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The fix is in

Mike Fleury checks up on an old problem.

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It’s 2007, we’re fixing Halifax, and it seemed as good a time as any to check in on one of our favourite disappointments from 2006, the sprawling abyss (slash parking lot) on the corner of Spring Garden and Queen.

As you may or may not recall, the lot was discussed last spring in a series of public planning meetings. Hundreds of people—citizens, developers, business owners—attended. The ideas were diverse, and occasionally ambitious. The excitement was palpable. People were arguing, talking, sharing.

Now, enh, not so much. Although some citizens raised concerns about the short-term use of Spring Garden and Queen at the public planning sessions, it eventually became clear that the only short-term plan that ever existed for the site was that it would host a provincially-managed parking lot—the same lot that occupies most of the site today. Sure, it generates income. But where’s the love?

The long-term possibilities on the site also took a blow when it was revealed that Dalhousie University had a pre-existing agreement with the province to manage and operate the far corner of the site, near Queen and Morris Streets, by way of a 99-year lease. Dal has stated that they plan to install more surface parking when they gain control of that portion of the property.

Parking, parking, parking. It was all supposed to be so much more exciting, wasn’t it? Bernie Smith of the Spring Garden Area Business Association says that citizens concerned with Spring Garden Road have remained “acutely aware” of the situation, and that interim parking could still give way to something more exciting.

“Truthfully, there was a heck of a disappointment on that site last year,” says Smith. “That part of it was leased to Dal for parking, that was quite inconsistent for the vision of the place…but we’ve still got a wonderful opportunity site there.”

Currently, the city and the province are negotiating the transfer of land from provincial to municipal control. Once the city owns the land, some of the more inspiring long-term projects on the site can begin to take shape. For now, that continues to be the news to report—the site will stay in a holding pattern until the province-to-city transfer occurs.

Among the likely long-term developments, a new public library on Spring Garden and Queen is still being discussed.

“It will be an uphill sled, I think, to get that library…that is, it might take a while,” says Smith. “But I know that the library is anxious to start a fundraising drive. As soon has they have something obvious and tangible to point to, they’ll start a fundraising drive.”

The has also been buzz about a new Dal research facility building that may land somewhere on the Spring Garden and Queen block, a rumour that concerns Smith.

“You start hearing things like that, and suddenly we’re not left with a lot of space. It starts to become very institutional,” he says. “We need vibrancy and fun at night, holding your best girl’s hand, or vice versa, cafes, people out recreating in various ways.”

One way to do that: Smith says the Business Association is looking at adding new retail space on the two parking lots along Clyde Street, behind existing merchants like Dugger’s and the relatively new Spring Garden Starbucks, to take advantage of the impending changes on Spring Garden an Queen.

Imagine that: a parking lot actually being replaced.

Did we miss a bigger Halifax fix? Email: mikef@thecoast.ca

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