Let's hear it for the eco-preservationist freaks

On Monday, News 95.7 talk show host Andrew Krystal invited listeners to weigh in on that hoary old chestnut: another kerfuffle over another plan to wipe out another view of Halifax harbour from Citadel Hill.

I didn’t catch much during my commute, but I did hear Andrew noting that one listener said he’d recently been to Calgary and witnessed a kazillion construction cranes rising up into the Big Sky from the thumping, entrepreneurial heart of Calgary’s build-it-and-they-will-come downtown. In Calgary, he claimed, he hadn’t heard one single, limp-wristed eco-preservationist freak protesting.

Uh… that’s the point.

Calgary has no views worth preserving (save of the far-off foothills of the Rockies, which are probably best seen from the higher elevations anyway).

Halifax does.


The fact we can still wander a livable city with its eclectic mix of old and new, walkable waterfront and, yes, even a few reach-for-the-sky downtown office towers that, thankfully, aren’t the only places from which we can view the harbour—is a tribute to our eco-preservationist freaks. Long may they complain.

During the sixties and early seventies, they waged a determined, multi-fronted campaign to save the city’s historic waterfront from the wrecker’s ball, stop big-dreaming bureaucrats from driving an eight-lane expressway through downtown and, in the process, protected iconic views of the harbour from historic Citadel Hill.

In January 1974, Halifax City Council unanimously approved a motion protecting 10 views from the Citadel affecting 300 acres of prime downtown real estate.

“In the larger sense,” author and activist Elizabeth Pacey wrote, “the decision represented a sweeping achievement in the pioneer field of environmental protection legislation.”

But not a permanent one.

Thanks to a Mack Truck-opening in Halifax’s new HRM By Design strategy, developers propose to build a $300-million downtown convention centre on the former Halifax Herald and Midtown Tavern lands, complete with sky-jutting 14-storey office tower and 18-storey hotel.

Those structures, say members of the Coalition to Save the View from Citadel Hill, will almost completely obliterate the view of George’s Island from the Citadel. Their website offers a Photo-shopped illustration of the result. It isn’t pretty.

One doesn’t have to want Halifax’s downtown to be trapped forever in Paleolithic splendor to wonder why we need another hotel and office tower smack in the middle of a significant viewplane when there are plenty of already-approved-but-unbuilt projects downtown that would not wipe out a view that won’t be replaced.

  1. Build it on the Cogswell interchange. Everyone wins.


  2. Regardless of the protection provided by the 70’s view planes legislation or the heritage provisions in HRMbyDesign, this building will hugely block the view. Who would have thought that they would try to put an 18 storey building so close to the Citadel? An 18 storey building on Granville street is another matter. If there is to be a new convention centre in that location it needs to be a low rise. They can also put it somewhere else. The legislation is not working, the proposal is ignorant of possibilities. I say, keep the view.


  3. Hi Stephen, while I do not like the aesthetics of these towers, I do not think that they would have been disallowed prior to HRMbyDesign. Rather than obliterate the 10 views protected in 1974, HRMbyDesign maintains those viewplanes. These towers do not intrude into those viewplanes as far as I know. Save The View is correct, they do intrude into the view of George’s Island from certain viewpoints on the Citadel, but they are careful not to say that they violate the viewplanes, because they don’t. Prior to HRMbyDesign, these towers would have been designed and approved during a Development Agreement process – where the only maximum height would have been that set by the Ramparts By-law. HRMbyDesign has set a maximum height lower than this for this area.

    Do I think it’s a good design? Not particularly. Do I think that it would have been better without HRMbyDesign? No.


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