News / Halifax

Walk this way: How downtown Halifax project will bring 'shared street' to life

Argyle and Grafton streets will host a party this weekend marking the end of a project 20 years in the making.

Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, poses for a photo on the rooftop patio of the Pint Public House, overlooking the new Argyle and Grafton streets shared streetscaping project. The grand opening of the Argyle portion of the project happens this weekend.

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Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, poses for a photo on the rooftop patio of the Pint Public House, overlooking the new Argyle and Grafton streets shared streetscaping project. The grand opening of the Argyle portion of the project happens this weekend.

Paul MacKinnon will be a happy man this weekend.

After 20 years of waiting, the Downtown Halifax Business Association executive director is finally seeing the finishing touches being put on the Argyle and Grafton streetscaping project.

“This project came out of the businesses. The reason that we championed it for so long is that the businesses were saying, ‘We want to see the city invest in a higher-quality streetscape,’” MacKinnon said in an interview.

The first patios in the area started popping up in 1995, MacKinnon said, and in 1997, the first streetscaping design was completed.

“How do we really enhance what they’ve done organically? The whole patio movement which began in ’95, this is meant to kind of reflect a bit what they were turning the street into anyway, which is a place to come and hang out, enjoy yourself, move a little bit more slowly,” he said.

“The shared street part of it is really kind of a concession to me. There’s been an argument for years about, should the street be shut down to traffic or should it not?”

MacKinnon said most people think of Argyle Street as more pedestrian-focused anyway, and he hopes to test the space in the coming years.

“Our plan for next summer is that there’ll probably be a regular series of closures, probably many weekends or most weekends, it’ll be closed,” he said.

If that works out, he hopes it could lead to seasonal or permanent closure to vehicles.

The first test comes this Saturday, with a block party, shutting down Argyle and Grafton streets to vehicular traffic and replacing it with two beer gardens and musicians including Makayla Lynn and DJ Skratch Bastid.

Argyle Street reopens to traffic on Nov. 7.

What’s different on Argyle and Grafton streets?

Pedestrian friendly: Rather than a street with sidewalks on either side, these streets will have three zones: the patio area, the pedestrian zone and the shared zone. The shared zone is for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. As long as they’re not obstructing traffic, pedestrians will be able to cross the street anywhere. A “tactile strip” between the shared and pedestrians zones lets drivers – and those with visual impairments – know where one zone ends and the other begins.

No parking: There wasn’t much before, but now there won’t be any regular on-street parking on Argyle and Grafton streets. There will still be loading zones on both streets for deliveries, and handicapped spots for accessibility, but no meters. Drivers will still be able to pick up and drop off passengers, meaning you’ll still be able to hail a cab outside the bar.

Four-season patios: As you can probably guess, the patio zone is for patios. Regional council passed a bylaw last year allowing patios year-round, mostly in anticipation of these changes. Bars and restaurants used to have to build their patios at the start of the season and tear them down at the end. Now they’ll be able to build more permanent patios and leave them up, saving them time and money, and letting you drink outside in the winter.

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