Making progress in our fight to clean up downtown Halifax
Get it togetherBy Sheila Blair-Reid | Oct 29, 2010
I’m taking a walk from my office down Morris Street to meet a client. I take a moment to absorb the new patch of graffiti on the wall, before gingerly stepping over a broken beer bottle. A couple more steps, carefully avoiding a pile of cigarette butts, a banana peel and a broken patch of sidewalk.
As I stroll, I pass fenced off vacant lots, empty or used for parking at best. Broken concrete and gravel make the ground look like the scene of a battle. I walk by cruise-ship passengers, shaking their heads as they stare through chain-link fences.
The next week, I’m visiting my son in Switzerland. I stroll the town and something is weird. It takes me a while to figure it out: noteworthy are the things I’m not seeing. No broken glass, no vandalism masquerading as street art, no razed buildings or unused lots, no garbage-strewn streets.
It’s not some sort of Old World prissiness—it’s simple pride of place. Morning after morning, I ambled with a cup of Swiss coffee as the sun rose and the town awoke. In front of every building, someone seemed to be tidying, watering plants, sweeping the sidewalk, pulling up weeds or collecting any bits of litter that appeared over night. If there was graffiti, it was eradicated before I ever saw it.
There weren’t platoons of public workers doing the job, either. Everyone was just pitching in, cleaning up in front of their homes and businesses. There was a strange peer pressure at work: anyone who left a mess on their property would have looked ridiculously out of place.
Government plays its part with regulations, specific and consistent laws governing the look and feel of the community. But the daily work of making the place look good is the responsibility of every citizen. The results speak for themselves.
Halifax could desperately use the same kind of care and attention. Haligonians need to show pride of ownership, an understanding of their part in making our community a better place. When you consider the mess of litter, graffiti and unsightly properties that plague our downtown, the task seems insurmountable. Numerous studies show that when graffiti is prevalent and properties deteriorate, crime rates go up, vandalism increases, property values dip, business wanes and people lose confidence in their communities.
Halifax faces challenges. But we believe that if each citizen and business took responsibility for their little slice of the city, downtown would quickly transform.
That’s why Halifax Magazine is going to work with the Downtown Halifax Business Commission and the Spring Garden Road Business Association. We want readers to suggest spots in the downtown where the owners should be doing more to pretty up their patch of the city. When a property is suggested, we’ll let the owner know, offer some advice on what they can do and document the process. Contact us at halifaxmag.com, on Twitter, on Facebook or email the editor at email@example.com.
And yes, the job begins with us. After I finish writing this, I’m going to talk to the owners of our Hollis Street office building. Like many downtown offices, our building is in a constant struggle against vandals and litterbugs. Right now, we’re not doing any better than anyone else, but that’s going to change. We’re going to work with our landlords and neighbours, and do something good for our community.
And with your help, downtown Halifax will look more like its true self: a proud, historic, world-class city.