By donalee Moulton
Originally published in the June 2014 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal
Reprinted with permission from TC Media
There is, not surprisingly, widespread agreement that Halifax’s downtown core has lan guished. Surprisingly, there is equally widespread agreement that new life, new energy, and new ideas are beginning to revitalize the neighbourhood.
For Halifax mayor Mike Savage, there is one critical ingredient to building a vibrant, prosperous city centre.
“What we want downtown is community, and community is people who live, work, study, and visit the downtown,” he says.
That has not been the case, Savage acknowledges.
“We have a great downtown, but there’s no question over the last number of decades we’ve seen a reduction in the size of the population on the peninsula. That’s not unusual. What we hadn’t done was come up with a plan to invest in our downtown.”
That plan, HRM By Design, is now in the works. Released in 2010 after three years of public consultation, the plan creates a new 25 year-vision for the city along with a new land-use bylaw, a municipal capital improvement strategy, and a design-based development approval process. Many believe the impact of this plan is now evident in the numerous construction projects underway throughout the downtown.
Still at least one of the essential ingredients for a flourishing downtown — residents — is noticeably absent. Developers like Joseph Ramia, whose company Rank Incorporated is building the one million square-foot mixed-use Nova Centre in the heart of the downtown, is hoping to change that by making the downtown generally more appealing and more amenable. Build it and they will come seems to be the current mantra, and it is being widely chanted.
“There are 35 cranes on the peninsula,” says Greater Halifax Partnership president and CEO Paul Kent. “If someone says we’re stagnant, I have to ask them what planet they’re living on. Things are changing.”
The change is both significant and long term. The new public library is expected to be substantially complete this summer, and the Nova Centre, which boasts more than 285,000 square feet of convention space and 18,000 square feet of public space, is slated to open its doors in 2016. Most recently, city council approved the transformation of the Cogswell Interchange into what it calls a “mixed-use, pedestrian/transit/active transportation-friendly redevelopment, connecting downtown to northern Peninsula neighbourhoods, and acting as a gateway to downtown Halifax.” The transformation, says Savage, will take approximately a decade.
Click here to read part two