Criticism continues to pour in against a multi-million-dollar parkade project that was supposed to begin in August but is only set to get underway in the coming weeks.
The use of public green space and taxpayer money for the eight-storey parkade, one of two parkades planned as part of the Halifax Infirmary Expansion project, has been a contentious issue since the project was first announced by the provincial government last fall.
Since then, the parkade concept and location have been revised several times.
“If they (the province) have the time to flip-flop, literally, their parking garage, they have the time to really, solidly come up with an alternative to building not just one, but two parking garages,” said Peggy Cameron, the co-chair of the Friends of Halifax Common citizen group.
Construction was supposed to start in August, according to the province, but has yet to begin after the province provided an updated design for the parkade.
In July, the provincial government announced that Dartmouth-based Lindsay Construction had been awarded a contract worth around $29 million to build an eight-storey, 500-space parkade on the north side of the Natural History Museum.
The province is demolishing the Robie Street hospital parkade to make way for new hospital beds and says the new parkades are needed to meet the demand expanded health-care services will bring.
Originally, the province proposed that the parkade and a central heating plant be built to the south of the museum, partially on municipal parkland. It would have encroached on land leased to the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers equestrian club and Sports and Entertainment Atlantic, the organization that owns and operates the HFX Wanderers Football Club.
Regional council, along with the municipal tenants, called on the province to reconsider its plans.
Coun. Waye Mason advocated for the parkade to be built on the same side as the Halifax Infirmary.
Ultimately, the province settled on building the parkade on provincially owned land on the north side of the museum, eliminating the need to acquire municipal land.
In April, regional council approved an easement over Summer Street for a pedway and an “at-grade easement across municipal parkland adjoining Bell Road for a driveway.”
Council approved that request subject to “several technical considerations” that would be largely addressed through a traffic study that, in part, aims to address issues around safety.
Since then, the parkade design was once again changed by the province and will now require a larger easement area along Bell Road for the loading area.
According to a municipal staff report, the change will also see a reduction in open space on Bell and Summer Street.
Overall, Mason says the province is making a poor decision in proceeding with the location.
“The parkade has been a hugely contentious issue and it’s still not really a satisfactory answer. I still feel the province should have redone the design to have the entire parking on the other side of Summer Street on the hospital site,” he said.
A 1,000-space parkade is also slated to be constructed on the former CBC TV site. Cameron feels the province should entirely reconsider its parking strategy approach, and leave the Robie Street parkade, which is less than 20 years old, intact.
Cameron says in an era where climate change is a central issue, the province should be more innovative in its approach to transporting people to hospitals. She calls on the province to invest in sustainable transportation methods instead of building new infrastructure that equates to more carbon dioxide-emitting vehicles on the road.
Cameron feels regional council shouldn’t have approved the easement requests by the province.
“They’re not acting as if we are in the middle of a climate crisis, which we are,” she said.
Mason says delaying the easement request wouldn’t have stopped the province from proceeding with building the parkade on its land.
“It would be built regardless so what is the point of doing that to the patients?” Mason said.