Over the past year there have been so many HRM planning related initiatives it has been difficult to keep track, let alone informed. All of them have some implication on the North End. Here is a brief summary of what is currently in play that North End businesses and property owners should be aware of and engaged in.
The final draft of HRM's Centre Plan was made public on March 24, 2017. It is currently with the Community Design Advisory Council for review, before moving onto the Community Planning and Economic Standing Committee and then Regional Council. NEBA is drafting a detailed response to the plan, offering feedback and suggested changes. This draft plan will set the foundation for what is permissible in terms of development and landuse in the North End for the foreseeable future. Please take the time to have a look. If you have any questions or comments you can direct them to us and and we will include your feedback in our submission. Or you can contact or Councillor Mason and Councillor Smith directly. Overall, this appears to be a fair and reasonable plan, though currently it offers little in terms of detail on zoning and landuse by-laws. In the broad policy framework we would like to see more emphasis on importance of small business and how to support commercial centres and corridors through things like protecting and enhancing our unique identify though built form, better lighting, urban design and streetscaping, and better policies on community services to ensure hard to house service are given consideration in way that recognizes their importance while successfully integrating them into urban communities. We also would like to see more proactive and supportive polices on entertainment establishments, as in many cities live music venues are being threatened by encroaching residential development. The North End has always been an exciting and vibrant music district dating back to Club 55 and Gerrish Hall. It is part of the districts DNA. We are taking a long view, wanting to see this area grow in an organic and equitable way that continues to support a vibrant, thriving business district with a unique, distinct character and small business charm.
TRANSPORTATION PRIORITY CORRIDORS
Gottingen was identified in the Moving Forward Transit Strategy as one of two streets where Transportation Priority Measures (TPMs) will be implemented. This will effect parking, it will see an increase in the number of buses on Gottingen, and it will negatively impact the quality of public street realm. As famous urbanist Jan Gehl said while in Halifax last year — too many buses on a street is not good. While there will be more buses that provide local service, our concern is there are too many buses using Gottingen Street as a thoroughfare to get to the bridge. Gottingen was never designed as a transit corridor; it was designed as a local commercial corridor, now with mixed use and an increasing amount residential development. This is a concern, particularly if it is not considered in tandem with the Centre Plan, the Integrated Mobility Plan, and the Parking Strategy. A Request for Proposals was issued last month looking for a consultant to provide the survey, analysis, and functional design of transit priority options for Gottingen Street from North Street to Cogswell Street. We have been told that there will be public consultation as part of this process. Please look for notifications and attend.
INTEGRATED MOBILITY PLAN ACTION REQUIRED
The Integrated Mobility Plan will create a regional vision for mobility and help to direct future investment in transportation demand management, transit, active transportation, and the roadway network. It is scheduled to go before council this summer. The final round of consultations is this month. The two events scheduled for the peninsula are:
Thursday, April 20, 12 noon – 2 p.m. Central Library (Paul O'Regan Hall), 5440 Spring Garden Road, Halifax
Thursday, April 20, 6 – 8 p.m. NSCC Technology Campus (Atrium), 5685 Leeds Street, Halifax
Please attend if you are able. It is important to have business representation at these events to ensure the voice of the business community is heard. While I attend these events on behalf of NEBA, there is strength in numbers. Come learn what is happening and give your input.
An RFP has been issued to hire a consulting firm to develop a parking strategy for the HRM. We will be watching this one closely and looking to provide input. Because there is very little municipal owned land in the district, opportunities for creating off-street parking are limited. Parking is always a concern for commercial districts, and we want to be sure the needs of the business community are represented. The Maitland lot behind Gottingen has been a recent point of contention when HRM announced it was going up for sale. That has since been stopped, and the intention is that this site will have public parking in the future. We would also like to have permit parking on the side streets re-examined to ensure it is being optimized for the growing business community. Once again, please watch for notifications about public meetings and plan to attend. It is critical the business community provides their input.