Urban Development

Ben’s Bakery site one step closer to redevelopment

Council approves motion to amend municipal planning strategy

Halifax regional council approved a motion Tuesday to rezone the Ben’s Bakery site in the Quinpool Road area.

The motion passed unanimously at council, which means Westwood Group’s redevelopment proposal is one step closed to being approved. The developer bought the site after the bakery closed in 2015.

The land had been previously zoned for bakery operations. Until Tuesday, it was the only zone of its kind left in the municipality. Now, the area will permit mixed-use development, including both commercial and residential buildings.

At a meeting Tuesday, council hosted an open public hearing on the proposal, to get public feedback about changes to land use restrictions laid out in the municipal planning strategy.

Connor Wallace, on behalf of Westwood, described the plan for the 110,000-square-foot site that covers Quinpool Road, Pepperell, Shirley and Preston streets.

The proposal is made up of several different buildings. This includes a 10-storey building on Quinpool Road, with a total of 93 residential units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space; 36 stacked townhouses along Preston and Shirley and a six-storey assisted living centre for seniors facing on to Pepperell Street.

The proposal includes a 10-storey building on the lot facing Quinpool Road.   Dylan Coutts

Coun. Steve Adams noted a general consensus at the meeting regarding the proposal. There didn’t seem to be many people opposing the project, which, he said, was a testament to the developer’s consultation process.

“I would not have imagined such a low response in terms of people demanding that we not destroy their neighbourhood with such a large project, because change is hard,” he said. “But the proof is in the pudding here today.”

Halifax regional council approved the motion 16-0.   Dylan Coutts

Community response

There was a bit of criticism, though.

Lawyer Vincent Calderhead didn’t object to the proposal, but was hoping council would have used the site for affordable housing.

“In the same way that government has to take account for the needs of people with disabilities, in things like design and accessibility, the same should be done for low income people,” he said.

Calderhead said council should reconsider the proposal in terms of density bonusing. Density bonusing would compel the developer to reserve a percentage of the building’s units for affordable housing. Calderhead recommended 20 per cent of the units be made affordable.

Other community members had similar opinions.

Claire McNeil, a lawyer at Dalhousie Legal Aid, said she was surprised affordable housing hadn’t been considered.

“It’s great that this development is going to be residential, but why not make use of this opportunity to up our supply (of affordable housing)?” she said.

Danny Chedrawe, land developer and owner of Westwood, said the proposed residential units were not intended to be rentals, so a density bonus wouldn’t apply.

Coun. Lindell Smith said council wouldn’t have the ability to employ density bonusing until the municipality’s Centre Plan is in effect.

Future plans

Affordable housing is something Westwood is looking into for other developments, said Chedrawe.

“We plan to have an affordable project, not just with 20 per cent but 100 per cent affordability, with no government money. We’re going to do it,” he said.

Smith responded to Chedrawe’s promise and said his statement is now public record.

“We’ll be holding you to the fire on this because you’ve said it on the record. We hope you mean it,” said Smith.

Though the motion to rezone passed at council, the proposal will need to be discussed further and approved by the Halifax and West Community Council at a later date.