The provincial government has updated its plans for a new parkade for the QEII hospital, and it’s now further encroaching on the Halifax Common.
It’s the third plan for a parking garage on Summer Street as part of the QEII redevelopment project after the second one got council’s reluctant approval.
The first plan would’ve seen a seven-storey parkade built to the south of the Museum of Natural History on Summer Street, and a heating plant built in the green space at the corner of Summer Street and Bell Road. It would’ve required the purchase or expropriation of municipally owned property and displaced tenants the Bengal Lancers and the HFX Wanderers.
Facing opposition from the public and council, the province changed its tune, opting instead for an eight-storey garage on the north side of the museum with a pedway across Summer Street to the hospital. Council approved an easement for the pedway, and an easement for a driveway over municipal property on Bell Road.
“This proposed orientation enabled the retention of a sizable portion of the open space extending from the corner of Bell Road and Summer Street. With the revised location, the parkade would be located fully on provincial land, and as a result, Regional Council was not required or able to authorize the parkade,” Richard Harvey, manager of policy and planning for the parks and recreation department, wrote in an information report coming to council on Tuesday.
The province awarded a contract to Lindsay Construction for the design and construction of the parkade in July with a plan to start construction in August at a total projected cost of $29 million.
But now it’s changing the design — flipping the orientation of the building from east-west to north-south.
The new design means the province needs a larger easement over municipally-owned parkland to accommodate a loading zone for the museum, and it’s going to use up more provincially owned green space at the corner of Bell Road and Summer Street.
The province “was advised that the design previously submitted to Council was a better option from a site, building, and landscaped open space perspective and that the revised plan and enlarged easement area is inconsistent with the original submission that formed the basis for Regional Council’s decision,” Harvey wrote in the report to council.
Based on Harvey’s report — which, as an information report, carries no recommendation and will not be debated at Tuesday’s meeting — council isn’t being asked to approve the larger easement.
“Staff interprets the authority as sufficiently broad as to not require further direction and approval from Regional Council,” Harvey wrote. “However, it is important that Regional Council be made aware that the changes to the building orientation will impact the required easement size as well as the amount and configuration of open space.”
Buildings on provincial land aren’t subject to the city’s planning and design rules, so council has no say in the overall form of the parkade.
As Harvey put it:
When [the province] requested that the municipality approve the easements in April, it provided staff and Regional Council with site and building plans for the parkade and Halifax Infirmary. The staff report cited its positive aspects, including the retention of open space at Bell and Summer. On this basis, the new changes are unfortunate, however, with the exception of the increased easement size, they are beyond the authority of the Municipality, as [the province] has authority over its lands including how they may be developed.
Any councillor could ask for the report to be brought for discussion to the next meeting of council, scheduled for Sep. 29.