QEII redevelopment official says controversial parkade key to plan
Bengal Lancers and Halifax Wanderers worry parking project will encroach on their operations
The senior official overseeing the redevelopment of Nova Scotia's largest hospital has told a legislature committee the province has not been secretive, and it is willing to meet with groups worried about plans to build a seven-storey parkade on land partially owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The Bengal Lancers equestrian school and the Halifax Wanderers Football Club are both worried the project, which is part of the QEII hospital complex redevelopment, will encroach on or impede their operations.
John O'Connor, vice-president infrastructure at the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, told the all-party public accounts committee Wednesday that the structure on Summer Street has to be built to allow for other projects to go ahead.
That's because the parking spaces will be needed to replace those lost when an existing hospital parking garage is torn down on Robie Street.
"We're building large, large, large buildings on the site with lots of underground parking," said O'Connor. "And it's going to be a very, very full site."
According to a news release issued Wednesday by the Wanderers soccer club, the plan "would have a significant impact on our ability to operate our stadium on games days, while also limiting our potential for future growth."
Angie Holt, head coach of the Bengal Lancers, said her not-for-profit club had only a vague idea of the plan beforehand. She is worried the structure will change the size and shape of the paddock, which is where riders train and horses are turned out.
"In order to continue to operate as is, we certainly wouldn't be able to lose any space," she said. "And we had been in talks with the municipality previous to this looking for possible expansion."
O'Connor told members of the committee there is simply no room to put a new parkade on the same side of Summer Street as the hospital buildings.
"It would be in the way of all these new buildings," he said.
O'Connor also said the parkade needed to be built first to allow for tearing down the existing one serving hospital from Robie Street.
"It is a linchpin to have a plan for replacing the 800 spaces," O'Connor told reporters following the meeting.
The province issued a tender Tuesday for the construction of the parkade, to be located between the Wanderers Grounds and the Museum of Natural History. Work is scheduled to start this spring, with the aim of completing it by March 2021.
The province is in talks with the city to buy or swap for the land it needs to build the parkade, a parcel it considers small. It's a claim disputed by city councillor Waye Mason.
"About 39 per cent, well over a third of the land that's required to build this parking garage has to be taken away from the park, so it's not a tiny bit of municipal land," Mason told reporters after listening to the committee hearing from the public gallery.
Mason said he and officials at city hall were unable to talk about the province's plans because of a non-disclosure agreement with the province, something the deputy transportation minister Paul LaFleche claimed to know nothing about.
"I have never heard of that, John [O'Connor] had never heard of that," he said. "I don't know if we have any other staff at any level who's ever heard of that."
As for why the province hadn't talked about its plans with the Bengal Lancers and the Wanderers, LaFleche said it was not the province's responsibility.
"They're tenants of HRM," said LaFleche. "So HRM is responsible to deal with them.
"If HRM wanted to waive that and allow us to deal with them, we would."