1. That crappy old office building on Argyle Street
“The Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre is still for sale and the city has decided not to purchase it for now,” reports Sherri Borden Colley for the CBC.
As I reported in April 2015:
The WTCC tower is now owned by Trade Centre Limited, a crown corporation, and when TCL vacates the premises to move into the shiny new convention centre one block south, the province will take over ownership. The city does have the opportunity — in real estate terms, an “option” — to make an offer on the WTCC tower, but if it doesn’t, the province will put the building up for sale on the open market.
This is where we’re at now: the city declined to buy the building from the province, and according to Borden Colley, the province has now listed the building publicly for $13.5 million.
I continued last April:
Nobody in their right mind would buy a 35-year-old office tower in a market with a 12 percent plus vacancy rate when something like 300,000 square feet of new office space (Nova Centre, TD Bank expansion, 22nd Commerce Square, etc.) are about to come on the market.
In the almost-certain event that no one else makes an offer on the WTCC tower, the city is contractually obligated to buy it at “book value.” A few years ago book value was said to be $12 million. Very likely, it will cost at least that much more to renovate the building, including making the convention centre space useful for something else.
The potentially unlimited liability of the Nova Centre contract aside, the requirement to purchase the existing office tower could turn out to be its own boondoggle. We’ll have something on the order of $25 million in new capital costs to deal with, a few million more in office location costs, and whatever it will cost to maintain a bunch of completely empty offices.
“A third party review found widespread anti-black racism at Halifax’s Parks and Road Operations and Construction unit,” reports Robert Devet:
“The consultation with employees and interviews with supervisors suggest that the business unit is caught up in a self-sustaining cycle of prejudice in which African Nova Scotians continue to be negatively impacted by experiences of harassment and discrimination, and supervisors and other employees dismiss these concerns, or blame the victim for their response,” the report concluded.
The review suggests low morale is widespread, and not just among African Nova Scotian employees. Women, members of the LGBTQ community, and seasonal workers also hold grievances that the review deemed justified.
Devet originally broke this story in July (I somehow missed it), and follows up today.
“An unseasonably warm winter in Nova Scotia has allowed rat populations to survive and thrive,” reports Preston Mulligan for the CBC:
Keith Gillis sat down for a hot dog this week near the Churchill statue and couldn’t believe his eyes.
“This is daylight and the rats are actually coming out and eating with the pigeons,” said Gillis. “It’s disgusting. It’s summer time, it’s tourism season.”
Lezlie Lowe wrote an exhaustive article about rats in Halifax for The Coast back in 2008. Lowe gave lots of details about rats coming up through toilets and such, and then set to explaining why they’re here and where they live. The “why” is that they came to Halifax on ships. The “where”:
OK, so they come by boat. No surprise there. But then many stay on the waterfront. And it’s not because they like water, or that there’s more food down there.
“If you go down Sackville Street, it’s quite a steep slope and then bang, you hit Lower Water Street and it’s very flat, right?” asks Andrew Hebda.
Well that’s because it’s fill. Halifax Harbour shorelines were originally all muddy beach lands. Today the edges are flat and vertical because they have been backfilled.“
Anywhere you put in coarse rubble it puts in spaces and cracks that they can move through for protection,” says Hebda.
“It gives them lots of places to climb. And now, we’ve got all sorts of other things using now, too. Downtown, and even up the Northwest Arm, we are picking up mink and weasels on a regular basis.”
And where else is there a similar kind of loose ground?
“OK, go up Coburg Road. What’s the first residence? Howe Hall? You know where the heating plant is in that area? Well the heating plant is the site of the old municipal dump. So, organic matter is not an issue, because that will break down with time, but dumps tend not to be well-compacted so you tend to have lots of spaces there.
“In the summertime, especially just after the sun goes down, you can actually see them coming out of the sewers. You’re not looking at huge masses. Not the Pied Piper. But you can actually see them.”
Another place you’ll find loose ground? Graveyards. And the Churchill statue is right on top of the old Paupers Cemetery. Ergo, rats. I also suspect that the demolition of the Doyle Block just to the west of the old library has sent rats scurrying to find new places nearby to, er, do rat things, and the blasting has shifted and unsettled the old graves just enough to provide cool little rat passageways, just as the demolition and blasting of the old Chronicle Herald building to make way for the Nova Centre sent rats scurrying all through the Argyle street bars a few years ago (that was great fun).
A reader asked me last night if there’s a rat census in Halifax. Hebda told Lowe that the standard figure in old east coast cities like Halifax is 75 rats per block.
4. Queen’s Marque
“Armed with markers and sticky notes, about 150 people showed up to a public meeting Wednesday night to decide how to put 75,000 square feet of public space to use at the proposed Queen’s Marque development on the Halifax waterfront,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro.
See how this works? We’ve skipped right over “Why the hell would we build this god-awful piece of crap?????” to “Tell us how to rearrange the park benches on the privatized waterfront so we can say we listened to public input.”
More on Queen’s Marque here (#2).
Activate the FM chip in smart phones so people can use them to listen to the radio, writes Francella Fiallos. (Fiallos works at CKDU, and stepped in as co-host for Examineradio when I was away.)
2. Cranky letter of the day
Why isn’t there a boat speed limit or wake signs posted on the Mira beneath Albert Bridge?
The speed that boats pass between the concrete abutments is reckless and extremely dangerous, particularly in light of the recent increase in striper fishing in this area. Someone is going to get seriously hurt.
Smarten up boaters.
Willis Stevens, Albert Bridge
Yesterday, Mary Campbell launched the Cape Breton Spectator, a weekly online newspaper serving, yep, Cape Breton. I cannot be more excited.
Campbell is of the Campbell clan that published the former Cape Breton Highlander, a radical labour paper published in Sydney from 1963 through 1976, and her sister is Susan Campbell, the host of CBC Radio’s Quebec Morning Show, Quebec A.M.
A young Mary Campbell went off to Prague, where she honed her writing skills, and recently ended up back in Sydney. She’s been writing the occasional op-ed piece, and I published her article “I Went To Sydney Harbour Ports Day So You Didn’t Have To” here in the Examiner.
Campbell is everything a journalist should be: inquisitive, dogged, and unafraid. Even better, she’s wickedly funny.
The Spectator will be published weekly, on Wednesdays. The first edition contains Campbell’s introduction and an article on CBRM mayor Cecil Clarke’s reelection bid. Additionally Campbell has posted a previously published article detailing her hilariously frustrating examination into the Business Cape Breton economic development agency, and other older articles as well.
The first edition is free to all. Campbell says future editions will be behind a paywall for a week, and then made public:
My needs are not great — my only extravagances are quality paper and cat antibiotics — so it won’t take too many subscribers to keep this enterprise afloat. Anything I earn beyond the bare necessities will pay freelance writers and photographers: I’m fond of the sound of my own voice, but not that fond. In fact, several writers have already agreed to contribute to The Cape Breton Spectator, so my royal “we” has become an actual we, much to my delight.
The very moment I saw the Cape Breton Spectator was live, I went and subscribed because we need hard-hitting, fearless, and independent journalism wherever it wants to bloom, and it needs supporting. My fantasy is that one day there will be a half-dozen subscriber-based online news sites like the Examiner and the Spectator across the province (Maureen Googoo’s Kukukwes.com is struggling, but I know of at least one other news site already in the planning stages), and the sites can share articles and resources where practical. As I see it, the future of news is horizontal collaboration rather than vertical monopoly concentration.
Please consider subscribing to the Cape Breton Spectator.
Appeals Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space Main Floor, Alderney Gate — staff is recommending approval of a development agreement for a 10-storey apartment building at 169 Wyse Road, the site of the former country bar Little Nashville; Centrefolds, the world’s worst strip bar; and the animal hospital that has since moved over to Prince Albert Road (the one with all the animal statues on the roof).
No public meetings.
Thesis defence, Biology (10am, Room 2L3, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Master’s candidate Purvi C. Trivedi will defend her thesis, “Nutrient Regulation of Autophagy in the Heart.”
Thesis defence, Psychology (10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Roxanne Sterniczuk will defend her thesis, “Disruption of Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Organization as Risk Factors for Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Dalhousie Mathematics Colloquium (2:30pm, Chase, Room 319) — Laura Turner, from SUNY, will speak on “Analytic Representations and Generality in the Late 19th Century.”
Right in the gut (3:30pm, Room 5260, Life Sciences Centre, Psychology Wing) — Dean A. Tripp, from Queens University, will speak on “New Insights and Clinical Care Maps for Urogenital and Gastrointestinal Diseases, Pain, and Their Psychosocial Risk Factors.”
Murder! (7:30pm, KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building) — Charlotte Gray will read from her latest book, The Massey Murder: a Maid, her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country.
Scheduled as of 7am:
4:30am: NYK Demeter, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Southhampton, England
8am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney with up to 1,350 passengers
10:30am: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Cagliari, Italy
3pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
3:30pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor
10pm: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, arrives Fairview Cove from New York
Midnight: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
We’re recording Examineradio today. And I hope to find the time to write a piece about how we measure tourism and tourism dollars in Nova Scotia.
Please consider subscribing to the Examiner. Just $5 or $10 a month goes a long way. Or, consider making a one-time contribution via PayPal. Thanks much!