Originally Posted by Drybrain
I guarantee you though, that if Scotia hadn't been built, the area would have seen piecemeal improvement over the years, and would be a far more vital area today. Granville wouldn't be cut off at the north side by a tangle of concrete, which would probably be much better for its street life, and everything would be better integrated. It would be in much better shape for the downtown renaissance that we're (I hope) starting to see take shape.
I'm sure it was psychologically beneficial for the city, but most cities that built huge urban malls and highways regret it now. If Halifax had resisted those trends, we'd probably be seen as enlightened today. I'm not casting blame—we just did the thing that everyone else was doing. Classic case of jumping off a cliff because everyone else did too.
It's always popular to criticize actions of the past with our 20/20 hindsight, and to assume that the popular thinking of the current day is the "right way".
I think you are overlooking the fact that growth is a process. We plan, we build, we see the results of our actions, and if we're smart, we learn from it and apply it to future plans. I believe that we are now in the midst of doing just that.
To look back a little, many many big cities became car-focused starting way back in the 1930s. By the time the Harbour Drive plan came about, this was accepted practice that had been carried out in just about every medium to large city in North America. Halifax was just trying to provide infrastructure to plan for increased needs of the future (if you've ever waited in a traffic jam to get to the peninsula during rush hour you can see why they felt there was a need for this), which had been done everywhere else by then.
Had the Harbour Drive plan been carried out there would have been a loss of many historical buildings, which would have been a sad loss (IMHO). However I don't think it would be correct to suggest that the downtown would have suffered negatively from it, other than the loss of heritage buildings. The improved access to the downtown would probably have helped it grow to a different reality than the present one - better or worse, I'm not sure (though I imagine some of the more enlightened posters here could tell us). One could argue that perhaps a better plan would have to build infrastructure for mass transit, such as LRT - I wouldn't argue with that.
But to get back to the point, saying SS was a mistake is not looking at the big picture. It was a downtown-booster for the time that helped it make the step towards becoming a "modern" city. Today it is less vital than it once was, but such is fate of many buildings due to the passing of time. Take away the historical aspects (and in some cases, beauty) of most heritage buildings and you are left with buildings that don't really
fit the needs of modern business. Build a brand spanking new building today and 40 years down the road it will not be as functional as what they will be building then. It's just the way it goes, buildings are built on a budget to meet the needs of the day - few developers/architects tend to think forward enough to make a building adaptable to future needs (which are not always apparent at the time anyways).
In my opinion, if you want to really look at what divided the downtown from the north end, I would contend that the public housing projects that eventually led to a neighborhood riddled with drug use and crime was more of a deterrent to people venturing beyond Cogswell than Scotia Square or the interchange ever was.
And, by the way, my Dad grew up in the part of Grafton Street that was razed for Scotia Square and if he were alive today he'd tell you that it was pretty much as Keith described it. Add 50 years to the age of the buildings that were in bad shape back then and you would likely find that they would not have been able to save the majority of them (as with the Imperial Oil building discussed in the Waterside thread).
All that being said, SS/Cogswell is as much a part of our history as City Hall or Historic Properties and deserves to be viewed in the proper perspective. FWIW, I do think we are headed in the right direction now.