Halifax needs more hangout spaces, some young people say

Students want more lively public areas, also known as ‘third places’

4 min read
Four people sit on orange and green chairs near a window at the Halifax Central Library
caption One student cites congestion as an issue when using the Central Library as a 'third place.'
Kaitlyn MacNeill

Nova Scotia Community College student Claire Anderson often struggles to find places to relax and get work done outside her house.

“There’s been days where I’ve walked into three or four different cafes and found them all full,” said Anderson. “I end up resorting to studying at home or school … which is frustrating, because those are the places I’m trying to take a break from.”

Finding ‘third places’

According to some young people, Halifax has a major lack of “third places.” This term refers to gathering spaces outside the home and workplace, where no invitation is necessary and cost is low or free.

The concept of third places comes from a 1989 book The Great Good Place by sociologist Ray Oldenburg. According to Oldenburg, these types of spaces are in steady decline in the West. 

Hangout spots are becoming scarce, and according to some of its young people, Halifax is no exception to this trend.

Hanging out in Halifax

“It’s a very condensed city, so there’s not a whole lot of open space to hang out in,” said Anderson. “I feel like the city wastes a lot of the space it does have.”

In public spaces the city does offer, Dalhousie student Jasmine Rana says overcrowding is a huge issue. “I think of places like the Central Library and how much (congestion) there tends to be there,” said Rana. “It’s not really a comfortable space to hang out with friends.”

When it comes to building a better future, Anderson urges the city to take inspiration from the past. 

“I think about what my parents used to do for fun in their day, and I wish we could recapture that,” said Anderson. “They’d go to roller rinks, go bowling. I think we need more stuff like that in the student area of the city.”

City solutions

In addition to existing public hangout spots like the Oval or Commons Outdoor Pool, the city has plans in the works that might address this issue.

The Cogswell District Redevelopment Project has potential to open up new third places, said project manager Donna Davis. 

The project involves tearing down the Cogswell interchange to build a new neighbourhood, which will include a space called Granville Square. According to Davis, the square will have park areas, a performance pavilion and a community garden.

“Think about piazzas in Italy,” said Davis. “Those are a sort of living room for people who don’t have private balconies or green space. That’s how we see Granville Square.”

“I can’t help but think it would be a great place for students to hang out,” said Davis. “I picture hearing, ‘Meet you at the square!’ ”

The city also has plans to renovate and expand the Commons Skate Park. According to District 7 Coun. Waye Mason, “The idea is that the upper part gets redesigned with professional skaters in mind, but also people like my six-year-old niece.”

The future of third places

In the pursuit of opening up more public hangout spaces, Mason says the city is trying its best.

“Construction is expensive and takes a lot of time,” said Mason. “As peoples’ usage patterns change, it’s hard to anticipate what people are going to want next and when they’re going to want it … But we’re doing it. The city is aware, and tries to make improvements.”

Rana sees the planning of these projects as hope for the future.

“I think any effort made to foster community is a step in the right direction,” said Rana. “With Halifax especially, I know people who are going to take advantage of these spaces, which will hopefully inspire more projects like these to come.”

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About the author

Kaitlyn MacNeill

Kaitlyn MacNeill is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of King's College living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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