Community members ask how proposed towers would affect north-end neighbourhood

Developer wants to build high-rise towers at former St. Patrick’s-Alexandra School site

Several people raised questions about the height of a proposed development at the site of the former St. Patrick’s-Alexandra School at a public meeting Thursday.

JONO Developments Ltd. is proposing to build two towers over 20 storeys tall on Brunswick Street in north-end Halifax, if the municipality rezones the property. The development would be a mix of residential units, commercial space, parks and community spaces.

During the virtual meeting, community members were invited to ask questions about the proposed project.

The proposed development would feature towers of over 20 storeys.   One North End

Kevin Cooper was among those who had questions about the height of the towers, asking “Will the towers cast a shadow on the Hope Blooms park space?”

Other people were concerned about how the towers would look among the existing heritage buildings in the area.

Joe Metlege, owner of JONO Developments Ltd., said the building needed to be taller to offset the costs of developing a space that works for the community.

Rodney Small, director of One North End, a community economic development society, has been working with JONO to create a community benefit agreement. He presented the company’s architectural rendering of how the site would look. The development would include a community startup space, arts centre, retail spaces, residential units and a grocery store, all aimed at addressing the economic and cultural needs of community members, particularly the African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaw communities.

Small said Gottingen Street businesses don’t represent the community they serve.

“In many instances we heard conversations from those young people in which they didn’t even feel welcomed in those businesses, nor did they feel that they even could work in these places,” Small said during his presentation.

Metlege said the products of the community benefit agreement, such as the arts centre and startup space, “should be responsibility of the government.”

“If we’re going to try to download these to a private company, we have to find a way that it doesn’t hurt us as the developer,” Metlege said in defence of the high-rise buildings.

The site is currently zoned as Higher Order Residential-1. Under HR-1 zoning the area can be developed as a multi-unit residential development with commercial space that is up to 14 metres, which is about four storeys.

In 2019, after Metlege expressed an interest developing taller buildings, Halifax regional council directed planning staff to explore changing the zoning from HR-2. Under HR-2 zoning, the building could be up to 38 metres, or 12 storeys and house residential and commercial space. The architectural renderings of this proposal showed a building that would require CEN-2 zoning. CEN-2 would allow for high-rise buildings, up to 90 metres, which can have a wide range of residential, commercial, park and community facilities, and cultural, institutional and urban agricultural uses.

Metlege said the building would be designed to avoid casting shadows over neighbouring Murray Warrington Park and the Hope Blooms garden. Before JONO could start developing the site, the proposed development would need to undergo a shadow impact assessment.

One person at the meeting asked whether any of the school’s structure would remain in place.

Kasia Tota, principal planner with the municipality, said that as of now, the building is not considered a heritage property, so the developer is under no obligation to preserve the building.

Small said during his presentation that JONO was planning to keep the Brunswick Street wall of the school to preserve its heritage.

JONO Developments Ltd. has said they will keep the Brunswick Street wall of the St. Patrick’s-Alexandra School building.   One North End

Tota also said that no development application has been submitted by the company yet. As of now, the site is still zoned as HR-1 and community engagement is ongoing.

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