This is an article in the ongoing series, “On Living in the Capital,” by Nova Scotia Shambhala Residents on the Kalapa Capital Centre.
By David Whitehorn
It’s an easy walk up the access road to the top of Citadel Hill. One pleasant afternoon last week Steve Baker and I strolled up the road and stood in front of the entrance to Fort George, the 200 year old fortress, manned by the 78th Highland Regiment, that guards Halifax from the Citadel. We looked down at the city.
Looking to the right we could see, in the distance, the harbor opening out into the Atlantic Ocean. Closer in the giant cranes of the container port marked the location of the south end piers, where massive cruise ships tie up in the tourist season, and, nearby, the Cunard Event Centre, the site of the Sakyong’s empowerment in 1995 and his and Khandro Tseyang’s wedding in 2006.
Looking to the left we could see the Canadian Navy base, the two bridges spanning the narrows, and, in the distance, the Bedford Basin that, during World War II, was filled with ships forming up for the dangerous convoys across the North Atlantic to bring aid to England.
But our attention was particularly drawn to what lay directly below us, the downtown. From where we stood it’s just six steep blocks down to the waterfront. Taking in the entire view, here and there a few efficient looking glass office buildings stand out, but the overall impression is of a hodgepodge jumble of drab structures.
Like many urban cores, downtown Halifax has been in decline for decades, in part because of competition from the big box stores that have grown up on the edges of the city, and in part due to the lack of a coherent plan for development. In the past year such a plan, called Halifax by Design, has been adopted, the result of years of consultation and debate.
The plan attempts to balance preservation of the historic features with new development. Two flag ship projects are planned; a new public library and a world-class convention centre. Looking down from Citadel Hill we could see the block long pile of rubble where the old Halifax Herald newspaper building has recently been demolished to make way for the proposed 300 million dollar convention centre. But when or whether the project will go forward remains uncertain; the main obstacle being the need for the federal, provincial and municipal governments to provide much of the funding at a time when they are all facing deficits and trying to limit their growing debt. The fact that the new structure will block some of the view from Citadel Hill has also attracted a vocal community opposition.
It is into this architectural, economic, and social jumble that we are planning to insert the Kalapa Capital Centre. As Steve and I contemplated the scene before us, visions of the Centre placed in various locations and manifesting in various forms arose, remained but briefly, and dissolved. There was a definite sense of possibility, and even of magic.
Turning around we gazed at the massive stone walls of the Citadel and the central flag pole soaring into the sky. The flag pole is still used, as it has been for two centuries, to announce the nationality of ships that are in the harbor. I mentioned to Steve that in spring 2006, as part of the three day wedding celebration for the Sakyong and Khandro Tseyang, a public lhasang was held in the open courtyard inside the walls of the Citadel. To mark that occasion the flag of Shambhala flew from the Citadel’s central flag pole.
Looking again at the downtown below us, we noticed the Canadian flag flying atop the old post office building. Without a doubt, several prominent flag poles will be significant features of the Kalapa Capital Centre.