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Work underway to prevent multi-storey hospital parkade from being built on HFX Common

New location proposed for QEII redevelopment parkade
WATCH: New location proposed for QEII redevelopment parkade

Work is underway by municipal staff to prevent a multi-storey parking garage and power plant from being built on the Historic Halifax Common.

On Tuesday, regional council directed city staff to work on creating a plan to close off a west side portion of Summer Street.

The goal is to free-up land on the hospital-side of Summer Street for the large scale construction project instead, which would spare the Halifax Common — land that the municipality is in charge of protecting and vowed not lose to any more expansion projects, in the 1994 Halifax Common Plan.

Waye Mason, the downtown Halifax councillor, has been vocal in his opposition to a proposed plan by the province to build a seven-storey parking garage on the current parking lot used by the Museum of Natural History. He applauded the new alternative.

“It’s definitely a move in the right direction. The hospital and all the stuff that supports the hospital can stay on the west side, where the hospital already is,” Mason said.

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“We’re really happy to see that this breakthrough happened last week.”

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The province has stated that it’s ‘happy to work with the HRM on its proposal’ to address location concerns.

There is still much work to do to determine if this is a viable option. It will be up to HRM to consult with the public and to obtain the necessary approvals. In the meantime, we remain committed to providing safe and accessible parking,” an email statement attributed to transportation and infrastructure renewal minister, Lloyd Hines reads. 

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

Last October, the province approved $29.5 million in funding for the QEII’s parking strategy, which includes building a new parkade across from the hospital on Summer Street.

Plans to demolish the existing Robie Street parkade and build a new parkade were not part of the QEII master plan project that was originally rolled out in 2017.

A century-old equestrian club in the heart of downtown Halifax is hopeful the parkade location gets moved, so that their services and the land they share on the historic Halifax Common won’t be disrupted by a monstrous parking garage being built next door.

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“Not only do we have lessons and programming in that space [riding ring] during the day, [that’s] the space where the horses go out to relax and get outdoors and be a horse. And so, having construction going on right next door, all day long, would really have an impact on their well-being,” said Angie Holt, executive director of the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers.
Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers
The location that the province proposed for a new parking garage, will cut into land leased by a century-old equestrian club and the HFX Wanderers Football Club. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax
The equestrian club are tenants of the municipality, along with Sports and Entertainment Atlantic [SEA], the organization that owns and operates the HFX Wanderers Football Club.

A recently declassified city report on the QEII redevelopment project indicates that the municipality may be in violation of their lease agreement with the tenants, if the parkade were to be constructed in the Museum of Natural History parking lot.

However, the report also states that the province is prepared to expropriate the necessary lands it needs from the municipality if the municipality is unwilling to sell.

Mason is hopeful city staff will move quickly on a plan to narrow Summer Street and proceed with a public hearing to inform people of what street modifications will be made.

If successful, the province will the have the option of moving its planned parking garage and power plant to the hospital side of Summer Street, which would be welcome news for tenants like the Bengal Lancers.

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According to the report, the full impacts of the proposed parkade on the Wanderers Grounds and the Bengal Lancers Club, won’t be known until the design of the structure is complete.

In the meantime, Holt says the equestrian club has launched a social media campaign, encouraging people to share their experiences with the Bengal Lancers.

The goal is to raise awareness around the value the club brings to the municiaplty and not have it negatively impacted by losing property to the proposed construction project.

Holt says many of the responses have come from families who visited, or stayed in the hospital for care and were able to visit the horses across the street, or view them from their windows.

“So, many patients in the hospital are talking about how much these horses being here meant to them during their stay in the hospital,” she said.