Spoken word artist and social advocate Ardath Whynacht won’t be taking part in the public consultations MT&L and Myrgan Inc. are conducting to smooth the way for Joe Ramia’s controversy-plagued Nova Centre in downtown Halifax. Her post at the Halifax Media Co-op website didn’t mince words:
To engage a single demographic in an orchestrated PR stunt, letting them believe that Joe Ramia and his development cronies will actually entertain the idea of having an after-school drop in centre in their luxury hotel is a crime against democracy. It is a lie. Consultation without a commitment to listen to the citizens is a PR stunt. And I believe too many Haligonians are being fooled into thinking that this process is legitimate.
Our food bank is broke. Youth programs are cut. Addictions services are being shut down. So to be honest, for all the facilitators who are turning a pretty buck off this consultation, you can take your Nova Centre and shove it up your “it’s gonna happen anyway, so let’s make it beautiful” bourgeoisie ass.
I get the sentiment. The cute, hand-drawn consultation flow chart on the chain link fence surrounding the Argyle Street
construction demolition site seems too slick by half. Nevertheless, the public has responded with surprisingly insightful if epigrammatic suggestions in the tiny cards the PR campaigners provided.
I can’t make up my mind about the Nova Centre. The city and the province need spaces capable of housing top-notch conferences and conventions, but with tens of millions in subsidies, government has put its thumb on the scale of office and hotel construction in the city for a generation to come. Future property developers will face a market in which Ramia has been given an artificial leg up, while they must play by the rules of supply and demand.
I don’t worry so much about the view from Citadel Hill as about what this massive building will do to one of the most successful commercial streets in Atlantic Canada. The wonderful collection of bars, bistros, and restaurants along Argyle St. will benefit from visitors, workers, and residents drawn to the street, but do they really need a 210-foot wall blocking the sun, the moon, and the sky? Will an unfriendly first storey replicate the calamitous Granville Street MetroPark that Kate Carmichael fought with her dying breath? Or the Nova Scotia Government’s more recent architectural vandalism in the form of the empty Barrington Street facade of the Johnston Building?
It would be nice to believe a genuine public consultation could head off such monstrosities. Time will tell.