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Halifax births a library…

December 12, 2014

Halifax’s new library – Queen St and Spring Garden

Well, I hate to poo on some people’s parties, but the notion being thrown around by some politicians that Halifax’s new library – which officially opens to the public tomorrow – is going to be a downtown development “game changer” is just silly nonsense.

Yes, it’s twice the size of the old one; and yes, it’s all hipster square box glass “edgy”, what with it’s second and third floors 4 degrees off centre (that’s all it takes to be edgy these days) – it is definitely a big improvement on the grey bunker straight out of Soviet-era architecture. The open concept, all window, rooftop patio, performance space, and art gallery refinements, will be great fun to use – and they are expecting upwards of 800,000 visits a year. It will have two spiffy white cafes for those who want to sit in the library windows and drink lattes – but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s still just a library.

And a library is not going to solve the downtown economic woes that are Halifax.

There have been too many years of allowing for cheap suburban development and the subsequent tax breaks for the big box stores to follow. That’s where all the big retail action is now. Out in Bayer’s Lake with its miles and miles of single story beige boxes: Chapters, Best Buy, Costco, Home Depot and all the other urban planner killers. (Proudly proclaimed as the “largest business park” in the Maritimes.)

The empty store fronts in the downtown are like weeds that have been allowed to fester and grow. The last time I counted there were 25 empty store fronts just on Barrington and Spring Garden. And every time I go down there I see new empty spaces.

And a city counsellor told me that every time progressive councillors tries to create incentives for a downtown re-growth, the box stores lobby hard to prevent new initiatives.

And a new library won’t keep all the new immigrants here who leave because of Nova Scotia’s infamous racism and nepotism. (We lose 80% of new immigrants in the first year of arriving.) It won’t save a provincial economy in decline – nor fix the host of social/economic/health indicators that has Nova Scotia at the bottom of the Canadian ladder.

No, the new library won’t save any of that.

But no matter. Tomorrow is a new day and politicians and the press and civic leaders will all herald it as our saviour. The place will be jammed with ooo’s and aahh’s and for a day us downtowners will believe.

A $250 million present to ourselves.

Just in time for Christmas.

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