1. Macdonald Bridge closed
The bridge is closed this morning. At 6:30am, the Bridge Commission’s Twitter account, @HHBridges, announced an 8:30am opening, but that was later retracted. As of this writing, 8:20am, there is no announced opening time for the bridge. By the way, whatever happened to Bridgette?
In related news, I suspect that the problem behind “the bump” on the bridge — there are actually two bumps — is related to a complicating factor with the bridge rebuild.
The name “The Big Lift” is in some ways obscuring what’s happening with the project — the existing bridge is not being “lifted,” but rather replaced. Every bit of the bridge, except the two towers and the giant orange cables, is being replaced. When the job is finished, it will be in effect a completely new bridge, hanging from old suspension cables.
But in another sense, “The Big Lift” is in fact descriptive, because that the new bridge will be higher than the old bridge. See, the Port of Halifax is paying the Halifax–Dartmouth Bridge Commission $1 million so that the newly rebuilt bridge will have a sea clearance 2.1 metres higher than the existing bridge. Here’s how bridge spokesperson Allison MacDonald explained it to me in an email a while ago:
The existing clearance is about 49 metres. This varies slightly depending on the tide, the temperature and the number of vehicles on the bridge.
The reason it is so much more to raise the bridge the 2.1 metres instead of what we originally required is because:
It will take longer. We can only increase it in 15 cm increments one suspender rope at a time
To keep a smooth profile we have to raise it over the side spans (outside the towers) and not just the centre span (inside the towers)
We have to make modifications to the expansion joints to accommodate.
I’m guessing here, but I’m thinking that placing the new bridge segments higher than the old segments is what’s causing the “bumps” in the road surface — vehicles travel on the old roadbed until they get to the new segment, and then have to rise up 15cm, travel along the new segment, then have to drop 15cm back down again at the other end of the new segment.
Why would the Port want a higher bridge? Well, obviously to accommodate bigger ships, but a 2.1 metre increase really doesn’t get us much, because the MacKay Bridge has a clearance of just 49.5 metres. Says MacDonald:
The MacKay Bridge is .5 metre higher than Macdonald is right now. So, the net gain to get under both bridges isn’t 2.1 metres until we raise the MacKay – redecking the MacKay isn’t expected for 15-20 years. The .5 metre increase is still a benefit.
The vast majority of the ships going under the Macdonald Bridge are also going under the MacKay Bridge, with the ultimate destination of the Ceres Terminal at Fairview Cove. So far as I can see, until the MacKay Bridge is raised, the only “benefit” to raising the Macdonald Bridge is that bigger ships can unload at Pier 9, the newly expanded pier next to the Irving Shipyard. That pier handles break-out cargo, unusual shipping goods that aren’t carried in containers, and it doesn’t see much traffic.
2. Nova Centre
Joe Ramia, developer of the Nova Centre, has scheduled a press conference for this morning to make a “significant announcement” about the project. I wasn’t invited, but presumably the announcement will be about a new tenant for the office tower.
Word is that BMO will move some offices up the hill. I thought the Thiels, BMO’s current landlord, had outflanked Ramia’s bid to poach BMO, but I maybe not.
The downtown office shuffle begins.
I interviewed Halifax councillor Jennifer Watts for today’s edition of Examineradio (to be published this afternoon), and one of the topics we touched on was the city’s requirement to purchase the existing World Trade and Convention Centre tower, a piece of junk on Argyle Street that will cost millions of dollars to rehab. As I wrote in April:
The city has issued a tender offer with the numbingly bureaucratic title “Corporate Accommodations Space Planning Study,” with the aim of finding a consultant who will “review HRM’s core office and administration properties, for the purpose of developing an accommodations plan that the municipality can implement in phases, over time.”
A plan is needed because the city is about to acquire the 35-year old office tower above the convention centre. The tender mischaracterizes the situation as follows:
With the construction of the new Halifax Convention Center, the Municipality has an option to purchase the existing World Trade and Convention Center. No decision has been made by Council respecting the option, however a better understanding of our current and forecasted accommodations would help inform the decision making in the event the Municipality elects to exercise its interest in the existing WTCC.
This is disingenuous at best. The WTCC tower is now owned by Trade Centre Limited, a crown corporation, and when TCL vacates the premises to move into the shiny new convention centre one block south, the province will take over ownership. The city does have the opportunity — in real estate terms, an “option” — to make an offer on the WTCC tower, but if it doesn’t, the province will put the building up for sale on the open market.
Nobody in their right mind would buy a 35-year-old office tower in a market with a 12 percent plus vacancy rate when something like 300,000 square feet of new office space (Nova Centre, TD Bank expansion, 22nd Commerce Square, etc.) is about to come on the market.
In the almost-certain event that no one else makes an offer on the WTCC tower, the city is contractually obligated to buy it at “book value.” A few years ago book value was said to be $12 million. Very likely, it will cost at least that much more to renovate the building, including making the convention centre space useful for something else.
The building contains 118,000 square feet of office space. Compare that to the city’s current use of office space, by square feet:
The lease at Duke Tower is up in 2021 — hence the “over time” part of the tender offer — so the obvious solution will be to shift Duke Tower offices across the street to the WTCC tower, but that still leaves 53,000 square feet of empty space to fill. The Bayers Road offices are leased from Joe Ramia, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there. Also, office space requirements everywhere, including at city offices, are plummeting as technology and plain old cost-cutting are reducing the size of administrative staffs.
The potentially unlimited liability of the Nova Centre contract aside, the requirement to purchase the existing office tower could turn out to be its own boondoggle. We’ll have something on the order of $25 million in new capital costs to deal with, a few million more in office location costs, and whatever it will cost to maintain a bunch of completely empty offices.
The “Corporate Accommodations” study was awarded to MHPM Project Managers, but the dollar amount of the contract wasn’t announced. The deadline for completion of the study is October 30, so presumably this will come before Halifax council at its next meeting; my guess is it will be handled in secret.
3. Suspicious Packages
The band played an unscheduled gig at their old stomping grounds, CFB Halifax. As usual, they sucked.
4. Shore Drive
The Chronicle Herald’s Mary Ellen MacIntyre reports that gazillionaire Fred George is upsetting his Bedford neighbours:
The businessman owns three lots on Shore Road and an island, and some neighbours have grown concerned about whether the work being undertaken will harm the waterway.
One individual who called the Chronicle Herald on Thursday morning expressed deep concern about the “dumping” of rocks in the water.
If it is a water lot containing that designation and if there were rocks deposited in the water, there may not be any recourse.
I have no knowledge or opinion of the operation going on at the waterfront behind George’s home, but a quick look at viewpoint.ca this morning shows that George does not own a water lot. George owns Spruce Island and three lots at the end of the Shore Drive cup-de-sac. Notice how the property lines for all the lots on the map do not extend beyond the shoreline:
Much of the rest of the Bedford waterfront, however, consists of water lots. Note on this map how property lines extend well into the Bedford Basin:
“Water lots” date back to pre-Confederation days — since the formation of Canada, private property can’t extend into public waterways. Everywhere these lots exist they create problems. They’re how Francis Fares was able to fill in most of Dartmouth Cove and build King’s Wharf, and they’re the source of never-ending neighbourhood wars along the Northwest Arm. As property values on the Bedford waterfront skyrocket, the water lots will no doubt create still more trouble there.
Stephen Archibald visited Glasgow, Scotland, and of course took lots of photos, including the one above. That’s the Duke of Wellington on the left (presumably the man, not the horse).
Archibald has an interesting aside:
Glasgow had the worst slums in Europe from the 19th century into the 1970s. Museum exhibits we saw were open and blunt about this reality and also celebrated the special sense of community many slum residents felt. Another issue was slavery (African slaves were owned in Glasgow in the 18th century) and that the great wealth Glasgow gained from tobacco and sugar imports was the result of slave labour. More themes that Halifax could do a better job addressing.
“In the middle of the national love fest Tuesday celebrating the ‘new spirit of cooperation and openess’ promised by Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party, [Premier Stephen] McNeil sent a memo to every media outlet in Nova Scotia declaiming how thrilled he is that Shell Canada has chosen the fragile fishing grounds off the Scotian shelf to drill for oil and trumpeting Shell’s “strong safety and environmental and health and safety record,” writes Timothy Gillespie:
The problem is that any ten-year-old with access to the world wide web could have told premier McNeil that his assertion was one big lie — either McNeil’s to us or Shell’s to McNeil.
Rather than a proud record for safety and environmental stewardship, almost every place Shell has drilled, they have been found guilty of egregious lapses of caution and common sense and have treated the oceans and deserts in which they drill for and transport oil as their personal wastecan, dumping millions of gallons of slimy crude in their wake.
Gillespie goes on to detail some of Shell’s environmental record, and points us to the Alaska Wilderness League’s review of Shell.
No public meetings
This date in history
At 8:06pm onn October 23, 1958, a gigantic “bump” collapsed much of the No. 2 coal mine at Springhill. Seventy-five miners were killed; 99 others were rescued. The disaster led to the closure of the mine.
ISIS (3:30pm, Marion McCain Building, room 1170) — Amal Ghazal, from Dalhousie, and Larbi Sadiki, from Qatar University, will speak on “ISIS: The ‘Islamic State’ between Geopolitics and Religious Utopia”
Subjective time (3:40pm, LSC 5260) — Fuat Balci, from the Department of Psychology at Koc University in Istanbul, will speak on “Subjective Time & Decision Making: An integrative approach to reward maximization and generative processes.”
In the harbour
Dinkeldiep, general cargo, arrived at Pier 42 this morning from Saint-Pierre; sails to sea this afternoon
The cruise ship Brilliance of the Seas (up to 2,501 passengers) is in port today.
On Saturday, four cruise ships will be in port:: Maasdam (up to 1,258 passengers), Regatta (up to 650 passengers), Seven Seas Navigator (up to 500 passengers), and Caribbean Princess (up to 3,080 passengers).
On Sunday, Serenade of the Seas (up to 2,490 passengers) will be in port.
The cruise season ends November 2.
I have no copyeditor this morning. Be kind.