Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Planning and Development Office, Regional Council, Community Design Advisory Committee, Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee, community members, Urban Development Institute, Waterfront Development, Downtown Halifax Business Commission, Halifax Ecology Action Centre, Halifax Chamber of Commerce, PLANifax, O2 Planning + Design.
Halifax Centre Plan
Creating an Urban Form that Places People First
“The Centre Plan seeks to maintain and create vibrant places and enhance quality of life. The Regional Centre will accommodate strategic growth, foster complete communities with access to multiple services and attractions, and place pedestrians first in a human scaled environment” (Centre Plan, 2017, pg. 3).
Health Perspectives Embedded into a Regional Plan
The Halifax Regional Municipality consists of many diverse communities on the south east coast of Nova Scotia. The Centre Plan joins the cores of the two largest communities within the Regional Municipality (Halifax and Dartmouth) into a 33-square kilometer area known as the Regional Centre. It is a comprehensive strategy that unifies land use plans, urban design and policy in the Centre (Centre Plan, 2017).
The Centre Plan incorporates health into land use planning through its four core concepts: complete communities, human-scale, pedestrians first and strategic growth. The Plan provides directions to accomplish complete communities that allow people to safely and conveniently access goods and services within a short journey. The Plan also guides urban form to be developed at the human scale, meaning that the built environment is shaped at a scale that is comfortable for people. The Plan puts forward pedestrian first policies which create safe and enjoyable street design elements to encourage walking as a healthy transportation choice. Finally, the Plan provides direction for socially, economically and environmentally responsible growth (Centre Plan, 2017).
The Plan is laid out in seven theme areas: land use and design, culture and heritage, housing, jobs and economic development, mobility, public spaces and places, and sustainability (Centre Plan, 2017).
Citizen Engagement and Early Political Leadership as the Key to Implementation
The Centre Plan was the result of a process with extensive analysis and public engagement. There was political leadership for the creation of healthy communities early on in this process, including a 2013 report from the Halifax Mayor which urged for the creation of healthy communities.
Implementation involves a 15-year plan that aims to make changes such as:
- Land use bylaws will be re-written in plain language, and a land use map will be provided to show what can be built where.
- New rules for density and growth will be provided to support complete communities.
- Zoning bylaws will permit more mixed use development in all growth areas.
- New built form regulations will put emphasis on pedestrian access to sun and climate protection.
- New bylaws will require wider sidewalks, with more space for snow clearing.
- Bylaws will allow for more opportunities for urban agriculture and farmers markets.
Plain language and healthy places, Halifax? We’re swooning.