Cogswell District Redevelopment

Group of 26 Urges HRM Council to Push for “People-First” Approach as they Consider Approval of 90 Per Cent Public Design and Next Steps of the Cogswell District Redevelopment

Halifax, NS, February 25, 2019 – A group of 26 organizations worked together to facilitate discussions around the redevelopment of the Cogswell District to ensure that Halifax advances with the best overall urban design vision possible for the project. They urge HRM Council to ensure the public has an opportunity to reflect and give feedback prior to approval on the 90 per cent design plan of the Cogswell District redevelopment. The 90 per cent report was released on Friday, February 22, 2019, and is scheduled to be approved by HRM Council on Tuesday, February 26, 2019. They also urge that a “people-first” approach to the district will include a land use by-law process with a great deal of opportunity for additional public engagement, and the flexibility to create a building framework that enhances the design of the district.

The group urges HRM Council to give the community ample time for consideration and feedback on the 90 per cent design. Councillors will have had less than a week to read and reflect on the 90 per cent design. Their constituents will only have had four full days, before Council is asked to make a final decision. A generational project, that seeks to right a significant wrong, requires more time for consideration. The group requests that HRM Council defer making a final decision on approval on February 26 by several weeks. This will give additional time for reflection, and for Council to hear and consider feedback from their constituents. This will add no delay to the overall timeframe for commencement of demolition or initiating the Land Use By-law (LUB) process.

“Our group of 26 is pleased to see that the Cogswell District redevelopment is now at the 90 per cent stage in the design process with valuable input from public engagement sessions and the Gehl Report recommendations,” said Paul MacKinnon, Executive Director with Downtown Halifax Business Commission. “But there simply has not been adequate time for the public or Councillors, for that matter, to adequately review and digest the information. Once approval is given, the design is locked down for a construction process that goes into winter 2022. Taking a few extra weeks to ensure the community is comfortable with the design should not impact the overall timeline.” 

The group also requests that HRM Council confirm that the final project need not necessarily confirm to the current estimate that 90-93% of the cost of construction be recovered from the initial sale of land. This would allow the Land Use By-law (LUB) Process, to be much more flexible, and aim for building design excellence. 

“It is imperative, as we move into the private realm portion of the district plan (the LUB process), that the people-first design priority remains, and is not unduly constrained by an imposed narrow and short-term cost structure,” said Patty Cuttell, Executive Director with North End Business Association. “The long-term benefits of an excellent district design will prove to be economically and socially beneficial for our city for generations to come.  A new urban pedestrian-oriented neighbourhood will further raise the profile of Halifax and will itself attract investment to our city.”

The group wants the next step of the plan, the Land Use By-law process, to be a comprehensive public process, beyond what is minimally required. Similar to projects like HRM by Design and the Central Library, an iterative public process engages the community and builds excitement, and also results in a better end-project. An engaged public, working with HRM Planning professionals, will improve the potential of the district. This should be initiated soon, and the group is ready to assist in this process.

The completed Gehl recommendations report is available for download here.

The Cogswell District Redevelopment 90 Per Cent Construction Design can be downloaded from the HRM website here.

To join the Cogswell District conversation and for updates, follow #CogswellVision on Twitter.

List of partners involved in the discussion, which is an open group inviting broad participation:

Atlantic Developments
Breakhouse Inc.
Building Owners and Managers Association
Cities and Environment Unit
Compass Commercial Realty
Cushman and Wakefield Atlantic                                                             
Dalhousie University School of Planning
Develop Nova Scotia     
Downtown Halifax Business Commission                                                                             
Ecology Action Centre                  
Ekistics
Grafton Connor Group                                                                                 
Halifax Chamber of Commerce 
Halifax Cycling Coalition                                                              
Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia
HRM Apartments
Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia
It’s More Than Buses                                                                                    
North End Business Association
Our HRM Alliance
Planning and Design Centre       
RAD Consulting
Spring Garden Area Business Association                                                                             
TEAL Architects + Planners                                                                         
Turner Drake and Partners Ltd.                
Urban Development Institute

Group of 27 Releases Recommendations Report for Cogswell District Redevelopment

Since the spring of 2018, 27 organizations worked together to facilitate discussions around the redevelopment of the Cogswell District to ensure that Halifax advances with the best overall urban design vision possible for the project, through a robust public design process. Sixteen of these organizations, plus Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), hired and funded New York and Copenhagen based urban design firm, Gehl, to research, collaborate, and produce a Cogswell District recommendations report. The Gehl report is now complete and available for download. To download the Background and Summary, click here. To download the Goals Matrix: Evaluation, click here.

“This review of the approved 60 per cent design concept provides insights at an exciting and crucial time of the project,” said Paul MacKinnon, Executive Director with Downtown Halifax Business Commission. “Throughout the process, the group was fortunate to have participation from the broader community as well as HRM project leads and WSP working with Gehl. To have Gehl’s associates review the 60 per cent design with their extensive experience and expertise and with an objective eye, was an invaluable contribution to the plan review process.” 

The report is not an alternate design to what HRM is currently working on, but, rather a study that will includes strategies, best practices, and design recommendations as well as the downtown plan and the seven district goals for the project. The main design recommendations fall under three categories: connectivity, open space, and urban block. HRM has agreed to consider the resulting recommendations in the 90 per cent plan.

“Halifax is at a critical moment in the shaping of the city. The transformation of the Cogswell Interchange to a cherished destination is no easy challenge, but Halifax has a strong advantage: dedicated Haligonians that passionately care about their city,” said Maki Kawaguchi, Associate/Lead Designer with Gehl. “The removal of the Cogswell Interchange creates great opportunities for the city, but to ensure success, the human experiences we want to create and the qualities we need to achieve this need to be front and center in the plans. In addition to design recommendations, our report provides a framework to guide a people-first planning approach.”

In fall 2018, HRM conducted a public engagement program in addition to participating with other funders through a steering committee to oversee the Gehl study. The input received from the public along with the study will help inform the 90% per cent design, which is expected to go to Council this winter. The timing of the study and report is crucial because the plan needs to integrate considerations from the public engagement sessions regarding placemaking, transit, affordable housing, connectivity, building design, tourism, and city building.

To join the Cogswell District conversation and for updates, follow #CogswellVision on Twitter.

Partners involved in the discussion, which is an open group inviting broad participation:

Atlantic Developments
Breakhouse Inc.
Building Owners and Managers Association
Cities and Environment Unit
Compass Commercial Realty
Cushman and Wakefield Atlantic                                                             
Dalhousie University School of Planning
Develop Nova Scotia     
Downtown Halifax Business Commission                                                                             
Ecology Action Centre                  
Ekistics
Grafton Connor Group                                                                                 
Halifax Chamber of Commerce 
Halifax Cycling Coalition                                                                              
Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia
HRM Apartments
Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia
It’s More Than Buses                                                                                    
North End Business Association
Our HRM Alliance
Planning and Design Centre       
RAD Consulting
Spring Garden Area Business Association                                                                             
TEAL Architects + Planners                                                                         
Turner Drake and Partners Ltd.                
Urban Development Institute

Gehl Report project funding partners:

Atlantic Developments
Building Owners and Managers Association
Cushman and Wakefield Atlantic
Dalhousie University School of Planning
Develop Nova Scotia
Downtown Halifax Business Commission
Grafton Connor Group
Halifax Regional Municipality
Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel
Halifax Partnership
Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia
HRM Apartments
North End Business Association
RAD Consulting
Southwest Properties
Urban Development Institute