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Change is good

Celebrating five years of producing Halifax Magazine, and reinventing it for the future

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Trevor J. Adams, Photo: Tammy Fancy

Trevor J. Adams, Photo: Tammy Fancy

This edition marks five years since Metro Guide Publishing began producing Halifax Magazine, and I became editor. Working on a magazine like this, month after month, issue after issue, changes the way you look at the city. After a while, all you see are the unanswered questions, the unsolved problems. So it’s good to pause, sip a coffee and take a moment to regain one’s perspective.

That’s what I’m doing as I write this. I’m flipping back through five years of magazines and, with a fresh eye, I’m seeing how much things have changed in Halifax. In our early issues, we talked a lot about the paralysis that gripped downtown development. Five years ago, our questions were more on the order of “Will we ever see any new development? Ever?” Much of that focused on the long-stalled Nova Centre project but HRM’s inconsistent and oft-delayed approvals process also raised many questions. There were editorials calling for reform and a streamlining of the process. We talked to activists on every side of the development debate, and businessmen like Wadih Fares.

When we were writing about these issues, it felt like we were telling the same stories, asking the same questions, every month. But now as I look back, I can see how things changed. Support for development gradually grew. Regulators worked, with good intentions but mixed results, to create a more rational development environment. The eventual result was HRM by Design, which despite its flaws, does seem to move things along more efficiently—projects like King’s Wharf, the new library and the long-awaited Nova Centre are the result. Today, the questions are more like “Is this development the right design for our community?” There’s still not a lot of consensus, but it’s definitely progress.

Our municipal government also caused a great deal of hand wringing in those early issues (and indeed, over much of the last five years). If I had a buck for every time words like “paralyzed,” “ineffectual” and “broken” came up to describe HRM Council, I’d be writing some parting thoughts on my retirement today.

We’ve seen the city through two elections. In 2008, then-councillor Sheila Fougere took on incumbent mayor Peter Kelly, campaigning on public-safety and transit reform (while opposing a fast ferry to Bedford). Kelly stood on his record, citing the Harbour cleanup and his self-described leadership on the Commonwealth Games bid. By the time our 2012 election coverage rolled around, Kelly was leaving City Hall and HRM Council had shrunk from 21 to 16 members. Suddenly, the magazine has much less discussion about dysfunctional municipal government. (Although if you buy me a beer, I’m sure I could still come up with a pretty good rant on HRM for you.)

Indeed, in every issue I re-explore, I find countless examples of how our city has evolved in the last five years. And that’s why Halifax Magazine is also evolving. We continue to cover stories like crime, transit and Halifax’s history—look for Janice Landry’s series on the city’s firefighters to continue this fall. And now, we’re embarking on an ambitious redesign project. We’ll be phasing out some sections and introducing new ones. As always, we’ll focus on the unique people and stories that make our city special. Right now, we’re carefully examining new and creative ways to tell those stories.

At the same time, we’re refreshing Halifax Magazine’s look, updating our design, working to create a more modern, urban, attractive magazine. You’ll see cleaner designs, bigger photos and countless other adjustments to improve the experience of you, the reader.

This is a very exciting time. Redesigns don’t come often in the magazine business. “It’s time for a new look and feel for the magazine,” says Publisher Patty Baxter, “to take it into the future and continue making it the magazine readers want it to be, in the way they want to receive it, whether that’s in print, online or via our new app. We want to offer readers and advertisers a fresh environment, a chance to be part of a community that cares about our vibrant city, and its future.”

So, watch for our September issue—from the logo on our cover on down, you’re going to see a lot of dramatic changes. Correspondingly, we’ll be refreshing and updating HalifaxMag.com. We can’t wait to hear what you think!

Meanwhile, we’re also pretty excited about this issue. We’ve put together a bigger-than-normal issue for the summer. Long-time contributor Shaina Luck returns with our cover story “Terror & joy” on page 36. She tells the story of Gwen Davies, an adventurous Halifax woman who discovered the extreme sport of parkour at age 66. The accompanying photos are by Tammy Fancy, who shoots her second Halifax Magazine cover. On page 40, Tom Mason is back with a detailed look at efforts to fix Halifax’s biggest urban-planning mistake: the much-reviled Cogswell Interchange. Things take a lighter turn on page 28, with Sarah Sawler’s quirky collection of Halifax miscellany, “50 things you don’t know about Halifax.”

We’re also pleased to welcome some new contributors this issue. In Cityscape, you’ll see stories by expatriate Haligonian Jessica Patterson and interns Courtney Zwicker and Alice Bauer. And in our Afterthought column on page 50, veteran journalist Jack Florek joins us for the first time. Originally from the U.S., Florek grew up near the Canadian border and long yearned to live on our side of it. Recently, he relocated his family to Halifax. His self-imposed exile has been illuminating and he provides a unique new perspective on our city.

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