In the harbour
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.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
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.
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(Subscribe via iTunes)
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
The face you make when you’re married to a Prince but you meet @JustinTrudeau https://t.co/1nOuwGKZCn via @RobertPictou
— 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
4:30am: Maule, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
7:30am: Norwegian Gem, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from New York with up to 2,873 passengers
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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Armour Group posts security guards around Privateers Wharf to ensure no cyclists ride their bikes through that area. Will Queens Marque be off limits to cyclists as well, one wonders?
Increased urban density is absolutely necessary but the waterfront development is just the usual greed. Where is the affordable housing amidst all the downtown condo developments? What about other needs such as access to schools and green spaces? While most of the development will sit on a parking lot, it is the waterfront itself that is at issue, and the larger question of mobility within a public commons.
Urban density only works if it consists of units which people can actually afford, and want to raise families in.
Did a bit of googling and found that many cemeteries have a special area reserved for infants, typically called “Babyland.”
Here’s a link to the Greenmount Cemetery and it’s descriptor of Babyland:
Through the ages, Greenmount Cemetery has always set aside an area referred to as “Babyland”. This is an area reserved for the stillbirths, infants and small children.
The earliest Babyland was being used in the 1880’s. It was in the section now referred to as Old South Singles. In the early 1900’s we find an area in the southwest corner of Block G that was used for this purpose. From the early 1920’s to the 1940’s Babyland was in Block B Singles. Later, in the 1940’s to the 1960’s, an area was set aside in Block A Singles for Babyland. Currently Babyland is in Block M. This area was opened in the early 1960’s and still has available spaces.
Google “Babyland” or “Baby Land” and you’ll get lots of hits.
A 10-storey building is hardly “colossal”, especially considering there is a taller building across the street built 80 years ago. Honestly this sort of hyperbole loses its effect given that any development proposal over four storeys in this town brings out the pitchforks. The building is not perfect but the size is not a convincing criticism given that this lies smack dab in the centre of the city, where more people should be living in proximity to workplaces rather than commuting by car from the suburbs. RIght now the bulk of the site is NOT public – it’s a parking lot. The boardwalk will remain open, and the new building will actually relate to the boardwalk whereas the current parking lot contributes nothing, is ugly and a totally inappropriate use of land in one of the most prominent sites in the city.
Secondly the dead nature of the spaces surrounding the casino and Purdy’s Wharf has infinitely more to do with the fact that these buildings front the public realm with unbroken blank walls. Whether Queen’s Marque contributes or detracts from the public boardwalk depends much more on this sort of urban design consideration.
At 450,000 square feet, Queen’s Marque is about half the size of Nova Centre. I’d call that colossal.
“…centre of the city, where more people should be living in proximity to workplaces rather than commuting by car from the suburbs.”
Really, ben.m? Such an arrogant, sweeping decree.
Well, there’s plenty of room for development all over the peninsula without building these awful projects.
I don’t think that’s a radical or arrogant sentiment. It’s just sustainable urban planning. We can’t keep sprawling outward forever – the low density, car-oriented mode of growth ends up manufacturing the “necessity” for insanely expensive highway-building projects like the proposals to widen Highway 102 or build a third harbour crossing. If we can’t afford a replacement for the third-world Victoria General then we certainly can’t afford the cost of urban sprawl. Meanwhile we have vacant lots in the core, where city services already exist and where we have schools with extra capacity facing closure.
Look at any major street leading out of the peninsula at rush hour. We already suffer from horrendous traffic congestion for a city of this size. So where do we go from here? Do we keep building Dartmouth Crossings or Larry Uteck Boulevards, where all residents are forced to drive by virtue of the car-oriented urban planning? Is this poor province supposed to dump $2 billion into a third bridge? Should we keep widening roads? The only sustainable way forward is to direct growth to underused land in the core. There’s tons of room – think of the giant swaths of parking lots around the Dartmouth end of the bridge, the parking lots around Young Avenue, etc.
If you want to drive to work, fine. But some people don’t, and currently our suburbs don’t really offer a choice. You either drive or put up with horrendous public transit, and walking typically isn’t an option thanks to the singular, dispersed land use.
In principle, I agree with you, ben.m, and appreciate your clarification and elaboration. My issue was more with the stark nature of your statement. It grated and harkened back to a thankfully-past top-down, authorities-dictate era. You’re right, HRM transit is a nightmare, though improving; it attempts to deliver timely, efficient service through narrow streets, far-flung geography, and routine gridlock, especially at peak, desirable hours. I used it for years, and have family who use it daily despite its flaws, as do many, many others. An entirely new vision must be conceived for transit, and it will justifiably involve some new regulations and perceived inconvenience to cars and drivers. My greater reaction was on suburban/urban living. Unfortunately, we’re faced with creating optimal residential living within existing urban density. Tim Bousquet notes “there’s plenty of room for development all over the peninsula.” Let’s promote that, keeping in mind and providing for the normal stages of life. Living in the urban core is especially attractive for singles and retirees; not so much for young, expanding families who would like their children to experience nature, quiet, and more independent living outside of urban parks, or having to travel distance to them. There are many like my youngest son and wife who’re still paying university loans while starting a young family. They tried urban living, but ultimately, too many negative factors motivated change to a suburb and less-than-welcome vehicle commutes. They’re environmentally conscious, but reality closed some avenues, transit among them. If we’re to grow and retain our youthful demographic, we must encourage and promote [perhaps through new regulations?] more core-centric living that embodies the human need for space, nature and peace. I think it can be done, but it’s going to mean conflict with developers, design, and profit.
Ben.m I think you inadvertently hit the nose on the head on what the problem really is.
“Do we keep building Dartmouth Crossings or Larry Uteck Boulevards”
I think that is the wrong question, but you are in the right area. What are they BUILDING around Dartmouth Crossing and Larry Uteck? High-priced condos. What are we putting in the big build in the centre of the city? A convention centre, mere blocks from our old one.
If Developers were on board with the city plan, they would be building large, durable, dependable and affordable housing in these places. They simply are not. Condo after Condo built around me advertise starting rates at 1200 for a single bedroom. Study after study shows there are two factors in housing stability, good wages or fair rents. We don’t make Alberta money but we are expected to pay the same rate in rent?
A developer could easily slap up a building that didn’t have granite countertops and two point five bathrooms and all the bells and whistles they including these days and have affordable rents, ones around 20 to 25% of a persons post-tax income. Unless everyone is making 70,000 a year, it makes no sense to put Condos on Larry Uteck, letting alone for the extreme rates they are asking for. I am sure the apartments are worth it, but was it worth us signing off on a building with rates that could only be comfortably populated by a doctor or Lawyer.
This brings me back to the Marque or whatever it is. I like the concept. But I want as much input and planning as possible. This isn’t on Larry Uteck, This is in the middle of the Boardwalk downtown. This an area that defines Halifax. Does it really fit to have a giant bi-forked cube bi-secting it? It seems like a greater discussion and one with assurances I have not seen yet. Does this mean people will not be able to walk the boardwalk? Can we get some better estimated views, maybe a few from Ferry level. One of the great joys of the city is taking the ferry, I have no idea how this will affect the view.
I think the project has potential and could be a defining feature of Halifax. But one bad apple spoils the whole bunch, and dozens of iffy stories over the last four years from Developers tearing down heritage-ready buildings on a whim or leveling whole neighbourhoods for a greater parking lot (in the core no less), we need a time out and re-assess period of development. Council is rejecting their own staff reports and giving companies over 40% more floorspace than recommended. Why even ask if you are just going to instantly reject the advice? It has gotten too silly. We have let the exemption become the rule for the Halifax by Design plan and I would like to see some slow down before this ramps up, at least.
Unless developers want to make money AND help the situation by building more affordable and reasonable housing. Do that all day.
We allow the Big developers to ride rough shod over all kinds of things like by laws and strategic plans, including narrowing a street which carries all the 18 wheel commercial traffic from the container pier.
Yet for having the audacity to sell coffee and art instead of art and coffee, the Municipality is forcing the Darkside Café and Art gallery in Dartmouth into closure and potential bankruptcy. They close this week – maybe today. This little family run café was universally supported by EVERYONE in the neighbourhood. Real estate agents even used proximity of their listings to the café to promote property sales. Through malicious enforcement and prosecution and powerlessness of elected officials, the forces of darkness which run the Municipal administration have prevailed. You can almost here the “bwa ha ha” from the planning department as the owners lock the door and regular neighbourhood patrons are faced with a closed door. Yet there is no problem with Big Development ignoring planning rules and going ahead with their massive, greed driven projects like Queen’s Marque which are constricting the waterfront.
PS: Thanks for the hat-tip about ‘smiling bastards”. They do seem to be everywhere these days.
We can fix voter apathy at all levels by bringing in a more democratic method of voting. Any choice of among more than two candidates should be determined by something like ranked balloting in the case of a municipal election. Proportional representation of some form likely more appropriate at provincial and federal levels. The other thing which could help is to make casting a vote compulsory as has been done in Australia, for example, but it would be nice to think that simply making the system more truly democratic would be enough to dispel the apathy of those who believe, probably justifiably, that their vote doesn’t count.
Re Queen’s Marquee.
There is no way in hell this proposal is going to get shut down. There is no will on the part of our learned officials to stop any proposed development from taking place.
From Colonial Honda on Robie, to the abomination occuring on Young Avenue to this piece of shit that will block out the sun.
Our elected officials and Committees are in the thrall of unchecked development.
We can stop it. We do have elections coming up. Development does seem to be a hot button issue. Let’s elect people who will stand against bad development and turf the shit out of those who quietly acquiesce to it.
Inform yourselves and vote in October.
may I just sit here and sniffle a bit in gratitude that someone wrote ‘inform yourself’ instead of ‘educate yourself’?
Re : Cranky letter from Bill Davies. –
The CBRM $1,000,000 surplus is for the April 1 2015-March 31 2016 fiscal year.
The deadline for filing municipal financial statements with the province is September 30. This is the first time in many years that CBRM has met the deadline.