A report by an international urban design firm says changes are needed to make the Cogswell interchange redesign more people-friendly.
The report by Gehl reviewed the municipality’s partial plan — also known as the 60 per cent design plan — and notes that removing the interchange is a bold move, but it’s something many consider necessary.
“It’s outdated,” said Patricia Cuttell Busby with the North End Business Association.
“The Cogswell district, the whole interchange, was really a planning blunder from the 1970s. We’ve kind of lived with it for decades,” said Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.
Both organizations were among the 16 who joined Halifax Regional Municipality to help fund and hire Gehl for the review.
The review found the 60 per cent design had a number of core challenges.
“To truly make this district a model for how to right an urban renewal wrong, fundamental elements need to change,” the review said.
Among the recommendations is removing one of the proposed roundabouts.
“The presence of two roundabouts indicate the efficient movements of vehicles is prioritized over people walking or biking,” said the review.
The idea is being applauded by the Cycling Coalition.
“A lot of roundabouts don’t include bike lanes at all and so bikes are kind of pushed to the curb so they have to stick to that curb and give right of way to vehicles,” said Rachel Lynn with the coalition.
WATCH: Cogswell Interchange demolition plans underway
According to the review, eliminating the southern roundabout will also leave more land for future developments.
“The desire is that the project would, in many ways, pay for itself through the sale of that land,” said MacKinnon.
“But the other way the project can help fund itself is if it really encourages development, not only in the district but also in other areas around the district.”
Cuttell Busby says the Gehl report does a good job of looking beyond just the redesign and how it can help improve the community as a whole.
“In the 60 per cent design, a lot of structures were conceived as podiums with towers, and that doesn’t really transition well from the existing build that we have both downtown and in the north end,” said Cuttell Busby.
“Part of what we would like to see is a smoother transition between the existing community, the new development in the way connections are made, and the way buildings are designed.”
The Gehl review focuses on adapting the design to focus more on making the area accessible to everyone and less on the flow of vehicle traffic.
Municipal staff are now working on the 90 per cent plan, which is expected to be presented to regional council later this month.
“The recommendations of the Gehl report will be considered along with input obtained from the public engagement program carried out in August-October 2018,” said HRM spokesperson Brendan Elliott in a statement.