By David Fleming
Last week, Metro News Halifax published a series of articles from CityMatters 2012, a citizen survey performed with partners MQO Research and the Greater Halifax Partnership. Its aim is simple; to ask Halifax residents how they feel about the city, the economy, and their satisfaction with living in the city and other key quality of life factors.
The Greater Halifax Partnership has also published the slideshow from our investor “sneak peek” and the raw data from the survey. While Metro News Halifax covered the individual areas, for me the most interesting thing is looking at some broad themes and how the city is progressing.
There is a clear mandate for downtown revitalization.
84% of residents believe that the revitalization of downtown is important or very important. Only 14% believe that current efforts are very good. The good news is many of the intangibles of a vibrant downtown (restaurants and cafes, safety, arts and culture and tourist-friendliness) are highly rated and a number of high profile developments have recently been started such as the Nova Centre ($500 million), Central Library ($55 million), TD Centre ($26 million) and RBC Waterside($25 million).
A concerted effort to encourage more businesses, residents and development in the downtown, along with improvements in transportation are priority for the revitalization effort. Groups like the Strategic Urban Partnership and the Community Design Advisory Committee are focused on similar themes.
There is work to be done to create confidence in the economy.
Unlike most Canadian cities, Halifax’s economy grew every year during the recession. The challenge for most regions that do relatively well during a recession is that they tend to grow a little slower after. Contracts being negotiated by Halifax Shipyard for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy come with silence during the planning stages and public confidence that swelled has returned to pre-announcement levels. Much of the preparatory work at all levels is happening now, but without bricks and mortar or job postings, it is difficult to see it.
In particular, residents scored good job opportunities as one of their lowest rated attributes in the city; particularly 18-34 year olds. In order to grow confidence in our economy, we need to work together to create more and better opportunities and connect our residents do them.
Despite these challenges, people love living in Halifax.
At the end of the day, people feel like Halifax is a safe place to raise kids, a friendly city with a high quality of life and good health care. We know this from the Halifax Index too and our measures of quality of place. Largely, people would recommend Halifax to others as a good place to live. These are all really positive attributes for a community to build on into the future.
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Author: David Fleming
David is the Junior Economist and Project Development Coordinator at the Greater Halifax Partnership. He studied Economics and Philosophy at the University of Prince Edward Island, and has experience working with private, public and non-profit organizations.