HRM’s Municipal Planning Strategy (2015) expects this from any new development on Quinpool: “commercial and mixed commercial / residential development which strengthens the community function of the Quinpool Road area, and is in keeping with the scale and character of the adjacent residential neighbourhoods.”
The two developments proposed for the Robie-Quinpool neighbourhood don’t even try to do this. Instead, they would become the second and sixth tallest buildings in Halifax. The taller one would be 88.7 meters (291 feet). Only Fenwick Tower (98 meters) would be taller.
As described in our editorial, “Follow the Rules,” the proposed towers extend far beyond the height limits specified in the Land Use Bylaw. The houses on the left show the scale of residential buildings in our neighbourhood.
The yellow volume in the image above shows the maximum building envelope that the Land Use By-law permits at this location. The Atlantica Hotel and Welsford Apartments were built at a different time, before Halifax established height limits, and therefore are not valid excuses for building even higher.
This image compares just the Armco proposal to the height limits in the Land Use By-law. The maximum height on the west half of the property is 45 feet. The maximum height on the east half of the property along Quinpool is 80 feet (eight storeys), plus a pyramid with sloped sides that rises to 145 feet (about fifteen storeys) in the middle. What’s permitted is basically what’s there now. Regional Council’s proposal to limit Armco’s development to 20 storeys also would be a substantial increase to the height limits.
The two images below show how the proposed towers would block afternoon sunlight on the Halifax Common, including the Oval, for four months of the year: November to February (skating season). The shadows are shown on February 1 at 4:00 pm.
In addition to shadows, users of the Common and the Oval would experience stronger, more turbulent wind, as discussed in our editorial “Tempest in a Teapot? Not Bloody Likely.” A proper wind study should be done now to test the impact of these major developments, rather than leaving it until later or leaving it to chance. Other cities, such as Mississauga and Toronto, consider pedestrian comfort and safety by requiring a wind study by a qualified professional when proposed developments exceed certain limits. Halifax should do the same.
The series of towers would block the early morning sun from the neighbourhood to the west during the middle of winter. This image above shows shadows cast on February 15 at 8:00 am, when many residents are walking to work or school.
The maximum population density permitted at this location is 125 persons per acre. The combined density for these two projects would be 541 persons per acre, which is 4.3 times the maximum. The average density for the whole Halifax peninsula is 12 persons per acre, so these two developments, on their relatively small sites, would be 45 times the average. North of Quinpool is already fairly dense, at 29 persons per acre. South of Quinpool is not far behind, at 20.
With parking spaces for 305 vehicles (shown here in red, bumper to bumper and door to door), rush hour on the streets around Robie and Quinpool would become more congested. Still, the number of parking spaces provided is less than what is required for the proposed number of residential units.
These developments do not meet other requirements in Halifax’s Land Use By-law. Neither maintains a 10–20-foot setback from the property lines shared with their neighbours. The top of the building on Quinpool exceeds the maximum angle when viewed from ground level in all directions. Both developments provide insufficient landscaped open space; the Quinpool proposal includes only 13% of what is required.
The site for the Westwood project on Robie Street is zoned for residential use only, so commercial uses (such as the proposed hotel) would require a change in zoning. Vehicular access to this property from Robie Street is problematic, so the developer would need to acquire and demolish one or more houses at 2027, 2033, 2037, and/or 2043 Parker Street to create a back lane. The Parker Street neighbourhood then would become the main vehicular route for both the Westwood development and the Armco development. Guest parking for Westwood’s 81 hotel rooms may require additional properties and rezoning on Parker Street.
We would be interested to see smart projects that respect the rules. On the other hand, if developers insist on exceeding certain limits (resulting in higher profits for them), what would HRM expect from them in return?