New Halifax YMCA development has opponents

Two groups are speaking out against a design proposal that would see the new Halifax YMCA built at twice the allowed height.

Two groups are speaking out against a design proposal that would see the new Halifax YMCA built at twice the allowed height.

The building, planned for the corner of South Park and Sackville streets, across from Citadel Hill, would be 49 metres high. Current height restrictions in that area limit buildings to 23 metres.

City staff is recommending that the city accept the YMCA’s proposal, though opponents say it shouldn’t go ahead.

Parks Canada, in a written report, says that the building "will negatively impact the physical and symbolic values of Citadel Hill."

Phil Pacey, with the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, agrees and says he doesn’t understand why the city has created a bylaw, only to amend it two years later.

He also said the restrictions are in place "so that when a person is in the Public Gardens they are taken away from the urban environment as much as possible."

Halifax/Dartmouth YMCA CEO Bette Watson-Borg hopes the city considers the project to be a benefit to the community, even if it overrides the height restrictions. The building would include a fitness centre, daycare, retail and office space, and possible residences or a hotel.

"It’s a full-service, comprehensive, health, wellness and community centre," Watson-Borg said.

The future of the proposed $22-million development will be discussed at a meeting of HRM’s design review committee Wednesday evening.

In a report to the committee, municipal staff said "allowing greater height on this site is found to have limited impact upon Citadel Hill … In addition, the proposed recreation facility provides an important public benefit."

Watson-Borg says the capital funds will only be available for the project if it goes ahead as proposed.

Construction on the project will begin sometime after 2014, when CBC moves all operations to its Bell Road location.