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Go Back   SkyscraperPage Forum > Regional Sections > Canada > Atlantic Provinces > SSP: Local Halifax > Urban, Urban Design & Heritage Issues

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  #81  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 8:50 PM
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BTW, the public consultations for the Centre Plan start tonight at NSCC Waterfront, 630 pm.
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  #82  
Old Posted Apr 2, 2012, 9:05 PM
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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.
This is one of the worst aspects of the situation in Halifax -- the draconian policies are not even successful when it comes to their narrow (purported) purpose. Halifax has not done a good job of preserving its heritage buildings. Even over the past few years we have seen the demolition of the Kelly Building, South Street rowhouses, and now it looks like the building by SMU is going to come down. Nobody saved the Birks building and who knows what will happen with the Dennis Building? Losing these structures destroys the city's unique character far, far more than construction on empty lots.

I agree that the "30 year" crowd is partly responsible for the flawed focus of the planning system, and I think there's something related but deeper at play in Halifax. Many people there are anti-developer, anti-wealth, and suspicious of anybody successful. It's not universal, but Halifax can be an unambitious backwater town. The difference from Toronto or Vancouver is striking, but unsurprising given that Halifax has had 30+ years of the most ambitious people leaving for greener pastures. Maybe this will change after another 10 or 20 years of reasonably strong economic growth. It's probably the worst and most insidious long-term consequence of a weak economy and outmigration.
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  #83  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2012, 5:41 AM
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"Unambitious backwater town" is the image Ottawa has been trying to shake for decades, with various successes and failures. At least we're no longer a miltary camp at the edge of the frontier like in the early 1800s.

You're right that there are sightline (viewplane) policies that apply to Parliament Hill, though given the amount of urban development over the decades, this rarely comes into play during development proposals. A friend once had a 13 floor apartment a kilometer south of Parliament Hill, and the view was a solid wall of 20-plus storey buildings with the flag on top of the Peace Tower sticking up above that line. Yeah, some heritage view. Anyways,all the places you normally see it from are usually waterfront parks that are protected anyway.

I used to have to attend these development proposal (community consultation) meetings as part of my job, and the first place I'd go after leaving was a bar to have a stiff drink. I wanted to strangle some of the NIMBY protesters in the audience because their entitlement filled me with rage. But, that is what you can expect.

I must say - because in terms of planning Halifax looks a lot like Ottawa of 5-10 years ago - thatthe community benefit aspect of new urban development needs to be made known to people. Our last city council (2006-2011) couldn't decide how to tie its own shoelaces, and as a result, NIMBYs held the reigns of many councillors and planning committee meetings dragged on for hours (over a 3-storey building in a "heritage" area).

With the latest council, many of the old (and I should add, socialist-leaning and NIMBY-pandering) councillors got the boot and only a single stalwart remained. The intensification policy adopted by the previous council was explained better, and the city just recently passed 'Section 37', which makes the developer pay for "community benefits" in return for the approval of a project 25% higher (or more) of existing zoning.

While there is still plenty of strife, and NIMBYs never really go away, there has been a big increase in urban density, and a new plan for transit-oriented-development around the 13 stations that will make up a east-west light rail line. How that will pan out remains to be seen, but progress is being made due in part to showing people how their city will benefit, dropping a few dinosaur councillors, and enacting Section 37.

I never once bought the idea that 'heritage' means nothing new should ever go near an old building, lest it appear less old. That's just ridiculous. Functioning urban neighbourhoods should not be museums in the strict sense of the word, nor should they become ghost towns (thus wasting valuable urban land).

Even in Quebec City, which I spent time in last fall, there was noticeable (although very careful) development in the uppertown area, and more in the lowertown area. If they can infill at greater heights in the old areas and much greater heights in the less-old areas (St-Roch, St-Foy), than any city can do it.
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  #84  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2012, 5:55 AM
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Part of the problem in Halifax is that there are 23 councillors. They have tiny districts and it is easy for special interests or certain neighbourhoods to vote somebody in. It is common for councillors to run unopposed or win with a very small number of votes. The downtown councillor for example won with 1144 votes.

It's annoying that such uninformed opinions get so much airtime, but at the end of the day a ton of construction is happening in Halifax. There has been lots of infill over the past 10 years and the quality of new construction has gone up considerably. Halifax's urban core is also much stronger than that of most (probably all) other small Canadian cities even though locals complain about it constantly.
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  #85  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2012, 7:00 PM
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Neighbours feel 'crowded out': case in point.

It's worth noting that the largest commercial building I can think of in this neighbourhood is the Hydrostone Market, which dates back to the 1920s and isn't even very big. Also, if we're going by the common definition of high-rise (10+ storeys) there aren't any high-rises in this neighbourhood. The closest one is an office building a few blocks away that was built sometime around the 1970s.

The flip side is that the area around that office building is one that has been identified by the municipality as a target area for intensification over the next several years.
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  #86  
Old Posted Apr 3, 2012, 11:12 PM
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It's important to bear in mind that it's really easy to find somebody who claims to dislike just about anything, even if 99.9% of people love it. Some people will complain just to get in the paper or on TV. It's also really easy to find people who will casually oppose a development they have no real interest in, or don't stand to gain from, regardless of the development's merits.

The other perspective we tend not to see is that of the new residents. A growing neighbourhood is by definition more popular. For the one guy griping in the Herald there are hundreds of people who must not mind the "fishbowl", because they chose to move into those condos. None of those people were represented in the article.

Obviously there are people who have an unfounded negative attitude toward development, but they are the 5% or the 25% (who have the 1% or the 5% stake in a new development), even though they might send in 95% of the angry letters.
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  #87  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2012, 7:05 PM
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If anyone's interested, the centre plan meeting for the Quinpool and Spring Garden sites is tonight at the Atlantica at 6:30. The Young St. sites will be discussed tomorrow at the Forum.
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  #88  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2012, 2:57 AM
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There was a bit of coverage of this in ANS tonight. They mentioned 75 metre or 20 floor height limits. I really like how they are talking about both the floor count and overall height. Setting height limits with no floor limits encourages low floor to ceiling heights and, in particularly bad cases, ground floors shoehorned in below street level. Of course, in either case height limits need to be liberal enough to make new development feasible. 20 seems like a reasonable ballpark since many developers choose to build in that height range.

As Halifax grows the definition of what is "downtown" is going to change. Pretty soon the most popular part of Spring Garden Road is basically going to be built out. Either new high-density districts will have to be created or the growth will end up out in the suburbs.
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  #89  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2012, 4:55 AM
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The 75m or 20 floor limits were for the Spring Garden area. Public opinion generally seemed to be in favour of adopting this strategy - one of the two focus groups unanimously endorsed allowing high-rises in this area, and the other one (which I was a part of) was a mixed bag of opinions. There was a lot of concern about overwhelming Carleton Street (who would want to buy a house next to a high-rise?) and suggestions that high-rises might be more appropriate for the other side of the street (where, unfortunately, there isn't really any space for new buildings). Most of the debate actually was about massing (where setbacks should occur and at what ratio) and affordability (it was pointed out that since this is a high-end area, units will probably be expensive no matter what is built, and several people were emphatic that allowing taller buildings would not allow for lower unit prices). Most of the people in my focus group seemed to agree that there are fundamental differences between the Park Vic model of high-rise vs the Spring Garden Place model, with SGP style being the preferred option. I also pointed out that most of the high-rises that everyone loves to hate were built in an era where aesthetics and street-level experience were basically ignored in favour of internal functionality, and that a lot has changed since then in terms of both technology and design - and that seemed to resonate with most. One person complained about the Trillium generating so much wind that it practically lifts you off your feet when you walk by it - I've walked by it dozens of times and never experienced this. But all in all people didn't seem dead set against higher buildings, and when they were, it was generally for specific reasons that could probably be resolved through further design guidelines.

As for Quinpool, height would be capped at about 8 storeys (which some felt was too high). There was a push for a simpler two-tiered (podium + "tower") rather than the "pyramid" (podium + step back + step back + step back + step back) style that seems to be the default for most of these study areas. Andy Fillmore also mentioned that the east end of Quinpool might also accommodate high rises (since there are several already) but as far as I know this is being left until the next session.

I have mixed feelings about the Quinpool approach. It would be nice if more of the buildings could be preserved and simply have additions built on top, but this likely wouldn't be possible with the step back requirements. It's hard to tell what percentage of the study area is expected to be redeveloped, but I feel that redesigning Quinpool as a mid rise corridor would change the character of the neighbourhood a lot more than keeping it a low rise corridor with the occasional high-rise, since many more buildings would potentially need to be replaced.

Last edited by Hali87; Apr 11, 2012 at 5:06 AM.
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  #90  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2012, 5:03 AM
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Quinpool has very low quality buildings. There are only a few with moderate architectural value, and there's no reason why a new building couldn't exceed those in quality, particularly if it is allowed to go up to 8 floors.

I think a big part of the focus on preserving buildings is simply that people don't believe that the new ones can be as good as the old, at least as far as the public is concerned. That was a pretty good belief in the 1970's but it will probably fade as better buildings go up.
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  #91  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2012, 5:40 AM
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Capping Quinpool at 8 stories is horrific. Ughhhh. Fuck this public input shit.
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  #92  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2012, 12:20 PM
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Quinpool has very low quality buildings. There are only a few with moderate architectural value, and there's no reason why a new building couldn't exceed those in quality, particularly if it is allowed to go up to 8 floors.

I think a big part of the focus on preserving buildings is simply that people don't believe that the new ones can be as good as the old, at least as far as the public is concerned. That was a pretty good belief in the 1970's but it will probably fade as better buildings go up.
For me it's not so much that I'm worried about the quality of new buildings, it's just the idea that if you replace every building on Quinpool, is it still Quinpool? The individual buildings might not be anything special but the streetscape is pretty unique. The only place I've ever been that really felt similar was Bloor West Village in Toronto. Hopefully if many of the older buildings are replaced, the rhythm of the streetscape is maintained (chop new buildings into several distinctive storefronts rather than having buildings like Cornwallis House on SGR that basically take up the entire block with one uniform facade)
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  #93  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2012, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by worldlyhaligonian View Post
Capping Quinpool at 8 stories is horrific. Ughhhh. Fuck this public input shit.
8 storeys seems pretty reasonable. Even with the setbacks there's the potential to basically triple density along Quinpool. It also sounds like the height limits will step up towards the commons. I have to say though, I wish more people were open to the idea that since the old high-rises are so ugly, maybe we should be blocking the view of them with nicer new ones
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  #94  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2012, 10:03 PM
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The whole process seems to be a complete waste of time. I do not see developers lining up to develop lots along Quinpool at either 8 or 28 storeys. Seems like more needless bureaucracy at play here.
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  #95  
Old Posted Apr 11, 2012, 10:43 PM
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Apparently all of the sites currently under study have had development proposals within the last year. The Centre Plan wasn't supposed to be ready until 2015 but council requested that they handle these sites sooner.
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  #96  
Old Posted Apr 24, 2012, 10:46 PM
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The public comments from the first round of Centre Plan are up on the website. All in all they look pretty promising, less NIMBYism and more constructive suggestions.
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  #97  
Old Posted Apr 25, 2012, 1:39 AM
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I read some of them - still far too much of the usual "It's TOO TALL!!!" nonsense and people making up excuses why development should not occur.
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  #98  
Old Posted May 10, 2012, 4:01 PM
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An article on the planning sessions with respect to Robie/Young etc.

http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/9...halifax-future

There is also a vote thing on the page, which as of writing this has 231 votes with 82% voting for "We need more development in this city". The times they are a changin'.
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  #99  
Old Posted May 10, 2012, 4:17 PM
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Hi everyone - long time no post, been so busy!
I'm pleased with the comments coming from the Herald article and the vote is quite impressive.

I think the general direction that Andy Fillmore and his group are taking is a good start - I'm seeing this as more of a long range work project. Get the foundation work done now for these locations and the core and then another 10 or so years down the road, perhaps revisit it to encourage more - but that's just me.

24 stories along Robie is fine by me, although I would've pushed it to 30 personally.
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  #100  
Old Posted May 10, 2012, 6:25 PM
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At least they are talking about ballpark feasible heights now. Lots of developers have proposed stuff that's under 24 floors.

I wish the HT and Pacey would choose their battles a little more, but it's important to look at them as the narrow special interest group they are. Think of, say, a McDonald's PR person in an article about healthy eating. They will tell you to eat McNuggets or whatever (maybe they'll be more clever and veil it somehow) because all they care about is selling McDonald's. The HT really only care about heritage buildings, and even then seem to have a narrow, short-term economic perspective. The media often present them more as the foil of developers or planners but that's not correct.
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