Tristan Cleveland: Let's think big and develop neighbourhood around new Mumford Terminal
The terminal redesign is a huge opportunity to bring shops, streetscaping and residences to an under-used area.
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The biggest risk to the new Mumford Terminal is a failure to think big enough.
Halifax has few better opportunity sites than this one, located between potential future commuter rail and the Halifax Shopping Centre. An attractive, well-designed terminal could transform this pavement landscape into a thriving, transit-connected main street with thousands of new homes.
And it would also be all too easy to screw up. An ugly terminal could repel development and keep the place bleak.
Last week, Halifax Transit held consultations on where to locate a replacement for the Mumford Terminal, and I’m told many residents want it to remain roughly where it is.
That makes sense. The spot is surrounded by destinations (the mall) and it’s at the door-step of the peninsula, not to mention a proposed commuter rail station.
But most of all, there is plenty of potential to replace the under-used land around it with something bigger and more exciting. Between Chebucto Road, Mumford, and the train tracks, there is enough space for at least a half-dozen city blocks, all of which is zoned for massive redevelopment under the Centre Plan.
We have built too many transit terminals in Halifax where new development is impossible, such as Lacewood. Mumford is our chance to change that, to show that transit investment can transform the city for the better.
Development around high-quality transit creates a virtuous cycle. Thousands more people living and working on the same transitlines makes it cost effective to run more frequent buses (or trains). The better the transit, the more incentive to build homes and open businesses nearby.
Property values go up, pushing up tax revenue, yet our infrastructure costs go down, because we don’t need new roads. And, we get less traffic and pollution with the deal.
But even more important is the opportunity to build an exciting new place residents love. If commuter rail happens, Mumford will be the best-connected spot in the city. It could become a third downtown.
What makes all this especially feasible is that all the land—from CBC to Moores—is owned by the same company, 20 VIC. They have the capacity to redevelop the site with one big, comprehensive vision. And why not? They stand to make plenty of dough while benefiting the whole city.
But here’s the risk: bus terminals are noisy and require a lot of pavement. If the new terminal is a sprawling, grey mess, it will kibosh any hope of changing people’s impressions of what kind of place Mumford can be.
We can avoid that risk by using the fact that the site is on a hill, as the giant wall next to Walmart makes clear. Let’s put the terminal at the bottom of the hill underneath a building, like Bonaventure in Montreal. By putting the building’s front-door at the top of the hill, we could have attractive street-level shops with a whole terminal hidden below.
Putting the terminal inside would help conceal all the turning buses, pavement and noise. It could also make the terminal more useful for everyone, with amenities and restaurants right there.
Before Halifax Transit does anything, 20 VIC should work with the city and public to create a master plan for the site, so whatever Transit designs, it fits that vision.
The redevelopment of the Mumford Terminal is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. My sense is that both Halifax Transit and 20 VIC are going in the right direction on this, so let’s do something amazing.