Nova Scotia

Rebrand of Bloomfield site a 'slap in the face' to community, says north-end resident

A marketing campaign to sell the historic Bloomfield property in Halifax’s north end is a "slap in the face" to local residents who’ve spent decades trying to save the site for community use, says a longtime resident.

'It was utter marketing BS to rebrand the neighborhood in a glossier, sexier way,' says Fred Connors

Cushman Wakefield has temporarily branded the historic north-end Halifax site as the 'Streetcar District.' (Emma Smith/CBC)

A marketing campaign to sell the historic Bloomfield property in Halifax's north end is a "slap in the face" to local residents who've spent decades trying to save the site for community use, says a longtime resident.

"For Sale" signs bearing the new name "Streetcar District" went up Monday on Agricola Street as the Halifax Regional Municipality seeks a new owner for a property that's been hotly debated for two decades. 

When Fred Connors walked out his door and saw the signs this week, he "was absolutely shocked."

"It was utter marketing BS to rebrand the neighborhood in a glossier, sexier way so that it would be more attractive for a developer who doesn't understand the DNA of this neighbourhood," the business owner and former mayoral candidate told CBC's Information Morning

The historic property in the city's north end is home to three buildings, all of which have been unused and dilapidated for more than a decade. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

Connors owns FRED Salon on Agricola Street and has lived and worked in the neighbourhood for years. He said everyone in the north end knows the site as Bloomfield.

"It's more than just a building. It is the heart and soul of this community," he said. "And for that not even to be included in any of the marketing of this site, it just to me was a huge oversight and a slap in the face from the city."

The sale of the 1.3-hectare lot is the latest development in a decades-long saga over what will become of the beloved property, which was a former school and before that, the first public playground in the city.

Fred Connors is a business owner and resident in the north end. (CBC)

The community group Imagine Bloomfield has tried for years to save the site for community use. 

Bill MacAvoy, the managing director of Cushman Wakefield Atlantic, helped settle on the "Streetcar District" name. He said it's temporary branding to give potential buyers a feel for the area.

"It's quite common that we could have interest from someone who's not local to Halifax, and we need to paint a picture for them that they understand exactly how the land site fits into the city fabric," he said.

The name was chosen to reflect a time when the city was serviced by streetcars, according to a brochure on Cushman Wakefield's website.

After nearly two decades of debate, a former school site in north-end Halifax is up for sale. We hear why some community members think all the public consultation was for naught. 7:55

"The name speaks to the journey of where Halifax has been by honouring its history while, like a streetcar, moves forward into a new modern district to serve the community," the site states.

MacAvoy said the name likely won't stick and that it will be up to the new owner to find a permanent name. 

The site went up for sale Monday and MacAvoy said he's already had conversations with 25 people, 80 per cent of whom are local. Buyers who are interested have until early July to submit a bid.

Development will have to consider the Bloomfield Master Plan, which was finalized by the municipality in 2009 in collaboration with Imagine Bloomfield.

Cushman Wakefield notes in its marketing brochure that 20 per cent of the site should be dedicated to open space and 20,000 square feet designated as affordable space for the community to use.

Someone posted their own signs next to the billboards that went up on Agricola Street on Monday. (Emma Smith/CBC)

"Ultimately, any development is subject to the development approval process, which will include public engagement," he said.

But Connors said people who live in the neighbourhood, and have been invested in the site for decades, feel excluded from the process.

The creators of the 'Streetcar District' brand for the Bloomfield property explain who they are targeting. 8:31

"The developer will probably pay lip service to the mission of the master plan and we will see a minimum effort and, like, the bare minimum of the goals of the master plan built into the development," he said.

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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