[Sust-mar] Media Release: Friends of the Halifax Common

Christopher Majka c.majka at ns.sympatico.ca
Mon Jun 9 12:30:01 EDT 2008

Media Release: Friends of the Halifax Common

Wake up to the value of Public Green Space


(Halifax, NS): Friends of Halifax Common (FHC) are calling on Mayor  
Peter Kelly and HRM counselors to stand up for public open green  
space. One year after the group formed to actively campaign to  
reclaim, preserve and protect the Halifax Common as provided for in  
the 1994 Halifax Common Plan, they believe the situation has only  
deteriorated for the public area bounded by Cunard, South, Robie, and  
North and South Park streets.

Of particular concern to the FHC this week are two pubic meetings on  
two new building proposals where important decisions impacting the  
Halifax Common will be made.

“At 19 stories, the proposed Fares Tower on South Park is 4.5 times  
the allowable height- instead of three street level houses, there’ll  
be a building casting shadows and creating winds on Victoria Park and  
the Public Garden,” FHC member Sheilagh Hunt, explains, “And yet  
because the tower is near those same green spaces, instead of  
insisting the landscaping be complimentary to the existing streetscape  
as both the Halifax Common Plan or common sense would suggest, HRM is  
willing to excuse the developer from meeting the landscaped open space  
requirement so they can build right up to the side walk without adding  
a single blade of grass.”

“With respect to Dalhousie’s Brain Repair Centre, the FHC believe any  
portion of the old Grace Maternity site not used for building has to  
be landscaped to reflect the fact that it’s Halifax Common land,” said  
Ms. Hunt, “The city needs to be creating more green space, not less,  
and certainly not paid-parking lots.”

  At its core, the 1994 Plan commits HRM to retain the amount of  
public open space in the Halifax Common; to retain the amount of land  
owned by the city; and to seek to increase the amount of land under  
city ownership through recapture of Common lands. Despite clear  
recommendations as to how this is to be accomplished HRM has not  
reversed the erosion of the Common; one-third of its original 235  
acres remains.

“It’s mysterious to me how in HRM’s apparent desire to become world  
class, it continues to ignore the revival of the peninsula’s core  
green space,” said Beverly Miller, co-founder and co-chair of FHC.  
“Broadly based public consultation created a clear, long-term vision  
in the 1994 Plan but instead of taking that lead, the city is turning  
what could be a masterpiece of landscape architecture into parking  
lots and buildings, framed in concrete.”

Examples of Common land abuse include: converting the former Grace  
Maternity Hospital to a Dalhousie pay-parking lot in 1996; building  
the IWK pay-parking garage on the former Civic Hospital site; turning  
the former School for the Blind into a VG pay-parking lot; and most  
recently giving part of the Queen Elizabeth High School to Capital  
Health for the new Infirmary Emergency building.

"Halifax is renowned for its beauty and unique lifestyle, but instead  
of strengthening and enriching cultural, social or environmental  
assets like the Halifax Common, our elected officials have ignored the  
Friend’s effort to have the decades of decline and neglect reversed,"  
said Peggy Cameron, co-chair, Friends of Halifax Common.

The FHC co-founder recently visited New York and observed that an  
urban environmental consciousness was evident everywhere. “All over  
Manhattan there’s either a revitalization of existing public green  
space, like in Central Park, or a major increase in public green space  
like at Battery Park. Halifax is easily twenty years behind on  
creating safe, beautiful and inviting public spaces for community-this  
year’s budget doesn’t have a dime for trees,” concludes Cameron.

Tuesday night’s City Council meeting (6:00 PM) will look at the  
proposed 19 story Fares Tower on South Park and thursday night’s  
Dalhousie University meeting on the Brain Repair Centre, sited on  
Halifax Common land.

The Regional Plan wants 15,000-20,000 more residents on the peninsula  
by 2025 without any plan for additional open space.

The three volume 1994 Halifax Common Plan is available at: www.Halifax.ca/real_property/HalifaxCommon 

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For more information contact:
Beverly Miller, FHC Co-chair and Executive: 902-429-9540
Peggy Cameron, FHC Co-chair and Executive: 902-258-3354

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