More plans unveiled for two new roundabouts in Halifax

A public information meeting on Thursday evening revealed more details from the HRM about the two proposed roundabouts on North Park Street.

By Nick Holland

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HRM’s Traffic and Right-of-Way staff released more details on the plans to turn both North Park Street intersection into roundabouts. (Nick Holland/Peninsula News)

In a public information meeting on Thursday evening, The Halifax Regional Municipality revealed more details for the two proposed roundabouts on North Park Street.

The meeting, which had roughly 50 residents attend, showcased a redesign of the blueprints that were originally unveiled in February.

Tanya Davis, senior traffic operations engineer for the HRM, said there was a lot of feedback from different communities that impacted the redesign.

“We heard from the (active transportation) community to ensure the connections were all made and that they wanted bike lanes as well as (active transportation) trails and a bit more signage,” she said.

There were also concerns about the safety of the visually impaired community.

Davis said they’ve tried to address those concerns. “The crosswalks are set back, at a certain distance, so that we’re getting further away from the actual circle.”

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Tanya Davis, Senior Traffic Operations Engineer for HRM, explains the latest details to Milena Khazanavicius, Johanna Stork and Verda – Khazanavicius’ guide dog. (Nick Holland/Peninsula News)

The city will also add tactile walking surfaces so blind people can find the crosswalks.

The intersection that connects North Park, Cunard and Agricola Street and the intersection at Rainnie Drive, North Park and Cogswell Street have been deemed unsafe, as they don’t meet national transportation standards.

If anyone doesn’t want to cross the roundabouts, there will be alternate routes.

“The crosswalk at North Park and Cornwallis is being reduced from a five lane cross-section to a two lane,” said Davis.

The city will also be showcasing art. Davis said people requested more of it.

Some trees will also need to be taken down, but an artist will be hired to turn those trees into benches and other designs.

Coun. Jennifer Watts (Peninsula North) was cautious of the project at first because she wanted to know how it would affect the visually impaired.

She said, “I think, in balance, that the changes that will be made there will help with some improvements. There’s not going to be a total positive benefit for everyone.”

Better traffic movement

Coun. Waye Mason (Peninsula South-Downtown) also supports the roundabouts saying they’re energy efficient.

He said, “You don’t have cars stopping at night waiting for the light to turn green.

“When it’s busy, that means traffic continues to flow, you don’t have giant thousand-watt lights sitting there (and) flashing all night. Overall, once they’re built the incremental cost of maintaining a light and a signal is a lot higher than just having a circle.”

He, too, had concerns for the visually impaired. He said the current five and six street intersections are too dangerous.

If council approves the project then construction for the Cunard St. roundabout will begin this spring while production of the Cogswell St. roundabout will start in the spring of 2015.

 

Watching from afar as a country protests

Born and raised in Ukraine, Dalhousie researcher watches his country divide from a distance.

By Nick Holland

As tensions in Ukraine rise, all Denys Khaperskyy can do is watch from a distance as the people of his home country divide.

The researcher at Dalhousie University grew up in Ukraine and has been living in Halifax for almost 10 years.

He has been checking the news everyday to see what will happen next between Ukraine and Russia.

“Right now it’s a mess. It used to be a good mess. We got rid of a dictator but now it’s a bad mess because of Russia intervening,” Khaperskyy said.

The tensions were caused as the people of Ukraine divided.

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Back in November, the country’s leader rejected an extensive agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia. Thousands of people took to the streets in a peaceful protest, outraged that a long-standing goal for integration with Europe was abruptly abandoned.

That leader, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted on Feb. 22 as president by parliament. On Feb. 28, Ukraine declared its southern peninsula, Crimea, was invaded by Russian forces.

Now the people in Crimea are going head-to-head with each other as the southern peninsula will go to a referendum vote, on Sunday, to decide whether they will stay part of Ukraine or to join Russia. However, reports say the ballots will offer two options, both inevitably lead to joining Russia.

Khaperskyy said, “(Vladimir) Putin, of course, decided he wouldn’t allow us to break from Russian influence. We still don’t know what he wants, but there’s a pretty good idea.”

He said he believes Putin wants to become a more powerful figure on the world stage.

And now Khaperskyy can’t keep his eye off what’s happening halfway around the world. His parents are still in the central region of Ukraine.

“It mostly interferes with my leisure time, which is now largely dedicated to watching news, discussing things with family and friends, and thinking what would I do, what our role here in Canada should be,” he said.

He said he thinks a lot of people in Halifax are generally interested in the situation, but don’t know what it’s like until they’ve experienced it first-hand.

“When you have family there and friends there, and various parts of Ukraine, you have an investment in the situation. It definitely feels much, much more raw,” he said.

This crisis is something Khaperskyy said he thought he would never see in his lifetime.

He said, “I would never (have) imagined that scale of lies and deception and disregard for international law, but somewhere in the back of my mind I never doubted that this would happen.

“Unfortunately there is a support for that kind of policy in Russia, but it’s clearly not all Russia. There are still a lot of Russian people who are well aware that Putin is not the best solution to the problem.”

And Denis Kozlov, an associate professor in Russian studies, and history at Dalhousie University, is one example. He grew up in St. Petersburg and has lived in Canada for 15 years.

He thinks Putin holds complete responsibility for the military force in the Crimea region of Ukraine, calling it “unwarranted.”

He said, “I’m convinced that Russia is going down the wrong path, politically.

“This is a very unfortunate development. Instead of building a political democracy, which it seemed, to me, it was doing for a long time, it has descended on a path of dictatorship.”

Kozlov said Russia has, for a long time, hurt its credibility as a reliable partner on the world stage, along with its political stability.

He said most Russians living in the Western Hemisphere would support Ukraine, rather than Putin’s regime.

“What gives me hope, still, is that Russians, themselves, are still quite vocal about their government’s actions. There is a very vocal opposition in Russia to Putin’s regime,” Kozlov said.

He said he hopes for the Russian military to go back to Russia, for Crimea to remain part of Ukraine and for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

“I want the situation go back to, more or less, normal. Now if you ask me how likely this is, I don’t think this is very likely given how far the crisis has gone,” he added.

Halifax’s footwear store closes after 53 years

Spring Garden Road will not be the same after Winsbys Shoes and the Rockport Shop closes its doors for the final time this Saturday.

By Sindi Skenderi

 

Winsbys Shoes and the Rockport Shop on Spring Garden Road is scheduled be demolished April 1. (Sindi Skenderi/Peninsula News)
Winsbys Shoes and the Rockport Shop on Spring Garden Road is scheduled be demolished April 1. (Sindi Skenderi/Peninsula News)

Spring Garden Road will not be the same after Winsbys Shoes and the Rockport Shop closes its doors for the final time this Saturday.

Rick Pratt, the owner of Winsbys, says the building will be demolished on April 1, with a seven-storey building taking its place.

“It’ll be a sad day when we close… we’ve had our tears,” says Pratt.

Pratt, 63, has owned Winsbys since 1993. He says the 1980s were the boom years because back then the retailers’ biggest problem was having enough product to sell to customers.

But the problem, now, is that everybody has as much product as they want, and probably more.

“Customers that are looking at shoes and boots now mostly buy them online, and most of the clothing stores sell shoes,” says Pratt.

Dealing with a higher number of competitors, and an unsustainable monthly tax addition, Winsbys could no longer survive. “Taxes in, the rent for the lot would be over $25,000 a month,” he says.

What’s to come

Westwood Developments Ltd. owns the property. Danny Chedrawe, who heads the company, says the new building will be seven storeys, with three levels of retail and four levels of residential apartments on the floors above.

Westwood Development bought the building so it could transfer the Bank of Montreal from its current location on Spring Garden to where Winsbys is now, and then put in a new tenant in that property.

The bank is located for the time being at 5435 Spring Garden Rd., right across from the new Halifax Library.

Chedrawe refused to comment on what client will take the spots downstairs, but did say the apartments upstairs will be more modern and cater to a young, professional demographic.

Chedrawe is also responsible for moving the TD Canada Trust branch down the road on Spring Garden in 2012, along with several other developments on Spring Garden.

He says they plan for 12 months of construction.

This will result in the sidewalk on Birmingham Street to close down, while a new sidewalk will be built around the construction site on Spring Garden Road and onto the street.

That means Spring Garden Road will be six feet smaller on that side of the lane, so frequent buses on the street will have to wait for oncoming traffic to stop, and steer around the new sidewalk.

Along with the construction of the new library, just one block from Winsbys, as well as the parking lot right behind Winsbys, Spring Garden Road will be a busy place for construction workers.

But, Reinhard Valgarosson, owner of Cintamani, the Icelandic outdoor clothing a clothing store across from Winsbys, thinks the area it will not be a busy place for shoppers.

Embrace or reject the change

“Spring Garden doesn’t need more banks, [it] doesn’t need more restaurants. We need more stores to bring people here to shop,” says Valgarosson. “It’s gonna going to be bad for about a year,” he adds.

Pratt feels the street will have a tough time for the next five years, saying, “Retailers that cannot survive will have to leave.”

Nancy Tissington, executive director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association says, “Speaking on behalf of the board, we’re embracing change and we’re rejuvenating the area.”

On whether all the new construction will affect the popularity of Spring Garden, she says, “Fingers crossed, if you’re gonna come in and do your banking, chances are we’re gonna get you into a restaurant or coffee shop.”

Pratt says downtown needs to be updated, “I’m confident that (Mayor) Mike Savage or someone will take the bull by the horns and revitalize downtown.”

But he acknowledges there will be growing pains from all the construction.