Imagine Bloomfield is a volunteer run organization that has worked for nine years to ensure community engagement with and support for multi-purpose redevelopment of the Bloomfield Centre. Our values are exemplified by those included in the Bloomfield Master Plan, which was passed unanimously by HRM Council in June 2008. We are connected to and have learned from the North End community, the past and current tenants and users of the Bloomfield Centre, as well as leading edge collaborative developments in Canada.
The Bloomfield Centre redevelopment is a game changer for community involvement in the repurposing of public space. It has already set many precedents in HRM for community led consultation, community visioning, collaboration and partnership with municipal government, and a creative and improved Request for Proposals (RFP) process. As a result, this project has set a high bar for redevelopment of public space that addresses genuine community needs.
The vision for the Bloomfield redevelopment process was one that embodied and resulted in excellence. The process and the outcome have not been about money, but reinvesting in a truly progressive vision for development in HRM and Nova Scotia.
Imagine Bloomfield is happy to see the process move forward. It really is about time. We are excited to know that key elements of the Master Plan are being included. These elements include mixed development with commitment to preserve the heritage buildings on the site, that new buildings achieve LEED gold standard, a good mix of affordable housing, and commitment to community and cultural objectives. Most importantly, we are pleased to know that Imagine Bloomfield will continue to play a key role in the project representing the community.
Our primary concern is that the recommended proponent scored only 18 out of 35 (51%) for their understanding of the vision and objectives for the site and for the quality of the proposed development plan, program and design concept. (Figure 1). We find the lack of understanding of the vision very surprising considering that the vision was clearly outlined in the RFP document and that Imagine Bloomfield offered to meet with all proponents to offer our assistance. While Imagine Bloomfield was included in all four of the shortlisted developers’ proposals, there was a considerable range of the level of inclusion, from a brief meeting to full engagement in the proposal development and design process. Possibly because they did not consult in any meaningful way with Imagine Bloomfield, the Nova Scotia Housing Development Corporation (NSHDC) scored considerably lower than the other developers on three of the four criteria. The NSHDC scored higher than the other developers on the financial aspect of the proposal only.
Figure 1. Comparison of responses to the Bloomfield RFP
Our view is that the maximum score of 50% for the financial component should be based on maximum reinvestment in the site as well as the purchase price. We are concerned that this is not reflected in the highest scoring proposal, particularly as the 2010 Harrison / Mueke Report recommended 100% purchase price reinvestment in the site.
Imagine Bloomfield is very supportive of affordable housing, however we are concerned about the proposed 478 residential units. These units average only ~ 654 sq feet (380,900 sq feet, less 20,000 for community / cultural space, less 10,000 for commercial, less 10% for common space). We feel strongly that the redevelopment must include units that accommodate families. We advocated early on in the process for the province to directly partner with a private developer who could provide the construction and design expertise to ensure that this development meets the needs of families in our community. Units that average only 654 sq feet do not meet those needs. The proponent must have some ideas for creative housing that we are not privy to at this time. We need to know more details about the proposed design.
Request to HRM Council
Imagine Bloomfield requests that HRM Council delay the vote until the following occurs:
- The recommended proponent meet with Imagine Bloomfield and fully explain all uncertainties;
- Partnership between NSHDC and the private sector be explored;
- The disqualification of Daniels Corp. be explained; and
- A breakdown of financial scoring be made public, to ensure transparency and accountability. This should include a breakdown of the elements of the scoring to reflect the HRM description of how it was scored. We are specifically concerned about how the provincial proposal scored 90% on financials, when the criteria include key areas that were scored low under the other elements:
- Purchase price
- Terms and conditions of offer and sale
- Guaranteed performance to implement the work
- Creativity and feasibility of financial approach
- Viable governance models for ownership and operation of community and cultural space
- Closing date
The Bloomfield redevelopment is very exciting for Halifax. Imagine Bloomfield will continue to work towards the best possible outcome: maximum implementation of the Master Plan along with community engagement and support.
Imagine Bloomfield has also been developing a business and governance plan in anticipation of a successful proponent. We hope to work with the successful proponent in ensuring that all existing tenants and projects currently operating out of the Bloomfield Centre are given assurances that they will be included in the redevelopment and transitioned appropriately, preferably on site. We will be reaching out to all those who responded to our April 2012 needs assessment as well as all of our supporters over the years. We have high hopes for the implementation of the Master Plan and will continue our work to ensure a level of excellence that has yet to be exemplified in development in HRM.
This statement was drafted by and supported by the Imagine Bloomfield Board of Directors.
For more information, please contact email@example.com.