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Righting a wrong with the Cogswell Interchange 

John Spinelli hopes to mingle progress with positivity on downtown redevelopment.

click to enlarge This unsightly land is being redeveloped to the tune of $64 million. - SAM KEAN
  • This unsightly land is being redeveloped to the tune of $64 million.

The $64-million Cogswell Interchange redevelopment will radically change the shape of Halifax’s downtown over the next several years. How that will be accomplished is John Spinelli’s job. The HRM native previously managed such large-scale construction projects as the $440-million Suncor Voyageur complex in Alberta, and the recent $1.8-billion revitalization of Union Station in Toronto. He’s now back home, and project director of the Cogswell Interchange’s destruction and rebirth. Spinelli spoke with The Coast about what residents can expect from the undertaking, and what this opportunity means for the city.

Can you tell me a bit how this project is similar or differs to your past experiences?
I have worked on several large infrastructure programs in the past. I would say that there are numerous parallels between my past work on Union Station in Toronto and the Cogswell Redevelopment Program. Most notably is that they are both large, multi-year initiatives in the heart of the downtown area of their respective cities with the accompanying public scrutiny that follows these types of major programs. Both projects require extensive planning in order to maintain traffic and pedestrian flows during the construction cycles.

Can you tell me a bit about the plans for the Cogswell Interchange and what drew you initially to this project?
Other than the obvious attraction of returning to my home city and reconnecting to friends and family, a signature project like Cogswell appeals to me from the aspect of “city-building” and the opportunity to reshape the landscape and skyline of an important city centre.

Do we have a detailed cost estimation and time when the project should be completed?
My primary focus at the moment is centred on the retention of the required designers and consultants that will solidify the project parametres going forward, enabling the project to go back to regional council for approval to proceed to construction. We have only a loosely defined budget based on the engineering report prepared a year ago. It is our intention to monitor the cost and schedule throughout the design phase in order to provide council with accurate estimates of both parameters prior to proceeding with construction.

What steps have been taken to reach the goals you’ve set with the Interchange?
There are several important elements of pre-planning that the Cogswell team has focused on in order to effectively manage the early pre-design phases of the program. These include scheduling, budget, risk-management, stakeholder engagement and procurement.

How do you see this benefitting the people of Halifax in the future? The Cogswell Redevelopment Program is much more than simply an infrastructure or roads project. The Cogswell District Master Plan is intended to create both a grand entrance to the downtown district and re-establish the area’s connection to the waterfront and the neighborhoods in the north end. Linking the Brunswick Heritage Area, Gottingen Street and the residential neighbourhood that surrounds those corridors to the downtown and waterfront is a core objective and principle of the Cogswell District Plan.

What opportunities can this construction project provide for both yourself and others?
It’s the satisfaction of collaborating on a significant and challenging city-building program that will improve residents’ quality of life far into the future. For others, the Cogswell Redevelopment Program is an opportunity to right an old wrong and re-connect the north and south-end districts, as well as provide the downtown district with six acres of land for mixed-use residential development and increased access to the waterfront.

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