1. IMPing along
Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler reviews the highlights from Halifax council’s opening budget talks on transportation and the Integrated Mobility Plan.
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2. “The building boom is not sustainable”
Turner Drake, the real estate intelligence firm, issued a press release yesterday under the headline headline “A 5% OFFICE VACANCY RATE IN HALIFAX? COMING IN 2042!” It reads:
The vacancy rate in Halifax’s CBD is up over a year ago — not surprising, with an additional 338,694 ft.² of rentable space on the market, 80% of it Class A. Vacancy now sits at 17.32% … a far cry from the 5% considered a healthy market. How far? 625,750 ft.² of the 879,665 ft.² of currently vacant office space would need to be leased to restore equilibrium to the downtown office market. At the average absorption rate of the past five years, i.e. 25,420 ft.² per annum, it will take 25 years to achieve a 5% vacancy rate with the current building inventory … but more new supply is currently under construction. These are the conclusions from the latest of 24 rental surveys recently completed by Halifax real estate counsellors Turner Drake & Partners Ltd.
The surveys are thought to be the most comprehensive ever conducted in HRM: a team of trained researchers collected rental, operating expense and vacancy data for 317 office and industrial buildings, some as small as 5,000 ft.², with an aggregate rentable area of over 20.0 million ft.²
The bellwether for Halifax’s office market is the downtown Central Business District (CBD), where vacancy reached 17.32% in December 2017, up 2.7 percentage points from a year ago (14.64% vacancy in December 2016), and a frightening 15.2 percentage points above the 15-year low of 2.16% vacancy rate in December 2008. It has been a shockingly fast climb, driven by a construction boom of new office space coming to market in the face of a changing market. An aging population means a reduced workforce. Added to that, companies are changing how they use office space, downsizing their total footprints via fewer square feet per employee. The trend towards virtual commuting and more collaborative work spaces have made this possible: individual offices are not au courant.
The Class A market now has 150,433 ft.² of vacant space — the equivalent of 56% of the 269,169 ft.² of new space which was added to the market in the past year; Class A net rental rates have fallen 0.45% year over year in the face of a vacancy rate which climbed to 21.8% from 16.2%. A lull in new space coming on stream in 2018 will allow demand to catch up, briefly, before more space comes on stream starting in 2019. The building boom is not sustainable, and comes at a price beyond even the taxpayer cost of the government subsidies which contributed to it. Landlords of space old and new will see their rental rates kept low due to an imbalance of supply and demand. The city’s tax base stands to suffer as property assessments will be (justifiably) reduced for buildings whose revenues are depressed. Heritage properties, expensive to maintain and operate, will continue to be placed at risk unless heritage preservation incentives are increased to outweigh the economic incentive to demolish them: the very identity of Halifax as a historic city stands in the balance.
3. Scotian Basin drilling approved
A press release from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency:
The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, today announced that the proposed Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and the project can proceed. The project is an exploration drilling project proposed by BP Canada ULC located approximately 230 to 370 kilometres off the southeast coast of Nova Scotia.
In reaching her decision, the Minister considered the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s Environmental Assessment Report. The Report includes the Agency’s conclusions and recommendations on the potential environmental effects of the project, the proposed mitigation measures, the significance of any adverse environmental effects and the follow-up program.
As part of the Environmental Assessment Decision Statement, the Minister established legally-binding conditions, including mitigation measures and follow-up requirements that the proponent must meet throughout the life of the project. Implementing these conditions will reduce or eliminate the potential effects of the project on the environment.
As a next step, the proponent is required to obtain the appropriate regulatory authorizations and permits before the project can be carried out.
More information on the Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project can be found here.
4. Matt Whitman does something stupid
“Halifax regional councillor Matt Whitman is under fire after retweeting a letter from a white supremacist organization on Thursday afternoon,” reports Alexander Quon for Global:
The letter, written by ID Canada and addressed to Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, was critical of the recent decision by the city to remove the statue of its controversial founder Edward Cornwallis.
“Canadians expect the memory of our European founders to remain unpolluted by revisionist attitudes,” the letter reads.
“This incident is a worrying manifestation of a brutal disregard towards the accomplishments of Canada’s European founders.”
ID Canada describes themselves as an “ethno-nationalist and identitarian youth movement” that says Canada was “never meant to be a melting pot of third-world migration.”
Many of the tweets on ID Canada Twitter account link to videos or images with anti-Islamic and anti-immigration messages.
Whitman’s retweet prompted this response from fellow councillor Waye Mason:
@matlantivex You are retweeting a neo-nazi hate group. I am speechless. What the hell is wrong with you?
— Waye Mason 🇺🇦 (@WayeMason) February 1, 2018
In case you need a scorecard, here’s the Examiner’s catalog for “Matt Whitman does something stupid”:
Reverse networking edition
Tell a thin-skinned cop to #GetALife edition
Chinese fire drill edition
“I’m not racist, you’re the racist” edition
Garbage detective edition
Chinese junket edition
Mexican Matt edition
“You should play basketball” edition
And now: My Nazi pals edition
I can’t decide if the reverse networking thing is stupid or just dumb, and I actually defended Whitman’s criticism of Action Man Scott Warnica, but there’s only so much explaining away allowed here. The full weight of stupidity has long ago tipped the scale.
And there’s two and a half years until the next municipal election.
An RCMP release from yesterday:
February 1, 2018, Dutch Settlement, Nova Scotia … Halifax District RCMP is asking for the public’s assistance in locating a stolen portable toilet.
The Royal Flush portable toilet was stolen from a worksite on Highway 277 in Dutch Settlement sometime between January 26 and January 31. It is described as being blue, with a white roof and red trim. A logo with Royal Flush and telephone number is attached to it. The portable toilet was empty at the time of its theft.
I have a file of port-a-potty photos:
Yesterday, the government announced $2 million in new funding for Volta Labs. I still haven’t seen any metrics on what constitutes “success”… but anyway, I’m told that there was an event at the Maritime Centre to mark the announcement, and that for some reason (I don’t know why) a group of Indigenous people showed up to protest. If anyone knows anything about that, please let me know.
7. Cecil Clarke
Cape Breton Regional Municipality mayor and soon-to-announce PC Leadership candidate Cecil Clarke has come out as gay, reports the CBC:
Clarke said someone “wanting to possibly shame” him threatened to expose his personal life, so he made the decision to share the information himself.
“If that’s homophobia and the fact that I’m gay in political life, then shame on people that do that,” he told CBC’s Mainstreet Cape Breton.
When I first read that, I thought, Wouldn’t such an outing be met with a collective yawn? I mean, aren’t we way past shaming people for being gay? But maybe not; there are still an awful lot of small-minded bigoted people out there.
And the threat of the outing was stressful, Clarke said, as he had been sexually abused as a child:
“When I was four and then seven, I was sexually assaulted as a child. I thought I’d recovered very well from that and that I had the love of a family that was there for me and a community that supported me. This week, all of that hurt and pain came barrelling back.”
He did not provide details of the abuse, which he said was “swept under the rug.”
“The RCMP of the day were at the door; I remember the images. It was like, ‘OK, how do we make this go away?’ And that was it.”
1. William Johns
“Back in the 70s, I squandered a lot of time searching for one of Nova Scotia’s finest craftsmen; the problem was he had died well over a hundred years earlier,” writes Stephen Archibald:
The object of my desire was a Welshman named William Johns. From about 1835 to 1865 he operated iron foundries in Halifax that made the best decorative cast iron ever produced in Nova Scotia.
In the later nineteenth century, almost every town in Nova Scotia had an iron foundry making: stoves for cooking and heating, agricultural and lumbering machinery, fittings for the vast wooden shipbuilding industry, and equipment for coal and gold mines. The iron foundries have all vanished and so have most of their products.
William Johns started in the early days of the iron foundries in Nova Scotia and kept his business going for 30 years. His products have a high degree of finish and an elevated sense of design. And most important for us, he marked his work, so 180 years later we can say: Johns made that!
No public meetings today.
No public events.
In the harbour
5am: Itea, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
6am: E.R. Tiamping, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
7am: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at inner harbour anchorage from Cebu, Philippines, awaiting berth at Pier 42
3:30pm: NYK Artemis, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
4pm: Schippersgracht, cargo ship, sails from Pier 37 for sea
4:30pm: Itea, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
6pm: E.R. Tiamping, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
The groundhog isn’t peer-reviewed.