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Addition to City Centre Atlantic Passed

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City Centre Atlantic Proposed Addition

HALIFAX – We Haligonians have a unique opportunity. We live in a city so small that, with a little effort, we can keep our finger on its pulse. Being an opportunity seeker, lately I’ve frequented city council meetings and public hearings. I wonder why so few others take this time to speak their mind and help shape our future? If you find yourself talking about city issues at the bar or over the kitchen table, I extend an invitation to you to come to city council on Tuesday nights. You can see the agenda for each week here. It does matter.

Upon arrival at city hall this Tuesday I was directed to the ‘overflow room’ (ie. Halifax Hall) as council chambers were standing-room-only for a hearing on a Cedar St development, which was passed by council. Tiny speakers on the tiny television made it nearly impossible to hear what was happening. However, I was pleased to see people engaging in the public hearing and also enjoyed being in the presence of a Garry Neill Kennedy exhibition in Halifax Hall.

As city staff assured me, I made it into council chambers intime for Dexel Development’s proposal for a 5-storey rooftop addition to City Centre Atlantic (commonly known as Pete’s Frootique). The development requires no demolition, nor does it impede on properties of heritage value. It will house 150 people in 95 condo-equivalent rental units.

Senior City Planner, Richard Harvey presented a powerpoint of the proposal in relation to policy requirements. Because this development was initiated before HRMbyDesign, it was “grandfathered-in” meaning it is subject to former policies in the Regional Plan. This development does, however, meet most requirements in HRMbyDesign.

Louie Lawen of Dexel then introduced himself and features of his work which has been mostly in the downtown core. Dexel was the first in Halifax to introduce a greywater system. The proposal in question would include this and other ‘green’ amenities such as 98% efficient natural gas and a locally manufactured A/V system.

Next, the floor opened to the public. Condo owners of the neighbouring property ‘Heritage Way’ were well organized in opposition. Though unhappy to see this proposal, it was disclosed upon their purchase of a condo unit that an addition would happen (as part of a plan agreed upon in 1991). Phase 1 involved the construction of the commercial property that Pete’s Frootique resides in; Phase 2 was construction of Heritage Way; Phase 3 is the residential addition atop the commercial property.

Residents expressed their deep concerns that this addition will cast shadow on their condo homes and elevate wind speeds making their rooftop garden totally uninhabitable. Harvey confirmed the wind and shadow studies met standards required by HRM planning. A blank wall feature (see photo above) was another point of contention. This was countered by the argument that the proposed addition abuts the property line of another rooftop space that will someday be developed.

Traffic congestion and parking were mentioned by many of the Heritage Way residents. One speaker remarked that this proposal has her “living in terror” that traffic congestion will prohibit emergency vehicles from accessing her home.

Eight people spoke, including myself. I was the only non-condo-owning, non-neighbour and the only person who spoke in favour of the proposal. From the perspecitve of a young person who lives and works downtown, I expressed the need for more people living in the core to support local businesses and enhance our downtown’s vitality.

For the sake of transparency, hearing people lobby for more and more parking spaces does spark me. It only propels the systemic mobility issues we face in HRM. Perhaps it is the responsibility of our municipal/provincial governments to provide a well functioning active transportation network – rather than the responsibility of each developer to provide extra parking. We need density downtown – parking spaces yield the opposite.

After the public’s turn to speak, Council entered discussion. Councillors Uteck and Johns expressed frustration with current planning policies which sometimes limit their ability to be visionary and to best represent their constituents. This conversation surfaced the question: What is the role of a councillor?

[This reminded me of a conversation I had lately on the job description of councillors. In cities you love and admire, what is the job description of a councillor? There is still time to give input to the HRM for the Governance & Boundary Review.]

This public hearing lasted two hours. After much discussion, Council voted in favour of this development agreement for the residential addition to City Centre Atlantic.


  1. Thanks for covering this.

    Of all the places in the city, this seems like one where the residents should understand that higher density is inevitable.

    Was there any mention of the “target market” for these condos? ie: are we going to see something more affordable in the 200-300k range, or will these be more 450k+ condos?

  2. I take a few issues with this post.

    I agree that it is important for people to be able to engage with the political process, but I wonder how that is made possible. Do public hearings and council meetings include childcare, for example? Many people are prevented from participating because of long work hours, shift work, and familial responsibilities. Rather than faulting people’s apathy, perhaps it would be good to look at what barriers exist to people’s participation.

    Also, while it might be good to have more people living downtown, more expensive condos aren’t going to help that. We are currently experiencing a affordable housing crisis. While downtown condos go up, people are living on the streets, or struggling to pay their monthly rent. Council should stop approving condos that don’t include low-income units. Mixed-income housing is important. We don’t need more condos downtown, we need more affordable housing.

  3. I was in class receiving the live tweets from the Coast. Thanks for attending Rachel.
    Seems like the ideal place to add density. Did they mention what kind of units they are proposing? I’m guessing they’ll be 1 or 2 bedroom units, with no chance of families ever moving in.

  4. These aren’t condos, Kaley, they are rental units.

    I am glad this project was approved. The more density on the peninsula, the better, and the concerns over this project were just the usual NIMBY stuff

  5. Kayley – agreed that there is an affordable housing crisis in Halifax. This, like I mentioned with parking, is a systemic issue in our municipality/province. We need to engage in conversation with our political representatives + staff about these issues. City development is a market-driven business .. where are the government incentives to provide affordable housing?

    We are also experiencing the crisis of a dying downtown. Halifax needs more people living and working on the peninsula. I think these rental units are a necessary step in reviving our downtown. With a higher tax base there is more money for government-led initiatives to provide affordable housing (and perhaps other programs that help people build skills + entpreneurialism) — if people are asking for them in a “let’s make this city better together” way.

    I do fault apathy. I do not think our government makes it easy enough for people to participate (using the example you cited – by providing childcare). However this is not going to change by commenting on a blog post. We rarley get more than we ask for – let’s ask for childcare during council meetings!

    Again, if there was an apparent demand for childcare, I betcha it would happen.

    Do you have any suggestions for affordable housing programs that might work in Halifax? I’d love to hear more!