Accessibility advocate draws attention to issues with Spring Garden Road development work

·2 min read
Protected sidewalks around a development on Spring Garden Road were supposed to be in place in 2021, but cannot be installed until subgrade work on the road is complete. (David Laughlin/CBC - image credit)
Protected sidewalks around a development on Spring Garden Road were supposed to be in place in 2021, but cannot be installed until subgrade work on the road is complete. (David Laughlin/CBC - image credit)

Frustration is an all too familiar feeling for Gus Reed as he navigates the streets of Halifax.

For years, the accessibility advocate has brought attention to barriers people face as they make their way through Nova Scotia.

That could be trying to use the bathroom in restaurants housed in buildings constructed years before people took into account that not everyone can navigate steps, or just trying to move about in a city where new buildings seem to be going up on a weekly basis.

Reed understands the city needs to grow, and growth means construction. But he said it is an ongoing irritant that people in wheelchairs, such as himself, or others with mobility challenges feel like an afterthought in such development.

"I take it probably too personally," Reed said in a recent interview.

"But I don't think you can — in Canada — I don't think you can leave out a portion of the population, especially people who have equality guarantees."

David Laughlin/CBC
David Laughlin/CBC

The latest source of frustration for Reed is a new development going up in downtown Halifax — not far from Reed's home — that is bordered by Spring Garden Road and Queen and Birmingham streets.

The project by Westwood Developments will include a seven-level, 180-unit residential building, several townhouses and 31,500 square feet of commercial space spread between two levels. There will also be two levels of underground parking.

That work has choked off access to the sidewalks around the development site. On Birmingham Street, there is no way for someone in a wheelchair to cross the street when they reach the development without turning around and going back to the corner.

Although there were supposed to be protected sidewalks in place in 2021 to allow for pedestrian passage during construction, that has been delayed because of work related to the city's redevelopment of Spring Garden Road.

Sidewalks should be restored this fall

Halifax Regional Municipality would not make someone available for an interview to discuss the situation.

In a series of emails, a spokesperson for the city said protected sidewalks would be added around the development when the subgrade work on Spring Garden Road is complete, likely sometime this fall.

Reed said the delays are a further example of why the city needs to do a better job co-ordinating its own work with that of developers. The situation is as much an inconvenience for people who don't have mobility issues, he said, and can create confusion for visitors to the area.

"It's a small thing, but it could be managed in a much better way," he said.

"You get the sense that it's done without much thought."

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