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Group submits proposal for piece of Cogswell redevelopment to be used for Black Nova Scotians

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The Cogswell re-development project promises to reshape the landscape of the city and aims to create housing for Halifax’s growing population, but some also want it to address historic wrongs.

“We may not have paid financially, but we’ve paid the cost tenfold,” said Treno Morton, engagement coordinator of New Roots, an African Nova Scotian Land Trust in northern Halifax.

The group has submitted a proposal to the City of Halifax which would give them a block of the Cogswell project once it’s complete.

“Develop a building that matches the zoning bylaws in place in downtown currently,” explained Morton. “We came up with two towers that sit on a base.”

Their vision includes commercial space for Black-owned businesses and mixed income housing, with priority given to Black Nova Scotians in the community.

“We have a strict focus on our seniors and protecting them. After that the focus shifts to youth and building a better future for them,” said Morton.

Morton said this project is a crucial step to reparations.

“It was Black-owned businesses and homes that were destroyed in Africville. So many people were displaced afterwards and they were promised a better future that they weren’t given.”

Proposals like this aren’t new to the city.

While the group has a plan for the space, they do not have the money and the city cannot finance large-scale housing developments.

“I know it’s a big struggle for not-for-profits to get financing. We don’t have a lot of large not-for-profit housing corporations.”

“I know it’s a big struggle for not-for-profits to get financing and we don’t have a lot of large not for profit housing corporations that exist in other provinces. They tend to be smaller and doing smaller projects, so [for] a project of this scale, a lot of financing is required,” Halifax Councillor Patty Cuttell.

In the past, community groups have placed bids on properties like Bloomfield, but the city rejected them.

“We decided to go with the developers thinking that they would be built, but that’s not necessarily the case as we can see in these instances. I mean that housing could have and should have been built years ago and it’s not,” said Cuttell. “In instances we own land, it’s a real advantage for the municipality to figure out how we can support these kinds of groups.”

Many Black Nova Scotia community members hope any new developments keep the past in mind.

“One of the things that we want to see with the Cogswell Exchange is making sure that history is not erased [and] making sure that the identity and the long history of Nova Scotian’s remains in some way,” said Juanita Peters, Africville Museum’s executive director.

To afford the Cogswell project, the city has to sell the land. A study by city staff is underway to decide whether the city can transfer the land over at no cost to the New Roots group.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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