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Dispute over Halifax Common heats up as province releases QEII parkade tender

N.S. government under fire over QEII redevelopment
WATCH: The Nova Scotia government is coming under fire over what many are calling a lack of transparency around the massive QEII hospital redevelopment. Jeremy Keefe reports.

Provincial planning documents have revealed more details on a parkade planned for the QEII hospital redevelopment while angering residents and municipal officials in Halifax.

A request for proposals (RFP) issued on Tuesday afternoon indicates the extent to which the Nova Scotia government will need to purchase land from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) in order to build the seven-storey car parkade on Summer Street, across from the Halifax Infirmary.

The province has said the new parkade is needed to accommodate the expansion and redevelopment of the Halifax Infirmary and replace the 800 parking spaces that will be lost when an existing parkade comes down to make room for the new QEII Health Sciences Centre.

“About 14,000 Nova Scotians visit the QEII Health Sciences Centre every day, 40 percent of whom travel from outside HRM,” wrote Marla MacInnis, a spokesperson for the province’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

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“This makes parking a very important component of this project.”

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia Auditor General wary of fraud, mismanagement on QEII project

Documents in the RFP indicated that the parkade should accommodate 900 parking spaces, although 814 is described as the minimum number of spaces.

The RFP indicates the province expects construction on the parkade to begin this spring, with completion slated to occur before the demolition of the existing Robie Street Parkade in Spring 2021.

Another revelation is the construction of a “proposed power plant” north of the planned parked, located on the corner of Summer Street and Bell Road — an area of green space that was cleared late last for a temporary parking lot to accommodate construction of the parkade.

The RFP provides no other details on the power plant and the province has yet to release its master plan for the QEII redevelopment.

Earlier this month, Halifax councillor Waye Mason called on the province to be more transparent with its intentions, especially if it involved the loss of parkland to development.

Councillor waving red flag over Halifax Commons parkade plan
Councillor waving red flag over Halifax Commons parkade plan

‘Mitigating impact’ on Wanderers, Bengal Lancers

Two objectives listed in the documents are to “minimize” the impact to the programs and services offered at the nearby Museum of Natural History and Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers, a horse-riding school that’s been in place since 1936.

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The province is also looking to “minimize the impact to the Halifax Wanderers stadium.”

Whatever company is awarded, the RFP is expected to consult with the Halifax Wanderers and the Bengal Lancers between two and three times in order to mitigate the impact.

But it’s hard to see how this won’t affect both programs.

The proposed location of the parkade means the province will need to purchase at least 2,589 square metres of land (0.64 acres) from the HRM, with at least part of the area appearing to intrude on the main entrance of the Halifax Wanderers Grounds.

A map issued by the Nova Scotia government for the construction of the QEII Parkade. The yellow area on the map is currently owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality.
A map issued by the Nova Scotia government for the construction of the QEII Parkade. The yellow area on the map is currently owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality. Government of Nova Scotia

A site plan in the RFP also indicates that the province is proposing a competition riding ring be built adjacent to the proposed parkade — a modification to the current paddock that the Lancers operate on Summer Street.

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In a statement issued by the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers on Tuesday, the organization said they don’t “believe [their] needs have been taken into account.”

“We hope to be able to work with the Province and the Municipality to reach a positive solution,” the statement read.

The RFP stresses that the “acquisition” of the land is ongoing and that the province has requested an interim licence in order to allow them to tender the design and construction of the parking structure.

READ MORE: Opposition members raise accountability concerns in relation to QEII redevelopment project

MacInnis told Global News that municipal staff working to prepare a report on the proposed land purchase to present to Halifax Regional Council.

“We are told it could be added to one of the council meetings next month,” she said.

The QEII health redevelopment is set to go in front of the Public Accounts Meeting in the provincial legislature on Wednesday. Mason has tweeted that he plans to attend.

The tender for the parkade is set to close on March 5.