1. Upper Canadian concrete and glass right down to the water line
In “Fisherman’s Wharf,” his lament for a disappearing Halifax, Stan Rogers sang:
I looked from the Citadel down to the Narrows and asked what it’s coming to
I saw Upper Canadian concrete and glass right down to the water line
And now, as if to mock Rogers, Waterfront Development and the Armour Group are planning to march concrete and glass right over the boardwalk and literally to the water line and beyond.
The project is called Queen’s Marque, a colossal 10-storey, 450,000-square foot development that would stretch from Murphy’s to the Maritime Museum and from Water Street to some distance into the harbour. It would envelope the boardwalk, which will be constrained by “expansive gates” that guard a tunnel through the building (à la the Grafton Street glory hole). At the water, the building reaches out with two arms to claim a pseudo-public space that includes a concrete stairway down into the harbour itself:
This privatization of the waterfront is supposedly in tribute to “the fierce independence that defines our spirit“:
The intimidating fortifications in Halifax Harbour, including The Middle Battery at Queen’s Landing, served to deter many who sought to conquer our vast harbour and take its bounty as their own. Though the extensive fortifications inside the Harbour were thought by some to be folly, folly can lead to fortuitous consequences.
The question is: Who’s seeking to conquer and take our the waterfront’s bounty as their own?
Alas, it’s too bad we can’t take the developers and architects of this dog-awful proposal and string them up on Hangman’s Beach, as was once done with thieving pirates as warning to others with designs of taking our common bounty as their own.
And sure, other developers have in the past laid claim to other bits of the waterfront, and now we have the dead zones around the casino and Purdy’s Wharf Tower 2, which are as effective as barbed wire for keeping people off the waterfront. But why on Earth would we bring that privatization south to the most heavily travelled bit of the boardwalk?
Waterfront Development is acting as if this is a done deal, but the project must first be approved by the city’s Design Review Committee. We’ll see if that body has the teeth to send Ben McCrea and the legacy of Andy Filmore packing, but in the meanwhile, Halifax City Council shouldn’t play ball.
“Playing ball” means at tomorrow’s council meeting agreeing to a land swap to ease Queen’s Marque plans. As a city staff report explains:
The current land ownership context adjacent to the project site involves portions of Lower Water Street being located on land owned by WDC, and a portion of land used by WDC for public parking owned by HRM (refer to Attachment “A”). In 2013, the Waterfront Development Corporation approached Municipal staff to re-configure the easterly edge of the right of way of Lower Water Street between Prince and George Streets. At that time, staff indicated that the Municipality would require a right of way approximately 18.3 m wide, which is consistent with the right of way on Lower Water Street south of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The current development proposed by the Armour Group however is not designed to be accommodated within such a right of way.
Mobility of pedestrians, cyclists and goods throughout the downtown is key to its continued success and development. Policies in both the Downtown Halifax Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy (SMPS) and the Design Manual aim to provide a high quality walking environment throughout the Downtown, and require a pedestrian scaled streetwall, increased setbacks adjacent prominent open spaces, and consideration for the impact of buildings on wind conditions at street level. Several provisions of both the Urban Design Manual for the Downtown, as well as the Downtown Halifax SMPS relate directly to Lower Water Street…
The building proposed by Armour Group would reduce the width of the street … by a maximum amount of 1.1m.
In conversations with HRM staff, WDC recognizes that the proposed building siting limits the utility of Lower Water Street in terms of accessibility, cycling, and vehicular intrusions to the pedestrian realm as discussed in the sections of the report below. The Waterfront Development Corporation feels that the overall contribution of the development, inclusive of the economic benefits that it would bring to the Municipality, outweigh any negative impacts the building massing and setback would present. [emphasis added]
So screw you pedestrians and bicyclists, and screw you who want new stuff to be built to streetwall standards adopted as part of HRM By Design — there’s money to be made here.
Can someone please check and make sure we really can’t string these smiling bastards* up on Hangman’s Beach?
The graphic below, contained in the staff report, explains away the 1961 street width and uses some colourized trickery to therefore minimize what’s being asked for (see the full-sized graphic here as Attachment C):
In reality, with no change in policy, Waterfront Development would have to give the city everything up to the 1961 street line (the street was never that wide, but that’s the existing planning rule for the area), and that larger area includes land that the front of the Queen’s Marque building would be constructed upon. The proposed deal is about halving what Waterfront would be required to give the city.
But if council refused the land swap, Queen’s Marque would have to go back to the drawing board, costing Waterfront Development and the Armour Group many thousands of dollars and another couple of years to produce a redesign.
And that’s exactly what should happen.
* Thanks to reader Dartmouth Oldie for reminding me of Roger’s “smiling bastards” line.
2. P3 hospital
Will the Victoria General be replaced with a P3 hospital? The McNeil government isn’t ruling it out, reports Jennifer Henderson.
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3. Examineradio, episode #81
This week, Examineradio played host to an open forum for the candidates vying to replace Jennifer Watts in District 8. On hand were Anthony Kowalski, Brenden Sommerhalder, Patrick Murphy, Lindell Smith, Chris Poole and Irvine Carvery. The seventh candidate, Martin Farrell, was not in attendance.
The candidates fielded questions from Dalhousie professor Todd McCallum, myself, and members of the community about issues ranging from the seemingly unfettered development in the North End, food scarcity, council and city staff ethics, and youth retention in the HRM.
4. Living wage ordinance
There’s still some confusion about the campaign for a municipal living wage ordinance. No, this is not an effort to increase the legally required minimum wage. That power rests only with the provincial government.
A living wage ordinance would apply only to city government and the contractors it hires, as well as the contractor’s subcontractors. The short of it is that if a living wage ordinance is passed, anyone who’s getting paid with city tax dollars will get paid a living wage.
So don’t worry: if a living wage ordinance is passed, you private business people out there who aren’t taking city contracts can still pay your employees crappy wages. You can still have a business model based on exploiting the working poor. It’s all good!
I’m continuing updating the living wage ordinance page with more responses from councillors. You can read them here.
5. Body found
“Human remains found by a hunter in Waverley, N.S. on Saturday evening have been sent to the medical examiner’s office for tests, according to Nova Scotia RCMP,” reports David Irish for the CBC:
Police say a 911 call was placed around 7 p.m. The remains were discovered in the area of a trail system, about a kilometre from the end of Spider Lake Road.
This is the area where cyclist Marty Leger went missing in 2014; his car was found near the Spider Lake Trail trailhead, and he was last seen heading into the trail. A massive search-and-rescue effort consisting of hundreds of searchers aided by helicopters combed the woods and trawled the lake for over a week looking for Leger, to no success.
The woods adjacent to the Spider Lake Trail are still littered with trees felled by Hurricane Juan, the mess so thick that it’s impossible to carry much less ride a bike through it, so I’ve long thought Leger must have left the main trail — possibly to ride on one of the many trails along the pipeline road.
But that’s speculation. Police haven’t identified the body found yesterday as Leger’s, and neither have they said exactly where the body was found or if a bicycle was located.
“Nova Scotia’s highest paid university executive is now on an Ontario school’s payroll,” reports Rachel Ward for the CBC:
Tom Traves served as president of Dalhousie University for 18 years. After his retirement in 2013, he went on administrative leave, collecting more than $473,000 last year.
On Monday, he starts a new job as acting president of Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ont., for which he’ll be paid $318,500 over a one-year contract.
Traves’ three-year retirement package from Dalhousie ended March 31 of this year.
1. Media priorities
— Nancy Wang Yuen (@nancywyuen) September 28, 2016
“The newest generation of British royals and their young, celebrity parents have wrapped up an eight-day visit to Western Canada and are now back home,” writes Michael Lightstone for Local Xpress. “News coverage of the tour of parts of British Columbia and the Yukon was predictable: star-struck, fawning, borderline obnoxious and excessive.”:
It’s like when Halifax’s newsrooms send staffers to report on Boxing Day sales and New Year’s levees every holiday season. Or when reporters in metro file reports on Natal Day revelry. They’re shooting fish in a barrel.
A media-friendly itinerary by royal folks takes all the guesswork out of reportage. No knocking on doors, no cold calls over the phone, no contacting strangers online, no in-depth research, no long-range photos taken from discreet perches.
Just show up on time at the event du jour, and Bob’s your uncle.
Global News had the standard security-is-tight story regarding the royals’ visit to Victoria. Yes. Right, then. Stop the presses.
The Globe and Mail on Sept. 28 ran a front-page photo of a smiling Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, speaking with children seated outdoors in sunny Kelowna, B.C. The youngsters were wearing white chef’s hats, the Duchess sported sunglasses atop her head and appeared to be waving to some of the kids. According to the photo caption, the Duchess “got a chance to sample B.C.’s culinary scene” during the visit to the province’s interior region. Breaking news, it wasn’t.
Graham Steele gives his objections to e-voting in the city elections.
3. Cranky letter of the day
I am confused.
Earlier this week, a Cape Breton Post photo showed empty shelves at the Glace Bay Food Bank.
On Sept. 23, Marie Walsh, of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, informed the community the municipality showed a surplus of $1 million.
It is very unusual to show a surplus or deficit at this of year.
Someone please explain.
Bill Davies, Glace Bay
As with everything else, how we deal with death is subject to fashion and social trends. It’s interesting to explore old cemeteries and note how the style of tombstones has changed, and how the lettering and language of the inscriptions have evolved over time.
The death of an infant or child is particularly heart-wrenching, but it has been a common experience through most of history. Something like a third or even a half of all babies born in the Middle Ages never saw their fifth birthday, and while child mortality rates declined in the subsequent centuries, as late as 1960 Canada had a rate of 27 per thousand births. (I suspect Nova Scotia’s rate was higher, but I can’t readily find that data this morning.) Since then, however, the rate has declined to fewer than 10.
In most of the old cemeteries I’ve explored, infants and small children are buried next to their parents and siblings in a family plot, typically with a tiny headstone that might read “baby” or “infant.” But twice now I’ve found a different practice: a separate section of of the cemetery dedicated only or mostly to the graves of children, a children’s graveyard.
The first time I noticed a children’s graveyard was in the old cemetery in my former hometown of Chico, California. There’s a natural depression in the land around which the children’s graves are located, the lay of the land adding to the poignancy of the scene.
I’ve been in hundreds of graveyards since, but I hadn’t found another children’s cemetery until last Saturday, when I happened to walk through the Holy Cross Cemetery on South Park Street. Holy Cross is best known as the resting place of Prime Minister John Sparrow Thompson (he wasn’t on the citizenship test), but just beyond his too-elaborate grave, up the hill and to the left, is a children’s cemetery. There are few dozen, possibly a hundred, tiny headstones, often with angel or lamb statuettes.
It appears that the first child buried in this section was Pierce James O’Donnell, the 23-month-old son of James and Mary who died in 1849. I don’t know how or why it happened, but starting around 1950 and stretching until around 1965, other infants and children were buried in the section. There aren’t many adults interred here, save a couple of mothers who evidently wanted to be buried by their lost ones. For the most part, it’s a necropolis nursery.
I can’t find that anything has been written about the children’s cemetery at Holy Cross, or about children’s cemeteries generally. Holy Cross is a Catholic cemetery, where Chico was open to all religions (albeit segregated by race, the Chinese graves off to the edge of the graveyard), so I don’t think this was a religious practice.
I find it interesting that the children’s cemeteries seem to have arisen just at the moment in time when child mortality was dropping to a rarity.
Most of the graves at the Holy Cross children’s cemetery are over 50 years old, and yet they seem to be well-tended and visited. People leave toys and Teddy bears on the graves. I don’t know if these are elderly family members of the deceased or just people in the city who are moved by the scene.
Oddly, there were three scheduled meetings today — the Executive Standing Committee, the Grants Committee, and the Northwest Community Council — but they’ve each been cancelled. I guess committee members are out campaigning.
No public meetings.
No campus events.
In the harbour
8am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Bar Harbor with up to 1,350 passengers
5:45pm: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
5:45pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Sydney
7am: AIDAdiva, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Quebec with up to 2,050 passengers
8am: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 31 from New York with up to 2,100 passengers
8am: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney with up to 2,808 passengers
3pm: AIDAdiva, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor
5pm: Toronto, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southhampton, England
5pm: Celebrity Summit, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for Sydney
5pm: Norwegian Dawn, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
I enjoy doing Examineradio. Like all podcasts, some are better than others, but I think we’re contributing something useful to the local political and media scene. It couldn’t happen without producer Russell Gragg — he lines up the guests, works all the technical magic, gets the show published both on CKDU and as a podcast. We decided from the start to make the podcast free, but of course there are costs for us to produce. The money costs are Russell’s pay, some equipment requirements, and other assorted needs. The time costs are my preparation — I have to read books, study up on my interviewees, and outline questions.
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