggestions come with the best intentions and are based on an element of common sense. However, even the best ideas are fraught with unintended consequences, and that’s where the debate really begins.

Halifax has started the public consultation part of the review of its regional plan and, already, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that much of the focus will be on height.

How does a city decide how high a building can be built? And what are the criteria for establishing such height limits?

Dubbed RP+5 by city staff, the first five-year review of the plan will supposedly shape the recommendations staff will pass along to city council.

To help focus the conversation, staff created some themes: livability, sustainability, vibrancy, mobility and prosperity.

Staff also determined this:

“Our future growth and development must focus on continuous improvement of our environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability.

“This must include standards for low-impact ‘green’ development, ensuring that new development pays its fair share to protect the tax rate, expanded tools for the provision of housing affordability and heritage protection, support for cultural programs, controlling overall resource and energy consumption, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

I wonder what might happen if the public input doesn’t match the goals established by city staff. Let’s face it; unless there is overwhelming support for an idea that comes from the public consultation, it isn’t likely to get the endorsement by the people who will make the report to council.

The city is also helping to form consensus by bringing in guest speakers to discuss regional planning. Calvin Brook, the first speaker at Thursday’s public meeting, endorses something called “mid-rise urbanism,” which is based on the philosophy that moderately sized buildings are just as effective as high rises in meeting the desire for greater density while maintaining liveability.

The rest of the story is here. I have to say I agree with Roger - developers have to be able to recover their costs and if 12 storeys isn't going to cut it we'll be back redoing the plan to allow for more height. Let's get it right the first time and pick places where height can rip and then along corridors like Agricola and Quinpool, perhaps 15 storeys is the limit for now.

Either way, whatever the plan is, it should be re-reviewed in 5 years time to keep it current and if the heights aren't working - changed.
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  #63  
Old Posted Mar 6, 2012, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by halifaxboyns View Post
I have to say I agree with Roger - developers have to be able to recover their costs and if 12 storeys isn't going to cut it we'll be back redoing the plan to allow for more height. Let's get it right the first time and pick places where height can rip and then along corridors like Agricola and Quinpool, perhaps 15 storeys is the limit for now.

Either way, whatever the plan is, it should be re-reviewed in 5 years time to keep it current and if the heights aren't working - changed.
Yeah, I'd say create an environment where something can't just be shot down if it meets a height cap. I think 19 stories is a great cap.
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  #64  
Old Posted Mar 6, 2012, 11:34 PM
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Yeah, I'd say create an environment where something can't just be shot down if it meets a height cap. I think 19 stories is a great cap.
This is where I go back to the work Larry Beasley did for Vancouver - a lot of that thinking actually went into HbD, but it didn't go far enough. Larry thought that if you are going to build verticle villages (which are the same as sprawling suburbs, only vertical) the needs of the residents are no different. They need parks, recreation centres, transportation, schools, etc. But what Larry did was say that developers should contribute to the cost of all this. So if you look at Vancouver's rules, you actually can't build a very tall building as of right. But through bonusing (some things mandatory, somethings optional) you can. So you might have to contribute to paying for parks, a pathway, transportation (streetcar/lrt) and affordable housing as several mandatory things and then public art and decorative sidewalk pavers as your optional bonusing. So by right, you might only get 6 stories - but thanks to these options, you get up to 20.

This is what HbD does not, but the 'menu' of bonusing is quite small. My hope with this project is to expand the 'menu' to include transportation, affordable housing and parks contributions as a way to get up to whatever height. But if you are going to do that, you have to be prepared to allow for much greater height because the cost will increase to the developer.
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  #65  
Old Posted Mar 6, 2012, 11:45 PM
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This is what HbD does not, but the 'menu' of bonusing is quite small. My hope with this project is to expand the 'menu' to include transportation, affordable housing and parks contributions as a way to get up to whatever height. But if you are going to do that, you have to be prepared to allow for much greater height because the cost will increase to the developer.
Another big difference is that the price of condos or rentals in Halifax is much lower than prices in Vancouver. There isn't the same potential for developers to pay for amenities in Halifax. To some degree planners in Vancouver have an easy job because they have a windfall from foreign real estate investment to work with. It's not really that hard to make a neighbourhood of $1M condos livable. Actually I'd argue that Vancouver has not done a particularly good job of planning because housing here is horribly unaffordable. This city has its own NIMBY tendencies to deal with when it comes to stuff like building laneway houses or transit.

I'm also not so convinced that Peninsular Halifax needs a ton of money from developers, or that it's very good from the perspective of economic incentives. We already charge higher taxes in the core, and one of the main arguments for building in the urban core is that most of the required infrastructure is already in place.

My opinion is mostly just that the city needs to do its job and maintain the public realm that they are paid to maintain in the urban core. The cost of doing that isn't even very high, but the political will needs to be there.
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  #66  
Old Posted Mar 21, 2012, 11:15 AM
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The centre plan is starting soon. Find out more here. http://www.halifax.ca/planhrm/centreplan.html
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  #67  
Old Posted Mar 21, 2012, 4:29 PM
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I don't know how I feel about this... I like the areas that they are discussing though.

Basically, every time something gets codified in Halifax it becomes ammo for the anti-height crew... especially in the context of legal interpretation.

I think HRM by design, although has positives, as simply created an environment for anti-development sentiment to be justified in the context of "breaking the rules", even though there are bonus heights, etc. built in.

Look at this document... http://www.halifax.ca/capitaldistric...nalpackage.pdf

I disagree with mostly all of these proposed changes! In fact, they are all mostly restrictive and normative.
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  #68  
Old Posted Mar 22, 2012, 5:16 AM
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Originally Posted by worldlyhaligonian View Post
I don't know how I feel about this... I like the areas that they are discussing though.

Basically, every time something gets codified in Halifax it becomes ammo for the anti-height crew... especially in the context of legal interpretation.

I think HRM by design, although has positives, as simply created an environment for anti-development sentiment to be justified in the context of "breaking the rules", even though there are bonus heights, etc. built in.

Look at this document... http://www.halifax.ca/capitaldistric...nalpackage.pdf

I disagree with mostly all of these proposed changes! In fact, they are all mostly restrictive and normative.
I disagree with most of them too, and a lot of what I would have wanted in there isn't there. The plan is really lacking in ambition (or even foresight) and almost everything is about either heritage, "it's too high", or creating more opportunities for appeal. Some of them said that we should adopt the Quebec City approach to heritage preservation (I would say it's too late for that) and complaining that downtown can't be a UNESCO heritage site like Lunenburg under the new plan (it wouldn't be with or without the plan unless we did something drastic and groundbreaking). It's also kind of frustrating because the "issues" are clearly just people's opinions and often contradict one another. A couple interesting passages:

Quote:
ISSUE #55: Amend the wording of S. 8.4 of the DHSMPS......................................................46

ISSUE #56: Add performance measures............................................................................47

ISSUE #57: Amend S. 3.6.11 Precinct 4 Built Form Variance in the Design Manual........................48

ISSUE #58: Clarify the definitions in the LUB for “building width” and “building face”..................48

ISSUE #59: Clarify policy intent that the built form variances required to approve the
proposed Queen’s Landing project are sufficient for approval by the Design Review Committee .........49

ISSUE #60: Issues Raised in Heritage Trust Letter – May 8, 2009..............................................50

ISSUE #61: Additional Issues Raised in Heritage Trust Letter – May 21, 2009...............................51

ISSUE #62: There is a potential shortfall in growth capacity for office development
in the traditional Central Business District (CBD).................................................................59
Issues 60-62 are the best part but the rest gives you an idea of how long a letter that must have been, based on the page numbers.

Part of the Sustainability section:

Quote:
ISSUE # 31: This plan reduces opportunities for solar heating. HRM has the greatest potential for using
passive solar than any city in Canada in the most important heating months. Work has been done by Solar
NS and Dal that well designed and sited buildings of 5-6 storeys can be passively heated by the sun.

ISSUE # 32: High-rise development is not sustainable.

ISSUE # 33: HRM has made serious commitments around climate change and sustainability yet they are
not upheld in HRMbyDesign. .......................................................................................86

ISSUE # 34: There has not been an adequate environmental impact assessment for such a bold change to our built form. .........................................................................................................87

ISSUE #35: There is sufficient legislative power to regulate green building design under the HRM Charter. .................................................................................................................87

ISSUE # 36: We should be conserving heritage buildings; buildings that have embodied energy already.
There are environmental benefits in redeveloping or restoring what we already have
I like #33.

Anyway, /rant, the RP+5 crowd seems a lot more proactive (though also note that "heritage" wasn't a theme this time). A couple ideas that everyone seems to be ok with are LRT and mixed-use development. Everything else is still kind of all over the place. An interesting point of discussion tonight was the distinction between "providing affordable housing" and creating conditions where housing in general isn't unaffordable - which generally means adding more units. The head of Polycorp got up and called out the complete disregard for economics in recent decisions and it seemed to be a bit of a wakeup call for some.
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  #69  
Old Posted Mar 22, 2012, 5:31 AM
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The head of Polycorp got up and called out the complete disregard for economics in recent decisions and it seemed to be a bit of a wakeup call for some.
The "stop building all these fancy condos and start building affordable housing!" sentiment is sadly common despite being complete nonsense. It's good to hear that a developer is talking about it.

Heritage preservation efforts in the city are a mess. The idea that height restrictions will save heritage buildings is classic and totally wrong. Some developers are completely willing to tear down heritage buildings and put up cheap, stumpy replacements. Meanwhile, good projects like Barrington Espace suffer from the ill-conceived roadblocks. Height restrictions clearly are not the right tool for preserving old buildings. The city instead needs to do everything it can to encourage a combination of restoration and adaptive reuse, with a focus on preserving specific important building characteristics.

I wouldn't worry too much about the contradictions in the laundry list, because they clearly came from a bunch of different people. The important part is to make sure that the right items are weeded out.
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  #70  
Old Posted Mar 22, 2012, 9:18 PM
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The "stop building all these fancy condos and start building affordable housing!" sentiment is sadly common despite being complete nonsense. It's good to hear that a developer is talking about it.

Heritage preservation efforts in the city are a mess. The idea that height restrictions will save heritage buildings is classic and totally wrong. Some developers are completely willing to tear down heritage buildings and put up cheap, stumpy replacements. Meanwhile, good projects like Barrington Espace suffer from the ill-conceived roadblocks. Height restrictions clearly are not the right tool for preserving old buildings. The city instead needs to do everything it can to encourage a combination of restoration and adaptive reuse, with a focus on preserving specific important building characteristics.

I wouldn't worry too much about the contradictions in the laundry list, because they clearly came from a bunch of different people. The important part is to make sure that the right items are weeded out.
Nailed it!
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  #71  
Old Posted Mar 23, 2012, 11:27 PM
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Also keep in mind, that list was mainly about the downtown LUB/plan, not the Regional Centre Plan. Although I can bet you will likely see similar comments.

I mentioned this in the YMCA thread that the Calgary Events Committee for the Alberta Professional Planners Institute had Michael Ronkin come speak about complete streets - really great presentation. HRM is already doing a lot of what is needed for a complete street, adding people, requiring commercial but there is so much more. Making sure that businesses have access to the sidewalk, limiting parking. My favorite comment he made was he showed a massive 8 lane highway in Las Vegas that was 150' wide and then the same ROW in Paris. When you looked at the Paris street, it was way more beautiful and functional for people, bikes and cars were last. As he pointed out, it was congested and that's part of what we have to accept. If we are going to make great places, then sometimes it means it might take a few more minutes for cars to get through...

I mentioned him on the Plan HRM website - I hope they bring him in, because his presentation was very interactive.
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  #72  
Old Posted Mar 24, 2012, 6:27 PM
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Also keep in mind, that list was mainly about the downtown LUB/plan, not the Regional Centre Plan. Although I can bet you will likely see similar comments.
But what is any anti-height argument even based upon? Its purely arbitrary... especially considering some heritage buildings are taller than proposals that have been shot down that aren't even in heritage areas! The St. Joseph's proposal comes to mind.
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  #73  
Old Posted Mar 26, 2012, 5:14 AM
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But what is any anti-height argument even based upon? Its purely arbitrary... especially considering some heritage buildings are taller than proposals that have been shot down that aren't even in heritage areas! The St. Joseph's proposal comes to mind.
Yes it is - but the list is a good thing of what we can expect from the typical nimbys for this exercise. I suppose we'll have to wait and see...
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  #74  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2012, 7:48 PM
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Downtown Living Not Attractive

Pretty straightforward article on RP+5. The mixed bag of comments following the article is pretty representative of the types of comments I heard at the meetings, though there are fewer blatant NIMBYs.

Edit: another relevant article:
Business Group: Look to Edmonton for Tax Lesson
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  #75  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2012, 8:46 PM
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Pretty straightforward article on RP+5.
That was a lazy article with a misleading headline. If downtown living is not attractive, then why were some downtown census tracts among the fastest-growing census tracts in the municipality? Why are prices on the peninsula so high?

I've seen maybe a dozen or more Herald articles pointing out that the city missed its urban infill growth targets but I don't think any of them have provided a detailed analysis of what happened.

Who is Jim Backman? Some random person they found? Why did they leave such an obviously misguided statement totally unchallenged? The article is basically an assortment of comments from people of varying degrees of ignorance. Determining the level of ignorance of the quoted is apparently left as an exercise for the reader.

The Bruce Smith comment is also pretty silly. It may be hard to find parking during the day downtown, but once commuters are gone it is not hard at all. If you're willing to talk the equivalent of half a Bayers Lake Wal-Mart parking lot you can probably find an on-street parking space downtown, and typically the parking garages are mostly empty (and if the thousands of spots downtown were full, wouldn't that mean that the area is busy?). The real story there is that many suburbanites either just don't like going downtown or are ignorant of the situation there, not that there's no parking to be found in the evenings.
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  #76  
Old Posted Mar 27, 2012, 9:47 PM
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This cheerful video about urban sprawl may have been previously posted here, as it's currently on the Canada page, but just to make sure:

http://vimeo.com/28464164

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  #77  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 4:45 PM
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We shouldn't try to be like Toronto
Wow, the NIMBYs even use that as their argument in Halifax? I thought that thinking only got as far as Ottawa, where the battle against height is just stupid. (that said, we were able to get about 6 28-storey downtown buildings approved in the last couple of years).

The Toronto argument is also used against transit expansion, which is very annoying.
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  #78  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 5:42 PM
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Yup. It's a weird argument but definitely one of the most common. For some reason Downtown Toronto seems to represent everything bad about high-rise development, and is the only example of such development in Canada that is ever used. Obviously many other cities in Canada have high-rises (the NIMBYs refuse to acknowledge Vancouver, for example), but if we go that route, we'll stop looking anything like any of these cities - or ourselves - and look just like Toronto. Or maybe Detroit. Apparently Detroit is a prime example of why you shouldn't build anything over 10 storeys. Tall buildings, and not the collapse of the auto manufacturing sector, are the reason that Detroit is becoming a ghost town, apparently. Bear in mind that Halifax already has plenty of high-rise buildings, comparable to London ON.

When this argument comes up, I like to counter that I'd rather Halifax be like 416 Toronto than 905 Toronto. At the end of the day though, even if Halifax was building 70+ storey condos and giant corporate boxes downtown, there are so many other variables (topography, street grid, existing architecture, civic spaces, culture, climate) that Halifax would never look like Toronto. In fact I would say that the older parts of both cities look much more similar than anything built post-war. I think the same could be said of Ottawa.
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Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 6:20 PM
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The problem with Ottawa (and it shares this with Toronto) is that the topography allowed for explosive and continuous sprawl out into the flat countryside starting in the 60s, leading to the downfall of downtown urban areas. This is a common theme seen in most if not all Canadian cities during this time.
The return of people to the core in the past decade forced Ottawa and other cities to suddenly have to take a look at new urbanism, which it had grown unfamiliar with, and recognize the need for taller buildings and transit in key areas.

The problem, however, is that the people who bought cheap into the urban areas being vacated by families rushing towards the suburbs got used to nothing ever changing. No new buildings, no real vibrancy (except for touristy parts of the city), etc, etc. Now those residents are older, almost all retired and spending lots more time at home, and suddenly other people want to move into the neighbourhood after the size of sprawl has made the city unsustainable.

Who are the community associations run by? People who have "lived somewhere 30 years" and are opposed to "rapid, extreme change". What they don't say is that they bought into an area of stagnancy and nothing has changed for decades, thus meaning that ANY change is big and extreme, and scary.

These people also delude themselves into thinking it is the return to the core, the rise of urban life (and tall buildings) that is raising their municipal taxes, not, in fact, the decades of costly sprawl that the urban influx is a reaction to.

A lot of misconceptions, untruths and lies being thrown about at meetings in Ottawa, with a lot of hysteria and entitlement, too. It seems quite similar to Halifax's situation. And of course, "we're not Toronto" is used to squash any progress thinking in urban planning. The LRT route the city has been trying (twice) to build under downtown gets this argument all the time, even though buses now jam the limited downtown street space and ridership is growing.

Ideology trumping reality.
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  #80  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 6:45 PM
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The problem with Ottawa (and it shares this with Toronto) is that the topography allowed for explosive and continuous sprawl out into the flat countryside starting in the 60s, leading to the downfall of downtown urban areas. This is a common theme seen in most if not all Canadian cities during this time.
The return of people to the core in the past decade forced Ottawa and other cities to suddenly have to take a look at new urbanism, which it had grown unfamiliar with, and recognize the need for taller buildings and transit in key areas.

The problem, however, is that the people who bought cheap into the urban areas being vacated by families rushing towards the suburbs got used to nothing ever changing. No new buildings, no real vibrancy (except for touristy parts of the city), etc, etc. Now those residents are older, almost all retired and spending lots more time at home, and suddenly other people want to move into the neighbourhood after the size of sprawl has made the city unsustainable.

Who are the community associations run by? People who have "lived somewhere 30 years" and are opposed to "rapid, extreme change". What they don't say is that they bought into an area of stagnancy and nothing has changed for decades, thus meaning that ANY change is big and extreme, and scary.

These people also delude themselves into thinking it is the return to the core, the rise of urban life (and tall buildings) that is raising their municipal taxes, not, in fact, the decades of costly sprawl that the urban influx is a reaction to.

A lot of misconceptions, untruths and lies being thrown about at meetings in Ottawa, with a lot of hysteria and entitlement, too. It seems quite similar to Halifax's situation. And of course, "we're not Toronto" is used to squash any progress thinking in urban planning. The LRT route the city has been trying (twice) to build under downtown gets this argument all the time, even though buses now jam the limited downtown street space and ridership is growing.

Ideology trumping reality.
This sounds almost exactly the same as Halifax's situation. The current goal is to funnel 40-50% of new population growth into the inner city (the Peninsula and central Dartmouth) but because this area is by definition made up of "existing communities", most of which are very averse to change, it's proving very difficult. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that people buy into stagnant areas and get used to things never ever changing. I remember one older gentleman at a public meeting I recently attended getting up and bragging about how he had successfully fought off developers trying to come in and build things in his North End neighbourhood (ie. ~2km from downtown) and then complaining about the need to stop students from coming in (as the major universities are also <5km away), subdividing single family houses into 10-room apartments, and "ruining his neighbourhood". A lot of people seemed to agree. I got up and politely countered that if we don't allow for new residential buildings, then there aren't really any options other than converting houses to flats, because the number of cheap but safe apartments in the inner city is very limited and few people my age can afford anything beyond that. I suggested that rather than "how do we keep change out of our neighbourhood" what we should be asking ourselves is "how do we protect what we love about our neighbourhoods and make sure that any change that development brings has a net positive effect?" The response was notably lukewarm - I think I heard about 2 people clap in a room of about 80.

The other big difference here is that heritage preservation trumps any other objectives, including sustainability, affordability, and the sense that the future matters in any way. This doesn't mean that it's hard to demolish heritage buildings (it actually isn't necessarily hard to do this at all) but any upgrading/renovations beyond brick-for-brick restoration based on original blueprints for example is seen as anti-heritage. Building high-rise buildings on vacant lots near heritage buildings is seen as anti-heritage. Highrise buildings that are tall enough to be seen from point x within the stone walls of the Citadel are ILLEGAL. I assume that this attitude is much more extreme in Halifax than elsewhere in Canada, though I can imagine there are similar weird insecurities revolving around the Parliament Buildings and the "Capital City Image" that Ottawa undoubtedly obsesses over, if it's anything like here.

I've heard that OC Transpo is significantly more expensive to operate than the TTC because of its reliance on buses, which need more drivers and energy per passenger than subway trains - but subways are a "Toronto" way of getting around, I suppose. Ironically the LRT tunnel would be much more like Edmonton's, but I guess Edmonton is just like Toronto too.
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