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reddog794 Jun 9, 2008 5:54 AM

I like that. It's a grounded approach for an area that is well... how can I say this, progressivebuildingdesign-shy. I feel this kind of new-old integration in our downtown can only help ease the 60s'-70's highrise fear Halifax has, mostly due to boring concrete, and brutalism, commieblocks and all.

Someone123, I've been thinking alot about that hurdle, and the solution to those kind of people, is to plant more trees on the streets, to shrink the street scape to 2-3 stories. I remember walking around Philly just before it's heritage district, and felt the buildings were smaller, realistically most were 8-9 stories, but you didn't see the upper 6 stories. You simply felt the first 2 or 3. More trees to please the heritage nuts, while building on top of our historical foundation, for a dynamic city.

Preachy I know, but that is what, this sort of development does to me. I am seriously inspired with this approach, even though I've seen it in a dozen places before.... this is my home!

someone123 Jun 9, 2008 6:23 AM

The only problem with that approach is that many people are opposed to these buildings on (often vague) philosophical grounds. There are many variants but the common themes are that either anything new is bad, or developers and wealth creation in general are evil. Trees don't matter to people holding these positions.

The fundamental problem is that subjective, visceral opinion held by people who cannot articulate real arguments should simply not be used to guide the development process, regardless of how much time they have available to sit on committees. Three or four disgruntled people should not be setting the tone for the evolution of the downtown core of a metropolitan area with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

NorthYorker Jun 9, 2008 3:53 PM

I had never heard of this before, and I think it will work perfectly for the space

Takeo Jun 9, 2008 4:21 PM

I like the tree idea... but of course... there is no room for trees on Halifax streets. Way too narrow.

Spitfire75 Jun 9, 2008 6:57 PM


Originally Posted by someone123 (Post 3601746)
Three or four disgruntled people should not be setting the tone for the evolution of the downtown core of a metropolitan area with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

You nailed it.
I would think the Heritage committee's role should be looking after heritage buildings, not fighting new developments.

reddog794 Jun 10, 2008 3:27 AM

That is their mandate, they simply think that it encompasses the whole friggin city, the idea of removing the heritage committee makes only beautiful sense, and leave the trust (now this is way out there) to a banker.

On the topic of narrow streets, that's because we're thinking like we're in cars, the trees would be for the people walking, enjoying the heritage preserved (not faux-fashion) street fronts, while business people worked above the trees in dynamic designed, and ecologically friendly skyscrapers, built out of the preserved buildings.

We need to shake the out-dated idea of building a city everybody can drive around, and to. People have been using roads hell-a longer than the automobile, so why give up our historical rights to have our cities designed for us?

Takeo Jun 10, 2008 10:39 AM


Originally Posted by reddog794 (Post 3603561)
On the topic of narrow streets, that's because we're thinking like we're in cars, the trees would be for the people walking, enjoying the heritage preserved (not faux-fashion) street fronts...

Ummm... no... it's because we have narrow streets. Or rather... I should have said... narrow sidewalks. As for thinking like we're in cars... I have a car and live in the north end... but I walk 45 min. to and from downtown everyday. Don't get me wrong... it's a great idea. Not just because it brings the eye down... which is a very interesting point and something I hadn't thought of... but because... well... they're trees! Who doesn't like trees?!

reddog794 Jun 10, 2008 12:38 PM

I apologize, I shouldn't have been as vague with that statement. But Takeo, maybe you just hit the nail on the head, our sidewalks. So why not close certain streets DT off from cars? Allow buses down them still, but make downtown a pedestrian, biking, in-line skating, skateboarding, scooter, segway, pogo-stick, what-have-you, haven. Businesses look for those kinds of ideas, because it shows long term thinking being implemented. People move to cities with that kind of infrastructure, because it shows the city cares about the finances, and health of it's citizens.

This development looks like it would thrive in a pedestrian focused DT. I only hope more developers take a page from Armour group, when it comes to historical integration.

hfx_chris Jun 10, 2008 12:51 PM

I'm not quite sure how you would propose to have two-way transit use on a pedestrian street... that would be a nightmare to manage who has right-of-way.

Personally I'm not a fan of closing too many streets downtown. Granville could be completed from the north end to the south end as a pedestrian street, but I wouldn't do much more than that. All they need to do are remove the on-street parking from the major north-south streets like Barrington and Hollis, and emphasize parking on the lesser-used east-west streets. That could in theory allow them to narrow the streets so there's more room for sidewalks and in turn trees (or benches, or whatever)

reddog794 Jun 10, 2008 1:10 PM

I like that idea just as much. Anything to get more people on the street, because that's what gives a city it's vibe.

You could make them one way, and use the ped street, on two N-S streets, with maybe a third going E-W, allowing for two (maybe three) mass/healthy transit, corridors in the DT.

sdm Jul 4, 2008 11:46 AM

Downtown tower gets a no
Heritage committee rejects proposal
By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter
Fri. Jul 4 - 4:32 AM

A new proposal from the developer of Halifax’s award-winning Founders Square complex was rejected Thursday at city hall’s heritage advisory committee meeting.

A 4-4 vote from the advisory body to regional council resulted in a lost recommendation for Ben McCrea’s proposed Waterside Centre development.

The next step for the project is consideration by the downtown planning advisory committee, which meets next week.

The Waterside Centre proposal, by architect Andy Lynch, would connect existing buildings where Duke Street meets Hollis and Upper Water streets, save their historic facades and put a six-storey glass office tower above them.

Restaurants such as O’Carroll’s and Subway could go back into their current locations but with upgraded walls, wiring and footings. O’Carroll’s is sitting on 80-year-old pilings that are not going to last much longer, the heritage advisory committee heard last week.

Mr. McCrea attended Thursday’s meeting at city hall and took notes throughout. Several committee members lauded him for his work on Founders Square, a mid-1980s development that used a similar concept of uniting heritage buildings and erecting a 15-storey stepped-back tower above them.

But a few committee members said they were unable to get past the redesign of the buildings’ interiors in the Waterside Centre proposal.

"The buildings are heritage for a reason," Lisa Miller said. "It’s like Disney World: It looks great on the outside, but it’s all different on the inside."

Others were hung up on the style of windows chosen for a building slated to replace the wooden structure that now houses Sweet Basil restaurant. In fact, so much of the debate centred on the design and size of windows that one member tried to refocus the group.

"There is an elephant in the room here, and that is the giant glass tower on top," Michael Cross said. "It’s going to overwhelm these heritage buildings, and maybe that’s fine but I don’t think it’s what the policy states."

Coun. Bob Harvey (Lower Sackville) disagreed. He said he walked down to Hollis Street recently to look at Founders Square and was surprised to see the high office tower above the heritage streetscape.

"It didn’t destroy my view of the street level where I normally look," he said.

City planning staff have approved the Waterside Centre development and say the new office tower wouldn’t change the heritage structures below.

"The heritage values are the facades themselves," planner Luc Ouellet told the committee, noting that the heritage aspect would remain as long as the street-level view was maintained.

A committee member disagreed.

"Is heritage value an esthetic value or something more holistic in nature?" Cathy Thibault asked. "In my view, it’s more than the street-level experience."

The committee first voted 6-4 to reject the proposal, then voted 4-4 after two members left and window alterations were suggested.

After the meeting, Mr. McCrea shrugged at the result.

"We’re doing the best we can to avoid having boarded-up buildings or a parking lot," he said outside city hall.

"We have a problem down there . . . with four buildings there that are structurally and financially obsolescent. They’re completely unusable in their present form and I’m faced with the challenge of trying to find some way of dealing with it, to modernize it, to make it part of an urban core and have it economically sustainable over time."

Mr. McCrea said his company has been working on the Waterfront Centre proposal for two years.

"And that proposal is about the best that we’ve been able to do, given that there’s roughly $1.5 million of costs to do the restoration.

"We’re just trying to bring our heritage past into a modern, urban core with sustainable economic development."


Takeo Jul 4, 2008 1:35 PM

I'm not a huge fan of that design... but you know... reality is a b*tch. You have budgets to deal with, heritage you're trying to save, buildings that are obsolete, a requirement for modern offices... etc. There are a lot of things to factor in and you can't please everyone.

spaustin Jul 4, 2008 3:52 PM

I would suggest that this wasn't a defeat. This is just an advisory committee and the fact that they split 4-4 means they've effectively nullified their recommendation.

someone123 Jul 4, 2008 7:37 PM

Well the HAC is mostly basically a special interest type group full of people who want to see heritage buildings stay around.

I can see wanting to preserve interiors in some cases, especially in large and/or public buildings, but it is a fairly unrealistic goal in general. It also raises some ethical questions as the public has no right to see anything but a the exterior facade of a private building. I'd rather see more preservation of full heritage buildings but the city has totally dropped the ball so this seems to be the best alternative that we are left with. It's not so bad if they're keeping the ground floor commercial spaces - the overall feel of the area will remain very similar.

Anyway, I expect to see this approved by council, which is what matters, and then appealed (unsuccessfully) to the URB.

keninhalifax Jul 8, 2008 5:16 PM

I am myself split over this proposal. I agree that the renderings depict a design that is contemporary, yet ensures that the historic facades of the existing buildings remain prominent. I am also optimistic that the construction will ensure that these heritage properties remain in upkeep and use for generations to come. The proposal seems to show that the addition uses glass in the 'proper' way -- i.e., the material does not seem invasive but rather stands lightly and reflects its surroundings.

However, I agree with HAC in that heritage buildings as whole (not just the facades) must be considered in the redeveopment of an historic parcel. I cannot think of any retailing, office, or other commercial uses that cannot be retrofitted into building spaces from a hundred years ago. The issue in cases like this is often that the developer does not perceive a benefit to spending more money to fix up older buildings over tearing the internal structures down and building anew. Experience has shown, however, that restored heritage buildings offer tremendous real estate advantages.

Let's wait and see if the developer revises the proposal.

terrynorthend Jul 8, 2008 8:37 PM

I was walking across that little pedestrian bridge that leads to the law courts today. I've changed my mind about this particular development. There are some very cool rooflines, not just on those buildings, but on the row in behind and they juxtapose very nicely with the towers already there..and presumably against the new International Place too. It would be a shame to lose this.. check out that vantage if you get a chance..

hfx_chris Jul 8, 2008 9:00 PM

To tell the truth, before International Place was officially announced, I was supporting this development, albeit a weak support. Now that International Place seems to be a for real going ahead development, I'm not so sure anymore. I may have to join you; I'm not against it, just not really in favor of it, if that makes sense.

sdm Jul 10, 2008 2:31 PM

Another 'no’ for tower over NSCAD

By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter
Thu. Jul 10 - 5:01 AM

A new proposal from the redeveloper of the Historic Properties and Founders Square received a second negative review at a council committee this week.

The Waterside Centre, the latest project from Ben McCrea’s Armour Group, had the once-over from the downtown planning advisory committee.

And like the heritage advisory committee that reviewed it last week, the volunteer citizens group turned it down.

The proposal, by architect Andy Lynch, connects existing buildings where Duke Street meets Hollis and Upper Water streets, saves their historic facades and puts a six-storey glass office tower above them.

But a member of the committee said Wednesday that the advisory body to regional council felt the project was too big.

"The development simply overwhelms the historic properties," Beverly Miller said in an interview.

"When you look at it from below, it’s huge."

In making their decision, the committee relied on a policy in council’s regional plan that governs redevelopments of heritage properties.

"Any new work must be physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to, and distinguishable from the heritage property," she said.

So any new additions, then, must not be a copy or a knock-off of the heritage work, she said.

"But it doesn’t mean a glass cube either," she said.

Last week, architect Andy Lynch said that the design of the six-storey building follows staff’s direction of not entirely matching up the new part with the old.

City planning staff has already recommended the Waterside Centre development, saying the new office tower wouldn’t change the heritage structures below.

Under the plan, restaurants in the current building, like O’Carroll’s and Subway, could go back into their current locations but with upgraded walls, wiring and footings.

The next step for the development proposal is to go before regional council.

At that point, councillors will vote whether or not to hold a public hearing on the project.


Jonovision Jul 10, 2008 5:30 PM

I'm glad this one seems to be lacking support. There is a nice line of heritage, low buildings that run from the waterfront of Historic Properties up to city hall, and continued up the hill. It creates almost a little canyon of the lower, and older buildings. This building would totally ruin that effect.

someone123 Jul 10, 2008 5:36 PM

I agree that this one seems less desirable now that International Place has been announced.

My main problem in all this is that the Bev Millers et al. are using the municipal government to effectively reduce the value of these properties below market level (the owners would make more money if this were a tower) but nothing is being offered to the developers in exchange. 30-40 years ago when these properties were first acquired by the current owners there was little indication of what would or would not be considered "untouchable" heritage. That whole end of the downtown was originally similar buildings and now most of it is covered with office towers.

Is it any wonder why many of these properties see relatively little investment?

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