April 21, 2008

Busting Myths About Building our Future

(Halifax, April 21, 2008)  Separating fact from fiction is never easy, especially when the fiction becomes an urban myth. The Greater Halifax Partnership took a closer look at what HRM residents really believe – and dispelled a few of those myths in the process.

“We commissioned Bristol Omnifacts to explore the issues surrounding growth in our community,” says Stephen Dempsey, President and CEO. “The results,” he adds, “may surprise you.”

The first surprise: we’re not anti-growth. In fact, survey results from about 1,400 residents clearly demonstrate that most people (72 per cent) believe “overall economic growth in HRM” has been good for the community. Only 4 percent thought growth was bad for our community. Looking ahead, the majority of respondents said that growth would be good for them personally, their community and their neighbourhood.

“There is obviously a lot of debate and noise around issues of growth and development,” says Layton Dorey, Managing Director of Project Development at Bristol. “By surveying so many people in HRM, we really were able to get a compelling portrait of their perspectives and get in to a level of detail that’s probably never been done before on these issues.”  

There is also a misperception surrounding the issue of support for downtown Halifax as the core of our community. People from every part of HRM said that the municipality is actually not spending enough money on the downtown, and, overall two-thirds of those surveyed disagreed with the statement “HRM spends too much money on downtown Halifax.” Downtown Halifax was also the location picked most often as best for high-density commercial and residential development. 

“It’s important that we understand what our community believes – and what residents want,” says Mr. Dempsey. “It’s equally important that we expose any misperceptions for what they are: false. If we don’t do this, the perception grows and ultimately – and unfortunately – becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

It is not a legacy we want to leave for the next generation. The survey examined the views of younger people, those 18-34 years of age, and found strong support for both the downtown and development. Half of those in this age bracket visit downtown Halifax daily, significantly more often than the average.  The same age bracket are also less likely to say that economic growth in the last 10 – 15 years has been good for HRM.  Finally, 68% of 18-34 year olds support developments that are 10 stories or taller. 

“This is a group we can’t leave out of the action,” says Dempsey. “Or they will leave and go to where they can benefit. The younger voices haven’t been heard and younger people need to be at the forefront of this, telling the media, the public, and our political leaders what kind of community we want now – and in the years ahead.”

These and other myths were busted at an event earlier today.  An overview of the myths is listed below.  As well, a presentation, detailing these results and more is available at: Presentations and Speeches.    

Overview of Myths

Myth 1 – HRM’s population thinks growth is bad

  • 72% believe the “overall economic growth in HRM” has been “good for  HRM”. Only 4% believe it has been “bad for HRM”.
  • People strongly agree that “economic growth is important for a vibrant community” (mean rating 8.3).
  • People strongly agree that “HRM needs to continually grow its economic base” (mean rating 8.1).
  •  People agree that economic growth enhances their quality of life, creates employment benefits for them and their family, and also provides better services and entertainment options.

Myth 2 – People don’t recognize & support downtown Halifax as the “showroom”

  • Fully two thirds disagree with the statement “HRM spends too much money on downtown Halifax”.  
  • People on the peninsula disagree with that statement more than in other regions of HRM, but it is still a majority across all areas.
  • Majority agree that my neighbourhood will benefit from future growth and development in downtown.
  • Majority agree with the statement “I will benefit from future growth and development in downtown.

Myth 3 – People in Halifax have Bataphobia

  • People support the idea of development in the downtown core (68 percent for buildings 4-10 stories; 55 percent for buildings 10 or more stories)
  • The closer you are to downtown, the more support there is for developments of 10 stories or taller.
  • 71% agree that the design of a building is more important than the height of a building
  • 94% agree that the visual appeal of new developments should be strongly considered in the approval process

Myth 4 - Young people don’t matter in the growth and development debate

  • Half of those 18 – 34 (51%) visit downtown Halifax “daily”, which is more than 50% more often than the total sample. 
  • 18-34 year olds are less likely to say economic growth in the last ten to fifteen years has been good for HRM.
  • 61% of people 55 and older stated that they visit downtown Halifax only once a week or less.
  • 68% of 18 to 34 year olds support developments that are ten stories or taller.
  • 38% of people 55 and older stated they do not support at all developments that are ten stories or taller in the downtown core.
  • The closer you live to downtown, the more support you have for tall buildings in the downtown core.

For more information, contact:  Jonathan Wilkie, Greater Halifax Partnership @ 490-5994 or greaterhalifax.com