Track 6: INTEGRATING OLD AND NEW – BUILDINGS, DISTRICTS, and LANDSCAPES / Volet 6: Intégrer l’ancien et le nouveau – Immeubles, quartiers et paysages

Designing Heritage: How Urban Design Impacts Heritage Conservation

Friday, October 13
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

The conference presentation will examine financial and land use incentives particularly innovative urban design tools, such as form based codes, as compared with earlier planning tools, including gross floor area ratios and lot coverage, when planning for the conservation of two of the oldest neighbourhoods in Halifax: Old South Suburb and Schmidtville.

The Halifax Regional Municipality is establishing new heritage conservation districts to preserve two of its oldest neighbourhoods. The Old South Suburb is the oldest suburb in Halifax in terms of its existing built heritage dating back to the turn of the 18th century. Author, Elizabeth Pacey, explains that, “[i]n essence, the Scottish Georgian domestic architectural style is more prevalent in the Old South Suburb than anywhere else outside of Scotland.” The neighbourhood known as Schmidtville is the oldest private subdivision in Halifax. In 1831, Elizabeth (Pedley) Schmidt subdivided her late father’s pasture land, south of Citadel Hill, to construct houses. Today, these wooden dwellings form much of the Late Georgian and Early to Mid- Victorian building stock in Halifax.

In 2008, a planning process called HRM by Design, culminated in the delivery of a new municipal plan for downtown Halifax consisting of innovative urban design tools called form based codes. The Old South Suburb was included within the downtown plan area boundaries, as its southern precinct, with much resistance from the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia. Schmidtville, a more intact historic neighbourhood, was strategically excluded but remains on the fringe of the new downtown plan area amidst its medium to high rise development.

As a condition for its inclusion in the downtown, the municipality made a promise in plan policy to establish a heritage conservation district in the Old South Suburb precinct. A neighbourhood advocacy group, called The Friends of Schmidtville, lobbied the municipal government for a decade before a process was also initiated to establish a heritage conservation district in Schmidtville. Both planning processes were initiated by Regional Council in the spring of 2015 to establish the two heritage conservation districts. Both districts present unique challenges for conservation policy due to the different municipal plans and bylaws in effect.

Author and planning professor Jill Grant explained that “[i]n Halifax, the HRM by Design process changed mechanisms for downtown development. It ensured a turn to urban design as a development strategy.” As such, the planning approach for conservation in the Old South Suburb is about blending the old with the new and carving out a place for heritage resources inside large building envelopes already established in regulation. In Schmidtville, however, the planning challenge is to conserve a cohesive neighbourhood with tools from a 1970s plan that limits development and, perhaps, the rehabilitation of heritage resources.

Learning Objectives:

Seamus McGreal, MPlan, MCIP, LPP

Planner III
Halifax Regional Municipality

Seamus McGreal is a senior heritage planner with the Halifax Regional Municipality. He consults with stakeholders to establish heritage policies and programs for promoting, conserving, and investing in heritage districts, properties, and other initiatives. He is chair of the 2017 NS Heritage Conference to be held in Halifax from November 1st to 3rd.

Previously, Seamus worked with local communities in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, to develop a community plan to support the nomination and successful designation of the Landscape of Grand Pré as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) in 2012.

Seamus was also Historic Places Registrar with the Province of New Brunswick during which time he participated in the national Historic Places Initiative program.

He holds a Masters of Planning degree from Dalhousie University.


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