Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Halifax Common - Future Planning for Preservation - and - Say No Making the Skating Oval Permanent Winter 2011


Petition - No To Permanent Skating Oval on North Common
I think it is very important to preserve what is left of the Halifax North Common. The Common is a treasure of open space right in the downtown area of Halifax. It is part of the last vestiges of a land grant given to the city in 1763 by King George III and it originally encompassed all the lands from  Cunard Street in the north, South Street in the south, Robie Street to the west and North Park/Ahern/Bell Road/South Park Streets to the east. See image 1. 
Map of Halifax Commons linked to Point Pleasant Park by Tower Road/ image by Nova Tayonaimage 1
Today the Common is largely comprised of public buildings, public streets and public parks. In 1942, the restrictive lines were erased, resulting in the construction of Queen Elizabeth High School, which has been rebuilt at the cost of additional Common lands, the Vocational School , CBC Studios, hospitals, city streets, etc. The remaining open lands in the north (43 acres) are what is left of the Common as open undeveloped space. The area has been used for a variety of activities, mostly as passive areas and as well used recreation area for organized and spontaneous events. All temporary in nature. Interestingly, the Armouries was built just off the Common in 1899, and while not part of the Common, could have some future potential as a site for use in relation to Common evolution if developed as a wonderful heritage site with modern application/usage.

The Common space at this time is very well developed, and barely half of the Common remains as public open space and that is found mostly in the north and central Common. The other spaces are developed for specific activities as found at the old Wanderers Grounds, the Public Gardens, and Victoria Park, Camp Hill Cemetery site and public streets. See image 2.
image 2
With amalgamation in 1996, the Halifax City Charter was abolished and regional council of the Halifax Regional Municipality became the steward for the Halifax Common, along with all other municipal lands.

As things stand, there is not a lot of the original open space left of the original land grant. I don't think most people understand that the current proposal to make the skating oval a permanent fixture on the Common would eat up so much of the remaining Common lands. The map below shows the placement of the oval on the common. This in addition to the development of concert area, constitutes a serious erosion of the remaining North Common space. See image 3. 
image 3


For more information on the proposed development plan for the North Common, please read the HRM Proposed Conceptual Plan for the North Common.

I suggest that it would appropriate at this time to designate the land as heritage site and form a conservancy to manage the area appropriately as both a resource and as a valuable heritage and gift of open space to residents and visitors alike.  The current Proposed Conceptual Plan for the North Common is not a visionary document but rather appears to be a document that is driven by the desire to generate income while placating interested parties, so that it appears to me in reading the document, an inherent conflict of interest regarding the vision and care of the North Common lands.

We need to see the following elements with respect to care and development of the North Common:
  1. Legal Status of the Lands
  2. Land Use Agreement
  3. Land Use Decision Support Models
  4. Land Use Policy
  5. Land Use Consumption Study
  6. Agreement on Community Involvement
  7. Regional and Economic Analysis
  8. Business Case for Conservancy vs Municipal Management
  9. Inventory of buildings on all Common lands
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Wordle: Preserve the Common