After years in the works, Halifax Regional Municipality’s plan to revitalize Spring Garden Road is nearing completion.
The Imagine Spring Garden Road project aims to make the busy downtown street a better place for pedestrians and transit users, according to project manager Elora Wilkinson.
The streetscaping project has been in the making since 2018, but construction officially began last summer.
“Widening the sidewalks was the really major thing – giving people a little bit more space, the street didn’t have anywhere to sit, spend time,” Wilkinson said in an interview.
“Before it was really crowded on the sidewalk, with people waiting for the bus and trying to get through. Now everyone has a bit more space.”
With the sidewalks now widened, Wilkinson said the city just has some final touches left, including tidying up some of the pavers and cobblestones that may have shifted over the winter.
But the biggest remaining task is landscaping. Currently, the large concrete planters lining the street have only thin soil and a few sparse plants.
“What’s there right now isn’t HRM standard,” Wilkinson acknowledged, “so we had to kind of pause that, re-evaluate and make sure the final project that we were installing is what we needed.
“What you’re going to see happening is everything that’s there right now is basically going to get removed, new soil brought in, new vegetation, new trees and a much more lush, green environment that can actually support plants that’ll grow healthy trees and vegetation.”
Car-free pilot project
There will also soon be a one-year pilot project that will see part of Spring Garden Road open only to pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.
“Spring Garden Road is a busy and vibrant street, with thousands of people that arrive there using Halifax Transit daily,” the city said on its website. “Bus-only lanes help to make transit more reliable. Less traffic means less noise, cleaner air, and a better pedestrian experience.”
Beginning in late June – with a start date yet to be determined – Spring Garden Road will be closed to vehicle traffic between Queen Street and South Park Street from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.
While some members of the business community have raised concerns about the potential impact a car-free zone can have on local shops, Wilkinson said the pilot project is intended to test it out.
“There’s definitely some folks who are concerned, but there’s also a lot of folks who we’ve heard are really excited about what it could mean,” she said.
“Based on our research and what we’ve seen is other places, is these kinds of moves … actually end up having a positive benefit to the businesses.”
“But each city is unique, each context is unique, so it’s not something we can be 100 per cent sure on until we try it.”
She said the project team will do a check-in with local council after six months, so if there are any big issues they can be addressed before the full year is up.
Wilkinson added that she’s “excited” to see the project near completion.
“It’s going to make a big difference for the street and it’s a big project for Halifax,” she said. “We’ve worked together really well to get to the end goal that we are now, so it feels great.”