Nova Scotia

Bloomfield site should include urban farm, says Halifax resident

Building garden plots directly on the pre-existing pavement that surrounds the former Bloomfield site in Halifax would be an efficient use of existing resources and would keep costs down, says local resident David Fright.

Location and large parking lot makes site ideal for community garden, says David Fright

North-end Halifax resident David Fright says the Bloomfield site's location and large parking lot make it ideal for an urban farm and mixed-use outdoor space. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

A Halifax resident wants to see part of the Bloomfield site turned into an urban farm, a move that he says makes environmental sense and would bring the site back to how it was used more than 100 years ago.

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. The 1.3-hectare lot also has a large parking lot, a tennis court and a small community garden.

David Fright said the parking lot and tennis court make it an ideal location for an urban farm.

"That asphalt collects a tremendous amount of energy from the sun, so it's actually a good spot for farming," he said.

"That energy can be put to use to extend the growing season. Because it's paved, it also has drainage built into it, so it's actually really good for collecting rainwater, which again can be used for the farm and repurposed."

Fright's idea is all about repurposing, not only natural resources such as sunlight and water, but repurposing the property itself. By building garden plots directly on the pre-existing pavement instead of redeveloping that portion of the land, Fright said the cost would be negligible.

"In this day and age, when budgetary concerns are a major issue, really we should look at repurposing things first before demolishing [to] at least see if it's possible," he said.

There are some garden plots in use at the location. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

Fright lives just around the corner from the Bloomfield site, and has lived in the north end for 15 years. He said he'd like to see more mixed-use open spaces.

"I think it could be home to a variety of facilities for outdoor activities," said Fright. "Sitting, enjoying the sun, being in nature, physical sports and urban farming as well."

Fright's urban-farm proposal would see the northern half of the property relatively untouched by construction crews. The southern half of the property would remain available for developing affordable housing.

Annual operating costs for the unoccupied property are approximately $90,000.

Garden plots could be built directly on the pre-existing pavement instead of redeveloping that portion of the land, which would make the cost negligible, David Fright says. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

The future of the Bloomfield site has been up in the air for a long time. Halifax regional council approved the Bloomfield Master Plan in 2009, with guidelines on how potential developers could move forward with plans for the property.

One of the plan's recommendations is that 20 per cent of the site be used as an open space.

The lot was awarded to Housing Nova Scotia in 2012 to develop affordable housing. A community group, Imagine Bloomfield, was brought in to help the province's public housing organization plan how to use the property.

After three years of little to no progress, Imagine Bloomfield broke ties with the Crown agency. Housing Nova Scotia walked away from the project shortly after in 2016.

Previous plans for a French school

In 2017, some French school board officials and parents expressed interest in the site being used for a new francophone school. After a preliminary review by the province, that idea was shut down.

The sale of the Bloomfield property is on hold until the Centre Plan is approved, likely in the fall.

In an email, city spokesperson Erin DiCarlo said an urban farm would be permitted on the Bloomfield property under the proposed development designation.

The historic property in the city's north end was once known at Bloomfield Park. It was established in 1906 and was the first public playground in Halifax. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

Fright said the history of the property should serve as inspiration for its future. The northeast corner of the property, which now hosts a few garden plots, was once called Bloomfield Park. It was established in 1906 by the Local Council of Women as the first public playground in Halifax, and was one of the first supervised playgrounds in the city.

"In terms of what it represents and what was offered at the site, it's something quite amazing even to consider in this day and age," said Fright. "And perhaps the clock has rolled back, in that sense, that we don't have as great of a concern as we should for the health of the environments we live in."

'A tremondous opportunity'

Fright said turning a portion of the Bloomfield property into an urban farm prioritizes things such as community, education, health and food security.

"It's such a tremendous opportunity," said Fright. "And something people would look back on 100, 200 years from now as a real accomplishment."

Fright said he's introduced himself and his ideas to city council, and is encouraging other residents to speak up about how they'd like to see the space used.

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