small small BIG small small

Westwood Construction Limited, the proponents of a mixed residential/commercial development at 2032–2050 Robie Street, claim that their project complies with the existing overall objectives of the Quinpool Road Commercial Area Plan, specifically with respect to the

encouragement of 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. [1]

We were struck by the phrase “in keeping with the scale and character of the adjacent residential neighbourhoods.” The term “in keeping with” stood out. An imprecise choice of words, perhaps, but then a quick check of its synonyms was reassuring: well-suited, well matched, in agreement, in tune, in harmony, reconcilable, consistent, in accord, and, last but not least, compatible. By what possible trick of the imagination might one be fooled into seeing this 25-storey building as compatible with Welsford Park and the houses on Parker Street and Welsford Street? Impossible. After all, its 21-storey tower stands on a solid 4-storey base that’s 15.6 metres high, 21.7 metres deep, and fully 66 metres wide: the entire width of the six residential properties on Parker Street, with which it shares a property line.


Perhaps we’ve missed a step. Maybe it’s time for a refresher course in pattern recognition. Let’s start at the beginning, with relative size. Some things are “small,” others are “big.” Here’s what “small” and “big” look like. The little words are “small.” The black word is “big.”


Got it? OK, now we’re ready to try something else. Can you tell which of these things doesn’t belong? You can sing along if you’d like to!


One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Good. That was lovely. Now this one is more difficult. Again, which of these things doesn’t belong?


Here’s the thing. 2032–2050 Robie may want to be a house, just like the other houses in the neighbourhood, but however hard it tries, it can’t get around the fact that it’s ten times taller than they are. There’s no way to camouflage that. When you put a pig in a suit, it’s still a pig. You can even change the suit, but the pig is still a pig. To make it even more difficult, 2032–2050 is an entirely different species. Physiologically speaking, its body parts are different and they’re organized differently. For example, while the houses face the street and sit on narrow lots at right angles to it, the apartments sit side-by-side along an internal corridor that is parallel to Robie Street. In polite company, fronts face fronts, while over-the-fence neighbours back onto one another. Throughout the Quinpool neighbourhood, houses face each other across the street. At 2032–2050 Robie, half of the apartments face Robie Street, while, alarmingly, the other half face the private parts of the houses on Parker Street.

There doesn’t seem to be much point in going further. Wishful thinking aside, the situation is hopeless. 2032–2050 Robie Street is not “in keeping with the scale and character of the adjacent residential neighbourhoods.”



1. “Halifax Municipal Planning Strategy,” 207, 28 Feb. 2015,

2. “One of These Things is Not Like the Others,” from Sesame Street; lyrics by Joe Raposo and Jon Stone, EMI Music Publishing.

 J. Grant Wanzel / 20 May 2015


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