A volunteer group of concerned citizens is hoping to raise awareness about the recent rise of development in Halifax with a pair of free community events.
In response to current and proposed developments that will dramatically impact the city’s affordability, as well as its character and carbon footprint, Development Options Halifax wants to highlight some of the alternatives that many citizens may not realize are out there.
“We feel that people are aware there’s a problem (but) it’s kind of confusing,” says Peggy Cameron, one of the volunteers of Development Options Halifax. “You walk around Halifax now and think, ‘wow, where did that building go?,’ or ‘where did that building come from?,’ (so) it’s really to inform the public.”
The first awareness event is titled The Trouble with Demolitions — Protecting Affordability, Character and the Climate. Held virtually via Zoom on June 22 at 7 p.m., the online discussion aims to provide examples of how the city could ensure protections against the harmful impact of demolitions in Halifax.
"I think a lot of people at public consultations do have legitimate ideas and they do bring them forward," says Cameron. “We see that there are other opportunities, (but) we don’t see the public’s interest being reflected in the decisions that the city is making."
She notes that Development Options Halifax has designed 3-D graphics and models that intend to portray how large developments impact the specific neighbourhoods that projects are proposed in and suggests the city should consider these models as well for consultation.
“The public should be able to look at better options or other options,” adds Cameron.
Hosted by Cameron along with fellow volunteers, Hadrian Laing and William Breckenridge, interested participants are encouraged to register here for the free one-hour online discussion and Q&A.
Meanwhile, Development Options Halifax will also host a related event on June 25.
The Robie Street Neighbourhood Guided Tour — Problems vs. Solutions will be an in-person walk and talk that focuses on showcasing real examples to highlight the reasons why buildings should not be unnecessarily demolished.
"We are concerned about demolitions because they are leading to a crisis of affordability. They are not protecting existing affordable housing and they are not providing new affordable housing and then we have concerns about greenhouse gas emissions," explains Cameron about the environmental impact of demolition and reconstruction.
She adds that tearing down as little as 12 dwellings is the equivalent of demolishing a ten-storey building. “Replacing that building alone emits about 2,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Cameron adds that those emissions are harmful — nearly matching the equivalency of the yearly amount saved by banning single-use plastic bags, which Nova Scotia enacted in 2020.
“We legislated against having plastic shopping bags,” says Cameron. “And now, in one building, we are emitting about the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions and there’s no accounting for that. Nobody’s looking at that.”
With the Robie Street Neighbourhood Guided Tour, Cameron and Breckenridge will meet participants at Robie and Williams Street at 10 a.m. before leading the group to North Street, highlighting the “many styles of buildings and providing many examples of repurposing, intensification and readapting of traditional historic buildings.”
Development Options Halifax has certainly been busy over the last few months.
The volunteer group demonstrated in front of razed houses at the corner of Robie and Bliss Street in April. As well, they recently took opposition to a massive proposed development along Spring Garden Road, where the group says the plan involves the elimination of more than 100 commercial and affordable housing units while generating at least 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to the two upcoming events intended to raise awareness, Development Options Halifax is circulating a petition that calls on the provincial government to halt unnecessary demolitions in Halifax.
“We want the premier to really act now — stop demolitions and regulate,” says Cameron, adding that many jurisdictions, including London, England are progressively considering greenhouse gases when processing permits. “The city is not hearing that, thinking about that (or) acting on that — they are just freely giving away airspace to developers.”
For more information on Development Options Halifax, visit the website.