On moving RP+5 forward

Friday, June 14th, 2013

The RP+5 firmly establishes Halifax as a region and city of the last century. It takes us back rather than moving us forward.

The growth strategy is costly, lacks direction and ambition and does not even address the failures of the current 2006 plan to meet similar targets. It is at odds with the HRM by Design-Downtown Plan and the intention of the Centre Plans. The strategy seems to be, if you’re not achieving what you set out to do, just do less.  In the end, this attitude underestimates our capacity and diminishes Halifax.

The idea of “greenbelting” is vague and confused. As conceived, it is ineffective both in establishing firm growth boundaries and protecting green corridors.

The transportation chapter pays only lip service to active transportation and public transit. At its root, the strategy is firmly grounded in the “more roads for more cars” culture. That attitude is inconsistent with clear, well-developed values and ideas shared by a broad cross-section of this community. Nor, is it in line with what is happening around the world.

Community engagement as broadly prescribed (in Chapter 9) and practiced in the preparation of the RP+5 is not good enough. To open small windows for controlled public and selected “stakeholder” reaction fuels community apathy and excludes us from the real debates. It discounts our ideas, our imagination and our passion for the city. Instead of moving us forward together, the backroom plan keeps us firmly planted in yesterday. It is a lost opportunity. The draft strategy is more like RP-15.

This community and HRM Council deserve to see an option that would move us forward. We need to be given a choice to build a future that is more ambitious and inspiring, healthy, sustainable, vibrant and economic.

The broad outline for such an option already exists. We might proceed over the next month with a series of open RP+5 design/development sessions focused on growth, greenbelting, transportation and community engagement. Together we can invent our own future and go where we want.

Frank Palermo
Professor of Architecture and Planning, Dalhousie University
Director of the Cities and Environment Unit
Chair of the Halifax Planning and Design Centre