Halifax Regional Municipality‘s decision to create a “Centre Plan” to update development regulations sparked a slew of applications which would see almost 20 new buildings containing hundreds of apartments and housing units, commercial and public spaces.
The existing plan, largely written in the 1970s, has become outdated according to Alexandra Baird Allen, senior manager of economic intelligence for Halifax-based real estate services firm Turner Drake & Partners Ltd.
“Halifax has for years existed in a state of uncertainty, where developers seek one-off development agreements for individual projects, sometimes taking years for approval,” Baird Allen told RENX. “The plan seeks to create a lot more certainty in the approval process, and clarity for developers and the community as to what can be built in various areas.
“In the short term, there will be some shifts in land values as restrictions are increased or reduced. Developers will no longer have to gamble on entering into the prolonged development agreement process to have lands in areas ripe for development rezoned to allow that development to take place.”
Two phases to Centre Plan
The Centre Plan is to proceed in two phases.
Package A, which deals with the highest priority growth areas, is on the path to adoption and the municipality hopes to have it in force by the end of 2019. Stakeholders are working on a draft for Package B, which deals with lower-density neighbourhoods and other lower-priority development areas.
“Some developers are seeking approvals under the current system,” said Baird Allen. “If approved, some of these projects will likely go ahead, while others may be more of a back-pocket plan B. As the finalized version of the first phase of the Centre Plan nears, this trend is lessening, but there are applications in the pipeline.”
The move to get projects approved has been most prevalent among developers whose proposals would no longer conform under the new plan. Council has been dealing with these applications for the past several months and it has created a pipeline of potential new developments.
There is another side to the process, though, Baird Allen pointed out: “A less visible trend is those developers that have projects which conform with the incoming Centre Plan, who are waiting for adoption of the plan before they proceed.”
Recently approved Halifax apartments
Among the potential developments which have recently been granted approval by Halifax Regional Council are two proposals along the same block of Quinpool Road.
Dexel Developments proposes an eight-storey apartment building at 6324 Quinpool Rd., along with three-storey townhouses to be constructed at the back of the site.
Façade Investments proposes the TED Building, which includes nine- and six-storey apartment towers, along with three-and-a-half-storey townhouses along Pepperell Street.
Council endorsed two separate development proposals involving four apartment buildings at Robie Street and Spring Garden Road that could be between 20 and 29 storeys. Dexel plans to redevelop the north side of the block, while a development company run by the Rouvalis family has plans for the south side.
Dexel’s proposal will include a public atrium, a public park, underground wiring, affordable housing units and affordable office space for non-profit organizations.
Council approved an eight-storey proposal by BANC Group of Companies for Wellington Street in the city’s south end. This came despite the four- to six-storey height limits for the area under the proposed rules in the Centre Plan. The developer originally suggested a 13-storey building.
Other upcoming Halifax apartments
Ghosn Group Developments applied in late June to build a 35-storey mixed-use residential and commercial building and six six-storey residential buildings on vacant properties in Dartmouth, across the harbour from Halifax. The largest building would include 268 residential units and more than 17,000 square feet of commercial space. One of the smaller buildings would feature 106 residential units, with 60 units in each of the other buildings.
Under the proposed Centre Plan, however, the largest building would be restricted to lower density and a maximum height of 27 storeys.
Baird Allen said Page Property Management’s One 77 luxury development on Quinpool Road was recently approved as-of-right for 33 storeys versus the eight that would be permitted under the proposed Centre Plan.
Southwest Properties was chosen by Develop Nova Scotia to build on a downtown Halifax waterfront lot next door to the company’s Bishop’s Landing condominium. Baird Allen said the building, called Cunard, is in the approvals process and is expected to include more than 200 rental units, public spaces and ground floor retail.
Hotbed for purpose-built rental
“Halifax has a lot of purpose-built rental, and we have thus avoided some of the affordability issues prevalent in other markets where there has been a lack of rental,” said Baird Allen, whose firm provides landlords and tenants with property tax, valuation, counselling, planning, economic intelligence, space measurement and commercial brokerage advice.
“CMHC in 2018 reported that the change in supply of purpose-built rental units in Halifax outpaced each of Toronto and Vancouver in numbers.”