Council defers decision on proposed tower near Halifax Common

Halifax regional council still hasn't reached a decision on a divisive proposal to build a mixed-use apartment and commercial tower on the corner of Quinpool Road and Robie Street.

'Let's make sure that if we're going to build this, we're going to build it right'

The developer of the Willow Tree Tower is still seeking approval from the city. (Submitted by Armco Capital)

Halifax regional council still hasn't reached a decision on a divisive proposal to build a tower on the corner of Quinpool Road and Robie Street. 

At a council meeting Wednesday morning, there was discussion among councillors about whether the building should go ahead at 20 storeys — the height recommended by municipal staff — or whether the developer should be allowed to make the building 25 storeys tall.

In exchange for the extra height, the developer said he would provide 10 affordable housing units.

Coun. Shawn Cleary asked for a supplementary staff report to look into the idea of including affordable housing units. That report is expected to be brought to council by March 20. 

"If we're going to be giving something away — that is, the extra height — we should be getting something. The community should benefit from it," said Cleary.

Shawn Cleary is the municipal councillor for district 9 Halifax West Armdale. (CBC)

APL Properties, operated by Armco Capital, wants to build the mixed-use development, called Willow Tree Tower, across from the Halifax Common. The proposed building will be comprised of rental apartments as well as commercial space on the lower levels.  

The wait for a new staff report is yet another delay in the project's long history of delays.

Joachim Stroink, a spokesperson for Armco, said the additional wait is actually beneficial. 

"This is great because we're going to … get this right. This project has been five years in the making and has changed over that time. Let's make sure that if we're going to build this we're going to build it right."   

Joachim Stroink is a spokesperson for the developer Armco Capital. (CBC)

Heated debate around the proposed development has dragged on for years and shows no sign of slowing down. 

At a meeting Tuesday night, councillors heard from city planners, the developer and more than 40 members of the public about the proposed Willow Tree Tower.

"We really see this site as an opportunity to create a civic landmark," said Adam MacLean with Armco Capital.

MacLean said the company has listened to concerns and made changes. 

The parking garage and office building would be torn down to make room for the Willow Tree Tower. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

A few of the people who spoke at Tuesday night's hearing support the proposal.

"If we continue to wait and we wait, and we wait, and we wait and we miss opportunities and it's too late to go back and approve the things you should be approving tonight," said Adam Conter. 

"From my perspective, I'd appreciate if all of you stopped and gave yourself the permission you need to say, 'I took this job to build a greater city,' and I believe this is an example of how to do it."

Dalhousie University student Leah Fulton agreed with Conter.

"I see growth of Quinpool, I see promoting new businesses. Basically, I would just like to see this development go up in the future," she said. 

An architect's rending by WM Fares shows the proposed 25-storey Willow Tree Tower. (Submitted by Armco Capital)

But more than 30 other speakers opposed the project.

"I'm asking you to not make exceptions before we have a Centre Plan," said Mary Jo MacKay. The Centre Plan is a blueprint for development in the municipality for the next 15 years. A draft of the plan has been completed, but it has not yet been approved by council. 

Carol Woodhall does not want the building going up.

"We want to maintain the livable, walkable city around the Common," she said. 

Allan Collins said, "The site is too small for the scale of the project." 

The public hearing lasted more than four hours. 

About the Author

Pam Berman


Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to