Letters to the editor, April 3, 2014

These are the letters and comments from the print edition

Nova's novelty

Now what has happened at the Nova Centre ? It looks very much as though all levels of government have lost sight of what they said they wanted---and were prepared to put at least 355 million of our tax dollars towards.

The Nova Centre has two components: a convention centre, plus two towers much taller than otherwise allowable (a height bonus bought by the presence of a convention centre).

When the governments splashed out our cash, the basic rationale was that the existing Metro Centre and World Trade Centre were too small to attract big conventions. Thus, the government RFP called for a ballroom of 35,000 square feet plus an exhibition hall of 50,000 square feet. Now, HRM is in the process of approving a Rank Inc. redesign with a ballroom of 29,300 square feet (existing WTCC 20,000 square feet) and an exhibition hall of 27,100 square feet (existing one 40,000 square feet !).

HRM, through its staff recommendations and the nod from its Design Review Committee, is also close to approving big additions to the two towers: both to be taller than the previous iterations, which were already much taller than the maximum height bonus that is supposed to be available, and also to be bulkier.

Result: A smaller convention centre than "needed" but an even bigger bonus of towers.

What gives? Three levels of government owe us one heck of an explanation. Much better: Surely we can get out from under this terrible boondoggle. —Howard Epstein, Halifax

No more homogeny

I remember a large advertising campaign by the local lottery poking fun at the quality of life between Ontario and Nova Scotia. Mostly jokes about traffic, urban sprawl and high cost of living ("This time, I'm the one saying 'Farewell to Nova Scotia,'" Voice of the City by David Fleming, March 24).

Unfortunately, Halifax has become an urban sprawl, where the peripheries are under-serviced by the municipality and the city centre has a dramatically steep cost of living.

Outside of the city centre, the communities are becoming incredibly homogenized. Identical- looking housing developments with a poor mixture of single- and multi-family dwellings, in communities that have little access to public transit. Every few kilometres they're interspersed with shopping centre clusters of the same sorts of businesses that provide basic services and goods---a McDonald's, a Tim Hortons and a few other fast food restaurants, a Sobeys or Superstore, an NSLC and maybe a few clusters of private offices, the occasional shopping mall. Hardware stores and specialized retailers are clustered mostly in the business parks.

I grew up in the suburbs of Dartmouth---it's a homogeneous place, culturally and aesthetically. You could be in the middle of Dartmouth and mistake it for a suburb of Moncton, Fredericton or any other town in the Maritimes. Our larger communities are losing their independent businesses and cultural fixtures, the things that make them unique. The only exceptions to this seem to be small towns that aren't along the main trunk highways or the city centre of Halifax.

When you drive through Truro, it's eerily similar to when you drive past Dartmouth Crossing and Moncton. Our communities are becoming so alike and losing their personal touches.

All that said, I love the place. I can't put my finger on what it is about it. Maybe it's because it's one of the few cities I've been in where you feel like you're really in touch with nature---the harbour and the ocean and the pockets of woods dotted throughout the city and how little distance you have to go to be out in the middle of the country.

And the peninsula is a wild and eclectic place with all sorts of interesting businesses and characters. If the rest of the city could develop itself in a way that's purposefully focused on creating, unique, livable communities, the outer areas of Halifax could become really great places to be. —posted by Liam Osler at thecoast.ca

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