Innovation, history key to building Halifax’s future

Commercial development in Halifax can be a particularly touchy subject for many Nova Scotians. It’s a city built upon decades of history and has a unique mix of heritage buildings and contemporary architecture. While some view growth, especially in the downtown core, as almost taboo, others fear the city will become irrelevant, stagnant, without an ongoing infusion of new development.

The question then becomes: How do we preserve the uniqueness and heritage of Halifax while still encouraging healthy growth that will sustain the many businesses and residents of an ever-evolving city? That is what presenters and moderators of the Art of City Building (AOCB) conference are hoping to discover.

“We all share a common love for Halifax,” says Jennifer Angel, acting president and CEO at Waterfront Development. And it is this same love for the city that fuels the many diverse and often very passionate views.

“In order to find a common vision, we have to be able to dialogue — in a respectful and engaging way,” says Angel, who believes the AOCB conference is a great starting point.

The upcoming conference will give a platform to some of the most successful and knowledgeable urban planners, designers, engineers, architects and heads of various commissions and businesses from across the country, the U.S. and even Europe. Keynote speakers hail from Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, as well as international presenters from New York, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Denver and Malmö, all of whom have been involved in the growth and development of their cities.

“Our shared goal is for a better city. So, we want to come together to have a dialogue and build a better city for everyone,” says Kourosh Rad, vice-president of research and development for Compass Commercial Realty and a session moderator at the conference.

“I think sometimes we focus too much on the negative and we lose sight of what really matters. So, through this conference, we hope to bring everyone together to have an important conversation about how we can build a better city … building that shared vision,” he adds.

As acting president and CEO at Waterfront Development, Angel is particularly interested in how the city’s spectacular waterfront can be developed, while keeping the integrity of its natural landscape and character. A good example, according to Angel, is the Queen’s Marque development, which will make use of 75,000 square feet of public space along the water’s edge. The new complex is set to open in 2019 and will showcase a mix of homes and businesses and three new wharves.

“We need (this type of) thoughtful development that includes historic architecture. We must weigh where we can preserve and protect versus where we can change things,” she says.

Rad agrees. “I think what needs to happen in terms of development is having that balance between the demand that we have for residential and our core, and balancing that with heritage development … and ensure that we understand that heritage is what has given the city character.”

He adds that while this is obviously the goal, “… at the same time, we have to have a sight on buildings that can accommodate as many people as possible because the city is growing. Last year alone, Halifax grew by two per cent of its population — that’s 8,000 people that we need to provide housing for. And that housing needs to be high-quality, but at the same time we need to understand what it is that is driving people to move here.”

The question he hopes the conference will help answer is, “How can we achieve these things? And how do we do this while having a positive business environment for developers while keeping our character?”

Angel says that the only way through this dilemma is by discussing it. And she sees the AOCB as an opportunity to “daylight some of the negativity (that surrounds this issue). We all care for Halifax and we have diverse perspectives and positions.”

The conference, according to both Angel and Rad, is designed to expand these conversations and hopefully contribute to the development of a shared vision for Halifax — one that is inclusive and honours our past and one that inspires new ideas while embracing our future Halifax.

Speakers will discuss such things as Urban Planning in 2017: Best practices for building a livable city; Placemaking and Urban Design; Smart City Design and Infrastructure; Halifax, Then and Now; Building Future Cities; Designing Inspiring Streetscapes; and Designing and Operating Public Waterfronts, among other topics. Each session is independent of the other, according to Angel, and will be moderated by local representatives, including Angel as well as Halifax Mayor Mike Savage. The open forum will give the public an opportunity to discuss these issues and for those that are not able to get tickets, Rad says, “… there will be a lot of online engagement through #AoCB2017.”

He adds, “We made it a point to make the conference free — all of the sponsors pulled together to make that happen — because we wanted to make the dialogue as accessible as possible.”

The event will take place at Paul O’Regan Hall in the Halifax Central Library. While the majority of the tickets were sold within the first 48 hours, according to Rad, some will still be available at the door. They are expecting 300 people and the first session starts at 9 a.m. on Oct. 23. For more information, visit www.artofcitybuilding.ca.

Source : http://thechronicleherald.ca/halifaxcitizen/1511805-innovation-history-key-to-building-halifax%E2%80%99s-future

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