An arched, midcentury building with white cladding on one side and beige brick on the other, is seen from the road on a sunny day.
The Centennial Pool in Halifax. Photo: Google Streetview

When Halifax finally builds a competition-ready pool, it might not be on the peninsula. And that’s fine by the area councillors.

Coun. Waye Mason brought a multi-faceted motion to council on Tuesday aiming to get staff moving on a “deep dive” into a new 50-metre pool for the municipality:

That Halifax Regional Council direct the CAO begin planning for replacement of Centennial Pool pending the outcome of a staff report which outlines:

a. Process to undertake the development of a new 50-meter pool that meets Canada Games requirements for competitive swimming and diving and is consistent with the Long-Term Aquatic Study direction;

b. Potential disposal of 1970 Gottingen Street pursuant to Administrative Order 50, Respecting the Disposal of Surplus Property, for Economic Development including recommendations to include an affordable housing component;

c. Review of the prioritization of the Needham Community Centre to ensure continuity of municipal pool access on the peninsula; and

d. Analysis of revenue sources including the pending application for the Needham Community Centre within the Green Inclusive Community Building Program, and other appropriate Federal and Provincial funding sources.

After a two-year closure, the Centennial Pool at the corner of Gottingen and Cogswell streets no longer leaks, but Mason argued on Tuesday it’s just a matter of time before it’s out of commission again.

“I’ve been holding this motion because I didn’t want to move it while Centennial was still leaking because I didn’t want people in the community to panic,” Mason said.

The Centennial is 55 years old, Mason said, and like every old pool on the peninsula, it cracked when it was emptied for maintenance.

“They have a definite end of life and we’re at the end of life for all the pools, basically,” Mason said.

But the Centennial isn’t up to snuff for competition, anyway, he said.

“Swim Nova Scotia has told us clearly that the Canada Summer Games requirement is you need to have a 50-metre pool next to a 25-metre warm up pool. So what we have at Centennial isn’t good enough anyway because it doesn’t have enough lanes, it doesn’t have stands for competition, doesn’t have a deck, it doesn’t have a warm-up pool,” Mason said.

Mason said he doesn’t think there’s a spot for that on the peninsula, and he and Coun. Lindell Smith think that’s fine as long as HRM prioritizes the replacement of the pool at the Needham Community Centre.

“I feel that the 25-metre pool in the north end, the Common pool that’s under construction right now, the YWCA, and whatever Dalhousie decides to do with the Dalplex, that’s adequate pools, that meets the aquatic strategy for the peninsula. We don’t need the 50- metre pool to be on the peninsula,” Mason said.

“But what we need as a community is a 50-metre pool to meet Canada Games standards. And this is important, not leak. Like we can’t count on this thing.”

Smith said when the pool at Needham was leaking, he heard about it from the community. Its replacement has been pushed back to somewhere between 2026 and 2028, he said.

“Needham was supposed to be complete in 2023, but due to Sportsplex and other facilities that got prioritized, Needham and the pool got pushed back,” Smith said.

Smith said it’s also important to categorize the sale of the Centennial property as economic development, meaning the municipality can require affordable housing on the site, as contemplated in the motion.

“The value of the land that Centennial is on is tremendous,” Mason said, suggesting the windfall could pay for a new pool.

“We should walk out of this with Needham done, a 50-metre done, and 10- or 15 million bucks good, especially if the feds and the province come in on the 50-metre pool.”

Coun. Kathryn Morse suggested her district could use a new pool because, she said, the Canada Games Centre was operating at 98% capacity before COVID-19.

“And so I think given the growth that we’re seeing in Bedford and Larry Uteck and Clayton Park West and all that area, that we definitely need a 50-metre pool in the city that’s accessible, and I hope the report will also look at transportation links for the pool to make sure people can get their public transit,” Morse said.

Mason’s motion passed unanimously.

Council supports universal basic income

On another motion from Mason, council voted to express its support for a universal basic income.

Mason’s motion contemplated “a letter from the Mayor to the Prime Minister, Ministers and Premier of Nova Scotia, calling on the Government of Canada to implement a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income, ensuring everyone has sufficient income to meet their needs, which would go a long way towards eradicating poverty and homelessness, alleviating the pressure on municipalities to use their limited resources to fill gaps in our failing social safe net.”

The councillor argued the idea has support from both sides of the political spectrum.

“Evidence suggests that the federal funded basic income is not only feasible in Canada but could bring significant benefits at the municipal level,” Mason said.

“Research supports the financial feasibility of the basic income in Canada along with its capacity to foster diverse social, health, and economic outcomes. Municipalities represent an important voice in social policy decisions at all levels. They’re often on the front lines working to ensure that residents and communities lead happy, healthy, sustainable, and productive lives. A federal funded Basic Income complemented by other social support services is well positioned to support municipalities in achieving this.”

Deputy Mayor Pam Lovelace noted child poverty in Nova Scotia is the worst it’s been in 30 years, and suggested a basic income could turn that around.

“I hope that people are listening at other levels of government. We have to address the situation of poverty in this province and this is one way that we as a municipality can stand up and voice our concerns,” Lovelace said.

Coun. Shawn Cleary also supported Mason’s motion.

“If more municipalities, if more groups, if more citizens pressure our provinces and the federal government to discuss this, to look at this, we might actually make some headway, finally, on this kind of important, universal social safety net and economic development driver,” Cleary said.

The motion passed 14-2, with councillors Trish Purdy and Paul Russell voting no. Neither councillor spoke during debate.

New names for Cornwallis Street narrowed down

The municipality has released a list of five of the finalists to replace Halifax’s so-called founder on the name of a city street.

Council passed a motion on Tuesday to add African Baptist, Nora Bernard, Rocky Jones, Reconciliation, and Dr. Alfred Waddell to the municipality’s list of approved street names.

The names come from “673 unique name suggestions” submitted during a public consultation process. Of those 673, 181 were “commemorative names” and 492 were “non-commemorative names.” According to the staff report, those non-commemorative names “include names that reflect the language and history of the Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia.”

Of the list of 181 commemorative names, staff determined 170 weren’t already on HRM’s list. The advisory committee then narrowed those 170 down to 32 using four criteria: “appropriateness, cultural significance, diversity and originality.” It then scored the 32 using the same system as the ferry naming in 2014, and narrowed the list to the five before council on Tuesday.

Next, staff will combine those five names with some of the previously-approved commemorative names and some of the non-commemorative names to create a short list. Then HRM will launch a survey asking people which name they prefer. After the survey closes, the advisory group will review the results and choose a name to recommend to council based on: “the number of votes a street name suggestion receives; the appropriateness of the name; the cultural significance of the name; if the name reflects the diversity of the municipality; and the originality of the name.”

Church gets heritage designation

A church in the north end has been added to the heritage registry on the second try.

Council voted on Tuesday to add 5375 Kaye St., the United Memorial Church, to the municipal heritage registry.

A big red brick building is seen on a grey day. The photo is taken from a low, wide angle, and tree branches extend ominously from the top of the frame. Above the door to the building, the words "UNITED MEMORIAL CHURCH" are printed on a sign.
The former United Memorial Church on Kaye Street in Halifax is seen in April 2022. Photo: Zane Woodford

As the Halifax Examiner reported in April, council’s Heritage Advisory Committee recommended in favour of registration:

The former church was built in 1921 following the Halifax Explosion, replacing two nearby churches destroyed in the 1917 disaster. As heritage planner Seamus McGreal explains in a report to council’s Heritage Advisory Committee, the congregations of the Kaye Street Methodist Church and the Grove Presbyterian Church came together following the explosion, temporarily meeting in the same space at the corner of Young and Gottingen streets, known as the “tarpaper church.”

The church is also significant for its architect, Andrew Cobb, who “designed many significant residential and institutional buildings throughout Atlantic Canada” — including the Dingle Tower (with Sydney Dumaresq), the Arts and Administration Building at the University of King’s College, and St. Andrew’s United Church on Coburg Road, a similar building.

Given the historic significance of the building, Gilles Deveau filed a heritage registration application on behalf of a group of local residents in 2018. At the time, the property owner, Tony Metlege, was hoping to demolish the former church and replace it with a planned seven-storey apartment building. Metlege opposed the heritage designation.

The Heritage Advisory Committee scored the proposal 51 out of 100 possible points, triggering a recommend to council to register the property. In June 2018, council voted 13-4 against the recommendation to register the property, siding with the developer’s argument that the building was beyond repair, and had already lost many of its defining architectural features.

The property seemed destined for redevelopment — there was even a demolition permit issued — but it never happened.

Last month, the property was sold to 5375 Kaye Developments Co. — a company owned by Dartmouth developer Bruno Elliot MacNeil, according to the registry of joint stocks. The sale price, according to Property Valuation Services Corporation, was $2.15 million.

Joseph Nickerson, MacNeil’s partner at Sidewalk Real Estate Development, applied for heritage registration.

“The property owner intends to preserve and rehabilitate the church as part of a new mixed-use development,” McGreal wrote in the staff report.

The committee scored the property higher this time, with 63 out of 100 points awarded.

MacNeil told council the previous owner approached his firm to sell, and he’s “excited about how new density can be added in a respectful way at a much-needed time.” He said he plans to pursue a heritage development agreement on the property.

Council voted unanimously in favour of the committee’s recommendation.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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