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-   -   The Centre Plan (Urban Core Regional Plan) (https://skyscraperpage.com/forum//showthread.php?t=194226)

Dmajackson Sep 30, 2011 9:42 PM

The Centre Plan (Urban Core Regional Plan)
 
This is going to be huge if it goes through. :D

I am still reading the documents but I thought I should provide them to the forum. This is part of the Regional Plan Review and looking at the timeline after an extensive public consultation period this should be in place around 2013.

THIS WILL BECOME THE REGIONAL PLANNING STRATEGY FOR THE URBAN CORE (excluding Downtown Halifax)! ALL OF THE PENINSULA AND DARTMOUTH WITHIN THE CIRC!

Presentation

Staff Report

someone123 Sep 30, 2011 10:29 PM

Some of the statistics are interesting. They note that 16% of residential development from 2006-2011 happened in the regional core. That is low compared to the target 25% but not too bad. I believe that the city can hit 25% relatively easily with projects like King's Wharf.

Downtown office for 2008-2011 was at only 4%, which is terrible, but that number does not include areas like Bayers Road. It may also exclude buildings where the owner is the tenant. I think this period was a low point for the downtown but it may not improve much if the city continues to promote suburban office parks while downtown projects have to content with NIMBYs.

spaustin Oct 1, 2011 2:48 PM

Yeah the results for office for Downtown were dismisal. We do have the NSP project which is a bit of an odd one because it shows up in stats as a loss (i.e increased vacancy in Scotia Square) without the positive bump for new office construction because it's owner occupied. The only office I can think of in the Downtown that's happened is the reno of the Free Mason Hall on Barrington, Chadrawe's small project on Spring Garden and that neat building on Agricola. Nothing significant has happened. I really think we need to put aside the 1950s idea of a Central Business District. Office won't drive the Downtown. It just can't anymore, not with the business parks offering free parking, cheaper rents, lower taxes and all sorts of municipal subsidies in the form of infrastructure improvements. Fixing those issues will be tough as it requires significant political change. The simpler way for Downtown to complete, is to get more and more people living there. When the Downtown has more people, office will then be attracted back, particularly high-end office that caters to firms looking for younger employees who want to be Downtown because the Downtown is fun and offers the lifestyle they're looking for. It seems to have worked in Toronto.
http://www.thestar.com/business/arti...oving-downtown

fenwick16 Oct 1, 2011 2:55 PM

I hope that the HRMbyDesign Centre Plan won't be too conservative with regard to building height limits. I wouldn't expect it to specify tall buildings throughout the central core but I hope that clearly states that building heights can be exceeded with a development agreement granted through HRM Council consideration of worthy developments. I think that this is stated in the current downtown HRMbyDesign (in other wording) but it wasn't emphasized - is this correct, or is this an incorrect memory of mine?

fenwick16 Oct 1, 2011 3:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spaustin (Post 5429681)
Yeah the results for office for Downtown were dismisal. We do have the NSP project which is a bit of an odd one because it shows up in stats as a loss (i.e increased vacancy in Scotia Square) without the positive bump for new office construction because it's owner occupied. The only office I can think of in the Downtown that's happened is the reno of the Free Mason Hall on Barrington, Chadrawe's small project on Spring Garden and that neat building on Agricola. Nothing significant has happened. I really think we need to put aside the 1950s idea of a Central Business District. Office won't drive the Downtown. It just can't anymore, not with the business parks offering free parking, cheaper rents, lower taxes and all sorts of municipal subsidies in the form of infrastructure improvements. Fixing those issues will be tough as it requires significant political change. The simpler way for Downtown to complete, is to get more and more people living there. When the Downtown has more people, office will then be attracted back, particularly high-end office that caters to firms looking for younger employees who want to be Downtown because the Downtown is fun and offers the lifestyle they're looking for. It seems to have worked in Toronto.
http://www.thestar.com/business/arti...oving-downtown

I completely agree. Promoting residential development downtown should eventually lead to more office demand.

In any case, I see no reason for not extending office development throughout the Halifax/Dartmouth central core. Having a mix of office and residential development throughout the urban core will give people more options on where to live and work. I am in favour of increasing density throughout the urban core, but have more of a residential/commercial mix at the same time. A more balanced approach might also help to reduce the requirements for a third harbour crossing (together with expanded metro transit).

halifaxboyns Oct 1, 2011 5:36 PM

I had a chance to get to talk to some people I knew at HRM about this briefly; it sounds very interesting and I skimmed the report very quickly.

I share Fenwick's concern that this could go one of two ways for building height: either conservatively like HbD (which I hope doesn't happen) or it could push things a bit higher in strategic locations.

My hope is that with this - they will really look at transportation as a key asset to increasing the density in the core, not just of Halifax but the whole core. Streetcars, deployed as mechanisms to encourage densification and revitalization could be the key to building a more robust transit network. Imagine a streetcar running through Highfield Park to Burnside from the new Bridge Terminal, with much larger towering apartments there - feeding the streetcar. Or a streetcar running from NSIT through the north end (perhaps down Agricola) and into and back out of the core, with all the tallest buildings in the city in that area (because hey, if the HT says that's where tall buildings should go - who am I to disagree?).

This is a big project - we all should keep an eye on this and contribute not just to the discussion on here, but to the project in general.

Waye Mason Oct 1, 2011 6:40 PM

Peter Kelly mentioned some time ago, around the Waterside development, that there is a million square feet of commercial space approved and not being built. I don't think it is NIMBYism that is driving people out of the core. I think it is cost structure. The highest commercial property tax in Canada has to be a part of it.

someone123 Oct 1, 2011 6:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spaustin (Post 5429681)
I really think we need to put aside the 1950s idea of a Central Business District.

Definitely. Even if Halifax were to develop a great 1950s style CBD it would be a boring place. The low point for downtown Halifax was right after all the new 1980s office buildings went in.

Jstaleness Oct 2, 2011 1:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by someone123 (Post 5429893)
The low point for downtown Halifax was right after all the new 1980s office buildings went in.

I was just a kid during this time. Do you mean that office space was over-saturated? Or the way in which they were designed to allow employees to stay in that central area and ultimately taking away business from the rest of the core?

spaustin Oct 2, 2011 2:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jstaleness (Post 5430183)
I was just a kid during this time. Do you mean that office space was over-saturated? Or the way in which they were designed to allow employees to stay in that central area and ultimately taking away business from the rest of the core?

I'm primarily talking about the idea that Downtown is, at heart, an office destination that everyone commutes to from the suburbs on expressways. Obviously the idea of a Central Business District has changed over time from the 1950-1960s ideal, but the notion that towering office skyscrapers are what makes or breaks Downtown has never really gone away. Office skyscrapers are great, but they're no longer the main driver for Downtown development. We need residential infill as a prerequisite to any significant office development. Office development is only one piece of a successful Downtown and a piece that can't exist without the rest. In the era of cheap gas and suburban business parks, office now follows rather than leads Downtown development.

Luckily, we have excellent fundamentals to build on. Our Downtown has a good mix of interesting shops, bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, heritage/character and green space. This is true on both sides of the harbour actually, although admittedly rock-bottom in Downtown Dartmouth was a lot worse than in Halifax. Downtown is an attractive place where people want to live. We just need to provide the opportunity.

Empire Oct 2, 2011 12:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fenwick16 (Post 5429686)
I hope that the HRMbyDesign Centre Plan won't be too conservative with regard to building height limits. I wouldn't expect it to specify tall buildings throughout the central core but I hope that clearly states that building heights can be exceeded with a development agreement granted through HRM Council consideration of worthy developments. I think that this is stated in the current downtown HRMbyDesign (in other wording) but it wasn't emphasized - is this correct, or is this an incorrect memory of mine?


I would hope that HRMxD has learned from the Downtown Plan and make some adjustments for the Centre Plan strategy. Height limits were too restrictive in key areas like the Cogswell St. interchange. The Centre Plan calls for densification along transit routes but this will likey mean midrise at best in areas like Young St. and Windmill Rd.

Mid-rise is likely 10-12 storeys as shown in their document. This would be too restrictive in areas like Young/Kempt Rd. and all of Dartmouth within the Centre Plan. In order to get the plan passed there will be pressure to keep heights down. I think some key areas should be left out of the height equation and marked as future growth opportunity sectors. If a developer wants to build in these areas now then they would go through the existing process.

Jonovision Oct 2, 2011 1:33 PM

I wouldn't dismiss Dartmouth. I have a very strong feeling downtown Dartmouth will be a sea of cranes in a few years. I heard that the survey done by WDCL for their lot behind the Royal Bank got overwhelming support for the tallest of the massing concepts, which I believe was around 20 storeys. I believe once the view planes are corrected we will see a lot of development in the area.

MonctonRad Oct 2, 2011 1:52 PM

I agree with the comments about the 1980's feel of the downtown core. I lived in Halifax from 1979-89 and while the grouping of downtown skyscrapers was visually impressive, I always found Scotia Square and the banking cluster rather sterile and lifeless.

For the core to thrive, it has to feel alive. This means that people actually have to live in the area rather than commuting home to the suburbs after work. As residential infill occurs, shops and services will follow. I think that downtown Halifax (outside the central core) has made great strides in this regard in the last 10 years.

I agree with SPA that the concept of a central business district should be abandoned. Instead, business development should occur in a more distributed manner in other areas of the peninsula as well. This could be accompanied by residential and service developments in the adjacent neighbourhoods which would contribute to increased vibrancy throughout thr peninsula.

As an added benefit, more distributed growth might provide the pressure necessary to actually develop an LRT solution to peninsular public transit.

This could be a very important report when it is released....

fenwick16 Oct 2, 2011 2:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Empire (Post 5430472)
I would hope that HRMxD has learned from the Downtown Plan and make some adjustments for the Centre Plan strategy. Height limits were too restrictive in key areas like the Cogswell St. interchange. The Centre Plan calls for densification along transit routes but this will likey mean midrise at best in areas like Young St. and Windmill Rd.

The Cogswell area has post-bonus heights of ramparts maximum and currently there is very little space available to build highrises so I don't think that area is negatively affected.

I was thinking of south Barrington and Spring Garden Road areas. Also areas directly downtown could have allowed more height.

Empire Oct 2, 2011 2:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by fenwick16 (Post 5430539)
The Cogswell area has post-bonus heights of ramparts maximum and currently there is very little space available to build highrises so I don't think that area is negatively affected.

I was thinking of south Barrington and Spring Garden Road areas. Also areas directly downtown could have allowed more height.

I guess I was suggesting that the Cogswell heights should have been rampart maximum without the red tape of height bonusing.

halifaxboyns Oct 4, 2011 4:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Empire (Post 5430556)
I guess I was suggesting that the Cogswell heights should have been rampart maximum without the red tape of height bonusing.

Personally, I think the Cogswell Area should've been exempted from the rampart height rule and allowed to go up as tall as they wanted. The area isn't in a viewplane and it's blocked from view from the citadell by Scotia Square and it's towers. The only time you'd see them is if they did a Skye type development and went up to 45 stories - then you could see them. Oh we could only hope.

One of my hopes for the regional centre plan is that you would have a pre and post bonus height system for the entire core. You could exempt certain areas (mainly the low density residential areas) if it was felt that protection of this was important and then only offer the bonusing heights for lots along major corridors so that they could be like Spirit Place (as an example) and infill with more density. The Toronto Avenues Study really shows some promise for influencing how the Core Policy and LUB could work. I know a few planners are aware of the study, but haven't had a chance to look at it...my hope is that Spirit Place could be a shining example of what could be coming alone major corridors with primary transit in the next 20 years.

I see see huge potential for the communities of Albro Lake, Shannon Park, Highfield Park, Crichton Park, Brightwood Golf Course, Southdale and the industrial area around Mount Hope Drive for the Dartmouth side (in addition to downtown Dartmouth and around the Bridge Terminal) as being major infill communities on the Dartmouth Side (be it in the same height as Spirit Place) or even larger if good transportation is developed (LRT/Streetcar).

For the Halifax side, I will continue to advocate both Quinpool and Agricola as potential transit villages (with perhaps a streetcar or frequent bus service) but with the recent development proposal on Young, I see huge potential for that area around the Forum and I'm starting to change my tune about Kempt Road (with the towers proposed on Young). Of course, this is in addition to a potential plan for the Hydrostone. But I would also like to see some policy work done on the low density communities in the core to deal with the possibility of redevelopment to new single family homes. Inner city infilling is a day to day thing here in Calgary, but with the possibility of the ship building contract and potentially a huge influx of population associated with it - I suspect it's something that may take off in the near future. So I'd like to see how the plan deal with that issue as well.

My last major hope is that the plan/policy would have a definitive transportation map showing poential major transit corridors (existing and future) so that we have a guide to move forward. This way, if the city wanted to get back into streetcars or building an LRT - we know where the system could go, thus could begin the work to cost it out. Then we'd also know the areas where intensification for Transit Oriented Development would occur.

That also made me think about the universities - so here is my last comment. With the recent application by Dal, there needs to be some work done on potential growth of university residential uses around Dalhousie (mainly) but also with St. mary's too.

That is mainly my laundry list of what I hope the plan will deal with.

halifaxboyns Oct 4, 2011 10:36 PM

HRM Council approved the terms of reference for this project and funding.

haligonia Oct 4, 2011 10:48 PM

Deleted post.

halifaxboyns Oct 28, 2011 10:39 PM

I found the presentation to the HRM standing committee about this project.

What I find interesting (and is noted as DRAFT) is the urban character and structure map on page 24 of the presentation. If you look carefully, the draft concept has some interesting things to note:
  • The area around the forum and where the recent high density application has been designated an 'urban centre';
  • There appears to be some use of the Toronto Avenue's study ideas and many corridors area being suggested, such as Agricola, parts of Robie, Quinpool and Gottingen (I would note the residential behind Agricola appears to be preserved);
  • Robie (including the car lot) has been suggested as an 'urban corridor';
  • Connaught, Jubilee, the lower part of Quinpool, Windsor and Bayers Road appear to be designated 'neighbourhood corridor';
  • The Dartmouth Bridge Terminal Area and near by appears to be an 'urban centre'; and
  • Shannon Park is a Neighbourhood Corridor/Centre.

The presentation also notes that mid-rise forms would typically be in urban neighbourhood corridors, urban neighbourhood centres, urban corridors, urban centre and urban cores which high-rise forms would only occur in the urban centre/urban core designations. Keep in mind, this is only proposed.

someone123 Oct 28, 2011 11:45 PM

Hmm.. seems like there's not enough "urban neighbourhood" on the peninsula. Areas like Quinpool sidestreets are general neighbourhood which according to the chart does not even support townhouses. Actually some of those side streets have rowhouses (e.g. Jubilee) or apartment houses that are around 100 years old. It seems crazy to me to call this a regional centre and then declare that half of it is off-limits to anything more than detached houses.

The "approved development" lists are interesting and I have seen them before. They mention 3 downtown projects in the pre-approval stage that have not yet been announced. They also have the big list of Barrington heritage renovation projects. Unfortunately, I don't think much if any work has actually happened as a result of the Green Lantern, NFB, or Farquhar grants.

eastcoastal Oct 29, 2011 1:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by someone123 (Post 5460503)
Hmm.. seems like there's not enough "urban neighbourhood" on the peninsula. Areas like Quinpool sidestreets are general neighbourhood which according to the chart does not even support townhouses. Actually some of those side streets have rowhouses (e.g. Jubilee) or apartment houses that are around 100 years old. It seems crazy to me to call this a regional centre and then declare that half of it is off-limits to anything more than detached houses.

The document lists detached houses as the predominant form, with continuous (row) and stacked (probably 3-4 storeys) as possible types (page 26). I feel like the area around Quinpool works pretty well - just needing a "high street," I guess what this classifies as "Urban Corridor" as a point of focus. While I think Quinpool could use some love and attention, I don't think that we should be looking for higher development everywhere around it. There is plenty of room to increase density in the other areas of the peninsula and Dartmouth.

halifaxboyns Nov 9, 2011 7:24 PM

Has there been any progress on this plan in terms of public meetings scheduled or mechanisms to submit comments?

worldlyhaligonian Nov 9, 2011 8:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by someone123 (Post 5460503)
Hmm.. seems like there's not enough "urban neighbourhood" on the peninsula. Areas like Quinpool sidestreets are general neighbourhood which according to the chart does not even support townhouses. Actually some of those side streets have rowhouses (e.g. Jubilee) or apartment houses that are around 100 years old. It seems crazy to me to call this a regional centre and then declare that half of it is off-limits to anything more than detached houses.

The "approved development" lists are interesting and I have seen them before. They mention 3 downtown projects in the pre-approval stage that have not yet been announced. They also have the big list of Barrington heritage renovation projects. Unfortunately, I don't think much if any work has actually happened as a result of the Green Lantern, NFB, or Farquhar grants.

That's what they want... there is a fear of urbanity, even though its what makes cities cities.

This mentality that Halifax is somehow different/better because we don't have alot of development is actually one of the worst aspects of living here.

someone123 Nov 9, 2011 9:14 PM

A lot of people are confused in a pretty common way. They know what they like but they are not sure how to get it, so we get the classic misguided stuff like people asking for acres and acres of empty grass. This has all been exacerbated by the fact that a lot of developments we've gotten in recent decades have been awful, and a lot of planning practices have been wrong.

The way past this I think is a combination of education and credibility. If you have good past work you can say "trust us" when you are doing planning. Hopefully this will come as the city improves and there are more good example of modern buildings that people like.

beyeas Nov 17, 2011 4:53 PM

City’s red tape slowing vital mid-rise development
 
MARCUS GEE
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011 8:44PM EST
Last updated Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 12:07AM EST

Quote:

The thickets of condominium towers growing up in Toronto are changing the face of the city at an astonishing pace. Less remarked on, but potentially as important, is the proliferation of mid-rise buildings on the city’s main streets.

It has been the dream of city planners for at least two decades to build up the “avenues” – streets like Queen, Dundas, Bloor and Eglinton. Outside the downtown core, they have traditionally been lined with two- or three-storey buildings with shops on the ground floor and apartments or offices upstairs. That urban form has remained much the same for decades.

If developers could be persuaded to build up those avenues, replacing old buildings and empty lots with structures of five, six, 10 or 11 storeys, it would do wonders for the city. Toronto is expected to grow by 500,000 people over the next 20 years, reaching a population of more than three million. If the city is to remain livable, planners want as many as possible to live on or near key main streets, close to transit and community services.

...
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/...rticle2238946/

Jstaleness Nov 17, 2011 5:03 PM

Can't argue with that. Toronto can only sprawl for so long. Hopefully lessons being learned from Canada's bigger cities can help Halifax make the correct choices for our next growth period.

RyeJay Nov 18, 2011 4:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jstaleness (Post 5483861)
Can't argue with that. Toronto can only sprawl for so long. Hopefully lessons being learned from Canada's bigger cities can help Halifax make the correct choices for our next growth period.

Speaking of which, I recall urban planners from Toronto recently speaking at SMU (during late spring, I believe). Essentially, the advice they were trying to convey stressed the importance of urbanisation. Toronto's Greenbelt legislation is something, for example, we can examine.

The speakers warned that if Halifax stays on course with its sprawl, we could end up being another boring Buffalo, New York.

halifaxboyns Nov 24, 2011 9:48 PM

The regional plan 5 year review is looking for people on the community design advisory committee.
Find out here how to apply.

Jstaleness Nov 24, 2011 10:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RyeJay (Post 5484659)
The speakers warned that if Halifax stays on course with its sprawl, we could end up being another boring Buffalo, New York.

Uggghhhh!! Hey! We would have an NHL team though.

someone123 Nov 24, 2011 11:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RyeJay (Post 5484659)
The speakers warned that if Halifax stays on course with its sprawl, we could end up being another boring Buffalo, New York.

I would take that with an enormous grain of salt.

It's great to have people from other places come to Halifax and talk about their experiences. Sometimes, however, these people make pronouncements about Halifax without knowing much about the local context. Planners are also particularly bad for presenting "soft" arguments without a lot of facts to back them up.

Halifax isn't completely unique by any stretch but it also doesn't have much in common with Rust Belt cities like Buffalo. The biggest problem in Buffalo and the US Rust Belt is deindustrialization, not suburban sprawl. The most important part of the economy picked up and moved elsewhere. Halifax was barely affected by this trend because it has almost zero manufacturing. It seems like a big stretch to think that continuing the status quo in Halifax will produce the same results, particularly when the urban population is still growing substantially...

RyeJay Nov 25, 2011 12:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by someone123 (Post 5492333)
I would take that with an enormous grain of salt.

It's great to have people from other places come to Halifax and talk about their experiences. Sometimes, however, these people make pronouncements about Halifax without knowing much about the local context. Planners are also particularly bad for presenting "soft" arguments without a lot of facts to back them up.

Halifax isn't completely unique by any stretch but it also doesn't have much in common with Rust Belt cities like Buffalo. The biggest problem in Buffalo and the US Rust Belt is deindustrialization, not suburban sprawl. The most important part of the economy picked up and moved elsewhere. Halifax was barely affected by this trend because it has almost zero manufacturing. It seems like a big stretch to think that continuing the status quo in Halifax will produce the same results, particularly when the urban population is still growing substantially...


I don't know if Buffalo was chosen as a comparison to Halifax for industrial measure. The comparison, as far as I know, was only along the lines of city planning--and how neither Halifax nor Buffalo puts amazing effort into long term goals. Both cities do have an overwhelming suburbia. Until recently, Halifax seemed on course for continued urban neglect.

But yes, the cities are supported by different economies.

someone123 Nov 25, 2011 12:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RyeJay (Post 5492376)
The comparison, as far as I know, was only along the lines of city planning--and how neither Halifax nor Buffalo puts amazing effort into long term goals. Both cities do have an overwhelming suburbia.

To put things into perspective, I've read articles claiming that the vacancy rate for houses in Buffalo is around 25%. In 1950 it had 580,000 people and today it has around 260,000 people.

Maybe better planning might have saved Buffalo but it seems like a long shot, particularly when there are so many attractive US cities and Americans move around so readily.

RyeJay Nov 25, 2011 2:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by someone123 (Post 5492392)
To put things into perspective, I've read articles claiming that the vacancy rate for houses in Buffalo is around 25%. In 1950 it had 580,000 people and today it has around 260,000 people.

Maybe better planning might have saved Buffalo but it seems like a long shot, particularly when there are so many attractive US cities and Americans move around so readily.

Throw a link at me so I may read these articles, if you have them handy.
And I'm not sure what you're meaning by attractive US cities. They've maintained a decent number of tourist valued areas. Government buildings are usually well kept. Even though I've only seen half a dozen American cities in person, I've read about many more. Their cities are falling apart, while too much money from their municipal and state budgets goes toward rural and suburban infrastructural maintenance.

A majority of Americans don't live in a city, yet work there. So yes, many Americans have long commutes. Americans move around even more readily, thanks to foreclosure.

I may try to find a transcript to the SMU presentation I mentioned. I didn't know a Halifax-Buffalo comparison would spawn this, lol...

fenwick16 Nov 25, 2011 4:53 AM

The Buffalo metro area has been around 1 million for a few decades. The decline in the city-proper population has been offset by an increase in suburban areas. So yes it does have urban sprawl, however, even the US-side of Niagara Falls is considered to be part of its metropolitan area (20 minutes to the north).

Buffalo has both an NFL & NHL team (they also had an NBA team back in the 1970's and also tried to lure the MLB Montreal Expos to the city in the 1990's). The reason it can support both the NHL and NFL is because of its metropolitan population and its location next to the Canadian border. The NHL team (Buffalo Sabres) draws a significant number of fans from St. Catharines to Hamilton. The NFL team (Buffalo Bills) draws a significant number of fans all the way from Toronto to St Catherines.

someone123 Nov 25, 2011 6:01 AM

Here's a NYT article on Buffalo: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/13/ny...pagewanted=all

This one says 23 percent of housing units are estimated vacant (there are a number of ways to do this -- for example, the USPS keeps track of the 18,000 or so houses there where nobody picks up mail anymore): http://www.buffalonews.com/city/spec...icle107563.ece

Things have gotten worse in the US lately but Buffalo and the Rust Belt were in bad economic shape even before the downturn. Lots of people moved to sunbelt areas which were sprawlier but also more economically successful (though perhaps unsustainable).

I've personally been to Buffalo and Detroit. They're very interesting cities but they don't resemble Halifax much. They're almost as different as it gets, since they were big centres of industry when Halifax was a small government/university/shipping town.

I don't know exactly what this person said in the talk. I just pointed this out because sometimes there are weirdly inapt comparisons between Halifax and other cities. It's usually worth looking at them critically.

-Harlington- Dec 10, 2011 6:15 PM

Supply and demand in HRM
December 10, 2011 - 4:37am By HOWARD EPSTEIN


Motorists battle their way through rush-hour traffic on Bayers Road. Halifax Chebucto MLA Howard Epstein argues increasing vehicle access to HRM’s Regional Centre would only encourage more urban sprawl. (ERIC WYNNE / Staff)

The marketplace principles of supply and demand can offer a useful way forward for Halifax Regional Municipality as it re-examines its 2006 regional plan.

That plan is a context for land-use decisions to be made by HRM council. It sets out a vision for the next 25 years of development. By its own terms, some review is necessary every five years. That process is now underway, with a target date for completion of September 2012.

HRM staff have suggested to council that only minor tinkering is needed. But there are some serious problems with the plan. Most problematic, it is written in a way that is ambiguous, and thus it allows decisions to be made that are inconsistent with what appear to be the main policies. Another way to think of this is that priorities are not clear enough in the plan.

The main inconsistency is between the policy of a more compact urban form, and the need to accommodate population migration to HRM.

The policy of a more compact urban form means, quite explicitly in the plan, more of the population living on the Halifax peninsula and in Dartmouth inside the Circumferential Highway, the area known overall as the Regional Centre.

The plan sets targets. It says that 25 per cent of the growth should be in the Regional Centre. Probably those numbers should be increased, but even without changes, current statistics show that the 2006 target has not nearly been met.

Most of the growth has been in the suburban areas, much more than the plan contemplates. This has happened because the 2006 plan did not make it explicit that the curtailing of sprawl should take precedence over allowing land development outside the Regional Centre.

This is what has to be changed in the plan review. Supply and demand can do it.

First, increase the supply of housing, especially family housing, in the Regional Centre. This should be done by allowing basement and attic apartments in the existing residential neighbourhoods and extensions at the rear of these houses. This can all be done without changing the height restrictions, so residential neighbourhoods still have their traditional look and feel.

Much of the employment is in the Regional Centre, along with other attractions such as hospitals, universities and government offices. Much can be done to lessen the transportation problems if people can live closer to where they want to go.

Second, restrict the supply of housing outside the Regional Centre. This means not allowing more big subdivisions or apartment buildings there until the population targets for the Regional Centre are being met. The sequencing of development is a standard land-use planning tool.

Third, increase the supply of employment nodes in the existing suburbs. Many already exist, but more are needed. This is necessary to reduce the demand for wider roads to take more cars into the Regional Centre.

This does not mean abandoning efforts to develop the central business district (CBD). But hard choices have to be made as to what the CBD is meant to be, as compared with the business parks, the shopping centres and the strip malls that council has allowed to proliferate.

Fourth, increase the supply of allowable home-based businesses. With electronic communication, many more people can work from their homes. Zoning rules should accommodate a lot of that.

Fifth, do not increase the supply of transportation corridors to the Regional Centre. That would only serve to increase the demand to create sprawl, which the original 2006 plan saw — correctly — as very undesirable.

What I have in mind is not to allow the private marketplace on its own to decide what HRM will look like. Unfortunately, that is essentially what the 2006 plan has allowed.

Council seems to have overlooked that it has a major role to play in guiding the private marketplace. It can do this, while not micro-managing, by taking seriously its job as overall steward of land use, and by keeping in mind the tools of supply and demand.

Howard Epstein is MLA for Halifax Chebucto, and a former member of Halifax city council and Halifax regional council.

q12 Dec 10, 2011 6:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by -Harlington- (Post 5511748)
Supply and demand in HRM
December 10, 2011 - 4:37am By HOWARD EPSTEIN

First, increase the supply of housing, especially family housing, in the Regional Centre. This should be done by allowing basement and attic apartments in the existing residential neighbourhoods and extensions at the rear of these houses. This can all be done without changing the height restrictions, so residential neighbourhoods still have their traditional look and feel.

What a wingnut. :koko:

Yeah this is the best way to increase the population and density on the pennisula. Let's move people into basements and attics. God forbid the private sector put people to work building high rise condos and apartments.

These commies need to head back to the motherland.

someone123 Dec 10, 2011 7:50 PM

So it looks like Epstein knows just enough about economics to be dangerous, as the saying goes. I wonder if he would be interested in moving his family into a basement.

Basement and attic apartments are not "family housing". They're mostly sought after by students, and South End NIMBYs already fight against adding units to existing properties. There might be some gains from these apartments or laneway houses in certain areas but they would not make much difference and they are definitely not going to stand in for thousands of new apartments constructed over the years in the suburbs.

Basically this article seems like a half-baked attempt to sell a self-serving agenda with little in the way of fact to back it up.

Hali87 Dec 10, 2011 8:45 PM

Well, his comment about basement and attic apartments makes some sense - maybe not for families but certainly for students and others who want to live with 2 or 3 roommates. Consider the area between Coburg and Chebucto - many "single family houses" have been converted to flats, so many houses have as many as 10 residents instead of 4 or 5. This is a much more efficient use of space and probably more acceptable than razing half of the 1900-era houses and replacing them with actual apartments or condos. I agree that larger residential structures will have to be built elsewhere, but since this area in particular is supposed to stay lowrise, subdividing individual houses would probably be the simplest way to increase density.

Keith P. Dec 11, 2011 1:08 AM

Der Kommissar has decreed it! Ve must all moof into bazements and attix to serve der fatherland!! Next ve must all take up pix and shuvels and dig up ze evil Bayerz Road to save der core from ze evil suburbanitz!!! :koko::koko::koko:

rkannegi Dec 11, 2011 2:41 AM

Not wanting to widen any roads. Its nuts how some officials here think that there's no limit to how many people they can cram into a square kilometre of land. After a certain point, expansion has to be allowed, but not like what you get down in Florida (sprawl madness).

For instance, why in hell can't they just add bus lanes to Bayers Road and implement BRT along the 102, i.e. Route 182, similar to the BRT along Ottawa Road 174:

Here's a Google Streetview Image of what I'm talking about:

http://maps.google.ca/?ll=45.456829,...,243.1,,1,5.12

At least they could get this done on Bayers Road east of the 102 viaduct in the short term and then extend it once a widened viaduct is built, while, having the Northwest Arm Drive Interchange (exit 1) converted to a roundabout diamond (Larry Uteck style) interchange and ram right-side bus/HOV lanes all the way up to Exit 4 in Bedford. Take a look at how the lanes are passed across the interchanges of Ottawa Road 174 (that design can be modified to also have the bus/HOV lane proceed straight across the overpasses with it briefly being an auxiliary lane in close proximity to the interchange merge and exit lanes.

About the HSC junction, I did recently send in a signal phasing plan to HRM that would theoretically allow the new bus lanes to be run right through the existing area (left turn lanes would become shared left/through lanes), with it's timings being similar to the Chain Lake/102 interchange and Burnside/111 interchange.

The mindless political rangling in HRM is a recipe for economic suicide, even with the shipbuilding contract.

halifaxboyns Feb 25, 2012 5:28 AM

Not sure if anyone noticed this on the upcoming Regional Council agenda but they are pushing back RP+5 and moving up work on the Regional Centre Plan.
Here is the report.

halifaxboyns Feb 27, 2012 6:51 PM

HRM's website has been updated to call the Regional Centre Plan "Plan HRM". It seems like everyone is using a similar title, since Saint John called their's "Plan SJ" and we called our City Plan "Plan It Calgary".

Still, there is a new link and there is a kick off event on March 1. It looks like they also have a twitter and facebook page.

halifaxboyns Feb 28, 2012 6:34 PM

Council has begun discussing this report.

halifaxboyns Feb 28, 2012 6:46 PM

Some good discussion - some concerns about the level of public engagement and concerns about the community visioning areas that are on going - but this will proceed.

halifaxboyns Feb 28, 2012 8:46 PM

Public Engagement dates:
March 19, 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

St. Margaret's Centre - Rooms 1 & 2, 12 Westwood Blvd, Upper Tantallon


March 21, 6:30 - 9:00 pm

Atlantica Hotel - Guild Hall, 1980 Robie Street, Halifax


March 22, 7:00 - 9:30 pm

Millwood High School - Cafeteria, 141 Millwood Drive, Lower Sackville


March 26, 7:00 - 9:30 pm*

Oyster Pond Academy - Cafeteria, 10583 Hwy#7, Oyster Pond

March 28, 7:00 - 9:30 pm

Black Cultural Centre, 10 Cherry Brook Road, Cherry Brook

March 29, 6:30 - 9:00 pm*

Holiday Inn Harbourview - Harbourview Terrace, 110 Wyse Rd, Dartmouth

April 2, 6;30 - 9:00 pm*

Mount Saint Vincent University - Rosaria Student Centre, 2 Oceanview Dr., Bedford Highway

* is a date which will provide live streaming.

halifaxboyns Mar 2, 2012 6:38 PM

Anyone make it to the kick off event?
Their facebook page mentioned that there were 200+ people there.

Hali87 Mar 2, 2012 9:41 PM

I was there. The main speaker was one of the architect/planners who worked on Toronto's Avenues plan, and discussed that plan in detail and how those principles could be applied here. The concepts were pretty well received, I would guess in large part because it allows the city to densify significantly without building anything over 12 floors.

The public seemed polarized over heights as always, and sadly, there were several speakers who got up and said "Is anyone thinking of the Citadel? That is why tourists come here. We shouldn't have tall buildings. We shouldn't try to be like Toronto". Etc. At the same time, others commented that the viewplanes and ramparts bylaw should at least be revisited, that we should be focusing MORE than 25% of growth in the core (what happens when gas is $5/L?) and what I thought may turn out to be the most important comment, is someone said "we throw around the word heritage all the time, but we never define it. We need to decide what we're actually talking about when we talk about heritage." Truth.

I asked the panel whether they thought HRM by Design should be revisited. I said that the YMCA controversy demonstrates that the height limits do not make economic sense and that even the developers who genuinely want to give back to the community can't afford to with the rules the way they are, simply because they cannot produce enough square footage with the current height limits. So recognizing this, should we revisit the height limits, taking into account the levels of density required for development to be viable, or should we leave them the way they are for the sake of clarity? The session was running late and there was only time for a response from one panel member, and she said no we shouldn't look at changing them. They don't have to break the rules just to break even; there's cheaper ways to build. :shrug:

However, it caused a bit of a buzz in the room and I'd be surprised if this doesn't come up in the next series of meetings. All in all I'm pretty optimistic about the process. There are certainly more than a couple STV representatives but I think if there is an appeal to reason, as there was with the Dartmouth Cove sessions, that the plan might not have the traditional no heights at all costs dogma. I certainly plan to, and I've been writing down my thoughts and trying to put things more eloquently (this post is not a good example as I'm very sleep deprived right now). I should mention that I'm not the type who just wants to see more tall buildings, I really just want to see more density. However, I don't think height should be the starting point for what is and is not allowed. And I think the ramparts bylaw is not the right approach - it looks great on paper and in theory, but it's absolutely a case of the city putting tourists before its own citizens, and thinking it knows what those tourists want, when really half the tourists who come here don't even know there's a fort.

someone123 Mar 2, 2012 10:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hali87 (Post 5613097)
The session was running late and there was only time for a response from one panel member, and she said no we shouldn't look at changing them. They don't have to break the rules just to break even; there's cheaper ways to build. :shrug:

There may or may not be cheaper ways to build, but the fact is that given the current rules enough developers are choosing to build in the suburbs that the city is missing its own densification targets. The planning rules are failing to produce the desired result, therefore something is wrong with them. It doesn't matter what the panelists think developers should be doing.

Who was the panelist? Bev Miller or something?

I believe that a lot of the planning in Halifax is lazy in that it puts off tough decisions to be dealt with later by HRM regional council and the NSUARB. It is very easy to pass a plan full of height restrictions but we must pay the price down the line. The job should be done properly the first time.

I agree completely about "heritage" and I've complained about sloppy use of the term in the past. Originally "heritage preservation" meant keeping old buildings around instead of demolishing them. That definition has slowly crept outward to include preserving the environment around heritage buildings and to include preserving views. The city needs to take a hard look at what these are actually worth. Halifax's best heritage buildings are worth a lot but preserving a full view of the sky from within the Citadel courtyard is worth considerably less. There's a reason why anti-development folks want this all to be sacrosanct; it doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

halifaxboyns Mar 2, 2012 10:48 PM

I'm posting this here since Someone123 talks about the cost of development and the relationship to height. I'm not sure if anyone went exploring around the website for the Gottingen Redevelopment that someone123 posted renderings for, but I found this article through that website. Very interesting.


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