Halifax officially launched its Cogswell District project on Tuesday, which is being billed as “the biggest city-building project in the history of Halifax.”
The project will convert 16 acres of road infrastructure, where the Cogswell Interchange is located, into a mixed-use neighbourhood.
The project will involve extending the entrance of the downtown area northward and creating development blocks capable of supporting new residential and commercial developments for 2,500 people.
“We are here today to celebrate the official launch of the largest city-building project in the history of HRM,” said the municipality’s chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé, during a news conference.
“The Cogswell district project will transform the Cogswell interchange from an underutilized piece of road infrastructure into a new vibrant urban neighbourhood in the heart of downtown Halifax.”
The $122.6-million project will include cycling lanes, multi-use trails, new parks and open spaces, a transit hub, and a central urban square to “transform this traffic-centric area into a livable pedestrian friendly area for people to live, work, and play.”
A news release said the project “has the potential to be primarily self-funded in the long term once construction is over and the redevelopment of the area is completed.”
“The sale of land, utility cost sharing, and the subsequent property taxes will help off-set the front-end investment and generate long-term recurring revenue for the municipality,” it said.
The Cogswell Interchange was built in the 1960s to accommodate a planned waterfront freeway that was never built. There has been talk of tearing down and redeveloping the interchange for decades.
Tuesday’s release said the pre-construction phase began in mid-September and is expected to last three months, with fully mobilized construction beginning in winter of 2022.
The construction phase of the project is expected to take up to four years to complete.
It said the city aims to complete construction of three bypass roads in the spring of 2022 and a construction schedule for the roads will be shared once it has been finalized.
Two of the bypass roads will modify north-south traffic through the construction site, and the third will modify east-west traffic.
“You will not see any adjustment in traffic during that period,” said project manager, Donna Davis.
“We are expecting that these roads will be completed by the spring and then you’ll start to see some adjustments to accommodate that.”
Residents will be provided with advance notice about potential traffic impacts.
“It’s a staged process because we don’t want to totally tie up downtown Halifax but you can’t do a project like this without some disruption,” said Mayor Mike Savage.
Paul MacKinnon, the CEO of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, said there are obvious concerns about traffic disruptions, but he doesn’t expect the impact to be great.
“It’ll always be accessible, so it really shouldn’t impact people that much in terms of how they get to and from downtown,” MacKinnon said.
Others were lauding the project as well.
Accessibility advocate Gerry Post called it a “landmark project.”
“Anything going in there has to be certified to the highest accessibility standard. And the beauty of doing that and setting that standard upfront is that it’ll be designed in from day one so the cost is minimal, you’ll hardly even see it,” Post said.
The city also noted it is focused on consulting with the Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian communities on the project, and to keep the public informed over the next four years.
— With files from Callum Smith