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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Fenwick Finds Support at Public Hearing

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HALIFAX – Expecting to scrounge for a seat after rolling into City Hall a few minutes late for Tuesday’s public hearing on the highly anticipated redevelopment of Fenwick Tower — I was surprised to enter a half empty room. 25 persons, including two city councillors, one of whom was chairing the meeting, were sitting and listening to a computer animated voice describing the story so far.

This was an opportunity for citizens to speak their opinion — yea or nay — for Templeton Properties‘ application to amend the Halifax Municipal Planning Strategy and Halifax Peninsula Land Use Bylaw. If successful, mixed use development will be allowed on this downtown site.

Five people spoke up — three declared their support and two left us unsure of their standing. Those in favour expressed a need for “adventerous design” and “wow factor architecture” which they think this “pretty neat” development offers. As a neighbour to the Fenwick site myself, I gave a nod of support to any clever reuse of the current eyesore!

The other two speakers posed questions. Parking emerged as a hot topic consuming the bulk of the evening’s discussion.  A nearby resident was concerned the car traffic generated by the proposed commercial and residential uses will cause a parking shortage. The architect referenced a traffic study suggesting they may actually be providing too much parking.  Joe Metledge of Templeton Properties then re-iterated his vision for a vibrant downtown where bicycles are given higher priority than cars.

Lasting only 35 minutes, this public hearing did not spark the usual fiery and polarized discussion. This is in part due to the opportunity Fenwick offers to, rather than compromise heritage, revitalize a site that has been a blight to the city for decades. After this brief and mild public hearing, Joe Metledge described his feelings as “cautiously optimistic”. His team was glad to see support for their vision, but it is ultimately council  who makes the decisions.