It’s time for the customary year-end list. What are the top five things to happen in Halifax in 2013?
- Switch Open Streets. (Disclaimer: I am their webmaster and contribute to overall planning.) Switch Open Street Sundays, which started in 2012, has been very effective at getting Haligonians to re-envision the streets. With three events in 2013 it is starting to become a regular event. Someday it will become a weekly event during the warmer months, allowing citizens to walk, bike, run, or rollerblade along the city’s main arteries on Sunday mornings.
- The benches in front of EDNA. Soon after opening EDNA owner Jenna Mooers placed a pair of park benches in front of the restaurant. The benches immediately became a hit with people in the area, who will sit down and pass the time. There is a dearth of space to simply stop and relax when walking around town, we’re always encouraged to rush to the next café or trendy destination. While the benches are a small gesture, their success underscores the importance of encouraging people to linger in under-used spaces.
- Participatory Budgeting. Councillor Waye Mason got the ball rolling on this item when he asked citizens to vote on his $92,000 community fund. Since then the HRM has run with the underlying concept and dramatically increased its efforts to involve citizens in the decision-making process. All signs point to growth on this front in 2014.
- Placemaking Grants. The HRM has begun a placemaking program to reimagine neighbourhoods, brought home by a giant, colourful painting on the streets. This year there were two grants awarded, both of which were effective at bringing communities together and bringing outsiders in to new residential areas.
- Free ferry service on Canada Day and Natal Day. In a departure from past practice Metro Transit began offering free ferry rides to anyone trying to get downtown for two of the busiest days of the year. The service was wildly popular, though not without some bumps related to the huge crowds. Next year the service should be extended to buses and cover all major events in the downtown. Leave the car at home.
These are five things that I enjoyed this year. I think each of them represents a shift in thinking in the way both citizens and bureaucrats view their roles in city life. The more we can encourage this change in thinking, the better. Our city’s vitality depends on an influx of ideas and the empowerment of individual citizens, which are both improved when we can get out and enjoy the community in new ways.
What are your top five things in Halifax this year? Let me know below.