For 40 years, the Cogswell Interchange has stood at the gateway to downtown as a visible reminder of the era of ‘Urban Renewal’ that accompanied post Second World War suburban growth. Like the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, Transportation engineers and urban planners imagined an urban expressway along Halifax’s historic waterfront; kick-starting the economy of the downtown and encouraging faster suburban growth. In 1969, the Interchange was built as the first phase of the expressway; demolishing 150 historic buildings over 16 acres, displacing entire communities, cutting off access to the waterfront and dead-ending Halifax’s most prominent retail street. The area has been consistently identified by residents as Halifax’s deepest urban scar since it was constructed. Thankfully, an organized public opposition to the Expressway halted it, but not before the Cogswell Interchange was built. Halifax has lived with this incomplete and overbuilt interchange since the 1970s.
As the urban renewal projects of the 1960’s near the end of their capitalized lifespans, ‘Urban Re-renewal’ offers an opportunity to rethink the popular beliefs and priorities from the 1960’s. The approach is often in stark contrast to the automobile-centric, community dividing, suburban focused approach of the Urban Renewal period. Urban Re-renewal of Cogswell focuses on creating places for people first, defining an energy district using waste heat from the sewage treatment plant and from the harbour, making streets for people, cyclists and buses, reconnecting the waterfront to the surrounding communities and creating a large anchor open space as the heart of the district connected by multi-use trails to the surrounding communities. The planning approach couldn’t be any more different than the popular mindset of the1960’s. The Cogswell Transformed project is the first phase of a plan to remove the antiquated interchange and reimagine a walkable urban community at the entrance to the downtown.