Meaningful WTCC consultation? Or PR frippery?

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.

H/T: SP.

Where’s that shovel? —feedback

For the better part of a decade, developers have successfully quashed efforts to block new office and residential projects in the city, and then failed to build them. Contrarian reader Marian Lindsay asks:

What gives? Does anyone have anything to say about all this procrastination? This seems a ridiculous waste of time and perfectly good space. Does no-one in power find this unacceptable? Can no-one get these projects rolling?

And, why, I ask, if these are private developers, are they dependent on government hand-outs? Has this just become the standard way of operating in this province? Yet, it seems to me, that business interests, and the right-leaning public refuse to accept, or give any break whatsoever, to governments who want to give so-called hand-outs to the “small citizens” who really need it to live. But it seems they are fine with corporate hand-outs (while usually denying that they exist) to build projects often of questionable need, and dubious design (it would seem to some).

What’s wrong with this picture, Nova Scotia?! Perhaps we really ARE as backward and stupid as some in the rest of Canada think we are! Even so, is it necessary for us to make it so easy for some people to claim this? I can only shake my head at the things that go on – or fail to go on – here.

I don’t know, but perhaps Ms. Lindsay should keep an eye on the Chamber of Commerce this morning where, according to media reports, Defence Minister Peter MacKay will announce $47 million in federal funding for Joe Ramia’s controversy-drenched Halifax Convention Centre. That’s on top of $56 million each from the province and the city.

So maybe,  just maybe, developers who aren’t being showered with government subsidies don’t appreciate having to compete for tenants against a developer who is.

Just a thought.