Skip to content. Accessibility info.

Cogswell Interchange History

Cogswell Interchange


The Cogswell St. Interchange was the product of a fast-paced but short lived urban renewal era in Halifax.  It was considered Phase 1 of a multi-phase plan to create a waterfront expressway (the ‘Harbour Drive’) that would eventually replace Upper and Lower Water streets and extend over the Northwest Arm.  Heavy citizen protest prevented the expressway project from continuing; in effect protecting what is today known as Halifax’s Historic Properties. 

In 1999, HRM staff initiated a Cogswell St. Interchange redevelopment feasibility study in response to the joint publication by the HRM, DHBC, and PNS, on Strategies for the Rejuvenation of Barrington St., which called for the removal and redesign of the Cogswell Interchange lands.  By 2000, the Cogswell Interchange Project Team was formed out of staff from the Directors of Public Works & Transportation, Planning & Development Services, Real Estate and Tourism, and Culture & Heritage, to examine the feasibility of redeveloping the Interchange lands. 


Pre-interchange map of the Cogswell Interchange area

High-level objectives stated in the Information Report to Council on July 10, 2002 are to (i) remove the physical barrier between Downtown and Central Halifax to reintegrate the communities, (ii) Create an attractive gateway to the Capital District, (iii) maintain an adequate street network, (iv) enable ability to provide land and new facilities, (v) explore financing opportunities to optimize redevelopment costs, (vi) enable increased tax revenue.  

The Project Team initiated three key reports to assess the traffic/physical feasibility (Vaughan Report) and financial feasibility (Cantwell Report) of redevelopment, as well as the environmental conditions of the site (Maritime Report).  These culminated at the cusp of the new Regional Plan (2003 – 2006), which ultimately required the full attention of the team.  As a result, the opportunity to redevelop the lands was acknowledged in the Regional Plan and since that time the Cogswell Interchange lands have been receiving increased attention. 

Post-Interchange (as built)

Post Cogswell Interchange

In 2004, the HRM Capital District Public Facilities Needs & Opportunities Strategy report clearly discussed a strong rational for redeveloping the Cogswell Interchange lands to supply facilities for essential Central Business District activities.   Furthermore, the Capital District Urban Design Study (HRM by DESIGN), initiated in March 2006, will provide high level recommendations of street grid restoration on the Interchange lands as part of the project’s downtown component.

Quick Facts

  • $5.8 million (1969 dollar) to construct ($42 million, 2007 dollar)
  • $1 million (1969 rate) to acquire the land ($7.2 million, 2007 dollar)
  • 6.5 ha of land
  • 134 buildings demolished
  • Developer: Ben McCrea, The Armour Group Ltd.
  • Mayor: Allen O’Brien
  • Deputy Mayor: G. R. Matheson
  • Former site of Maritime Museum and the Navy's Victualling Depot.

Important Dates

1749: 1st developed as residential area
1878: The land is comprised of 4 city blocks with mixed uses
1951: HRM begins acquiring land and demolishing buildings for the interchange
1954: Nova Scotia Power substation is built
1969: All Cogswell area buildings demolished for interchange construction, Scotia Square and Cogswell Tower commence construction (land expropriated thru CMHC)
1970: Project is terminated after completion of Cogswell Interchange
1997: CAPS (Canadian Assoc. of Planning Students) Conference holds design charette on redevelopment of Cogswell Interchange
1998: Barrington St. Strategic Plan calls for demolition of Cogswell Interchange.
1999: Casino Nova Scotia is constructed
2000: Cogswell Interchange Project Team formation (HRM staff) – Presents preliminary findings
2003: Harbour Solutions STP begins construction
2006: Harbour Solutions STP completed

Property information (see figures)

Owner: Halifax Regional Municipality

PID#: 40928541

Primary use: St./Dr./Rd./Ave.

Parcel, zoning: None

Adjacent parcels, zoning: C-2, C-3 (sewage treatment plant), R-2, R-3, no height precincts

Reports to Date

1998 - Strategy for the Rejuvenation of Barrington St.

This strategy was completed under the partnership of the DHBC, HRM, and Province of Nova Scotia. It calls for a more comprehensive approach to rejuvenating the downtown, with respect to specific improvements on Barrington Street. It calls attention towards transportation, heritage, marketing, and urban design strategies that together should aim to create a more pedestrian-oriented Downtown. The report claims the interchange is redundant, and recommends that a detailed study of the land be done that examines the possibility of gaining land for development and restructuring the roadway system. 

2000 - EDM Report: Cogswell Street Interchange – Proposed Redevelopment 

**Prepared for East Port Properties Ltd.**

2001 - Vaughan Report: Cogswell St. Interchange Study

Four traffic engineering concepts (single arterial, parallel arterial streets, one-way pair system, single intersection) were used to analyze the functionality and quality of service for traffic of at-grade road networks on the interchange lands. The study concluded that a parallel arterial street system (Concept 2(c)) would maintain the level of traffic services offered by the existing interchange. In this design, the Interchange was replaced by a four-lane collector and four-lane arterial streets that connect to Cogswell St., Barrington St., Upper Water St., Hollis St., and Cornwallis 
St but gave no consideration to services for pedestrians or other amenities.The system would free some developable land and could increase accessibility to the waterfront. Estimated cost to redevelop was $9.1 million.

2004 - Maritime Testing Report: Phase I Environmental Site Assessment

This Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) concluded that “there is potential for buried petroleum storage tanks, subsurface demolition debris and other deleterious materials related to previous occupation” (residential and light-industrial uses, former underground petroleum tanks and dispensary equipment). Infilling material for the interchange structure remains unknown. There is also a possibility that petroleum has migrated down slope to the property. Possible PAH compounds and metals, and the Halifax Slate formation underlying the site could pose limitations on redevelopment. Further environmental investigation is recommended.

2004 - Cantwell Report: Best Practices Research Study (RFP#02-138, December 2002)

A cost-benefit analysis showed that the redevelopment of the Cogswell Interchange lands is financially feasible and self-financing through the sale of land and increased property tax assessments. Cost estimates included environmental clean-up, mitigation of cultural artifacts, and maintenance costs, totaling $12.6 million. The redevelopment project (estimated to be 9 years) should generate $3.1 million. Furthermore, six North American case studies were used to understand potential planning issues and considerations for such a redevelopment project. Case studies showed redevelopment would require a comprehensive plan focusing on environmental quality, traffic, public consultation, and real estate analysis. The report also outlined a rationale and possible redevelopment project workplan.

2004  - HRM Capital District Public Facilities Needs & Opportunities Strategy

Using case studies from around the world, this report establishes a strategy for the HRM Capital District to achieve its vision. Within the framework of (i) economy & key institutions, (ii) quality of life, and (iii) real property management, the Cogswell Interchange lands are viewed as a real opportunity to introduce high priority public facilities and/or facilities to support the Central Business District (CBD) activities. Development restrictions that apply to many other CBD properties do not apply to these lands (view planes and historic properties). The Interchange redevelopment is seen as a high priority initiative of the Capital District that will include multiple stakeholders from the private and public realm. It is recommended that a master planning exercise prioritize the reestablishment of the pedestrian connection between Brunswick and Gottingen streets.

2006 - Regional Plan identifies interchange lands as redevelopment opportunity site

Section 5.1.4 Capital District Policy Amendments EC-4 (g): "capitalizing on the redevelopment opportunities which take advantage of the special nature of the Cogswell Interchange lands."

2006 - 2008 - HRMbyDESIGN

HRMbyDESIGN was a highly consulted community visioning project for the Regional Centre. The project focused on creating an urban design plan for downtown Halifax, before moving on to other neighbourhoods in the Regional Centre. It was initiated as a response to needs articulated in the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy. Its objectives are to develop strategy that results in a repopulation of the Regional Centre coupled with an increased quality of life. HRMbyDESIGN called for the redevelopment of the Cogswell Interchange lands as one of HRM’s 10 Big Moves for Downtown.

2009 - Downtown Halifax Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy(DHMPS)

The DHMPS, resulting from HRMbyDESIGN, established the Cogswell lands as Precinct 8 in the downtown and prescribed a number of objectives for redevelopment of the area. These are;

  • complete, mixed use neighbourhoods,
  • vibrant and competitive Downtown
  • connectivity between downtown and north end intensified downtown with high rise signature architecture in the Cogswell Precinct that transitions to surrounding neighbourhoods and land uses.
  • enhanced public and visual access to the waterfront
  • remediation of existing developments in the Cogswell Precinct
  • high quality public realm and new public open spaces and
  • Cogswell Precinct as gateway and major transit hub for downtown Halifax.
  • a feasible and effective approach to sustainability using innovative green technologies and infrastructure design to create a model Green Precinct.

The MPS further calls for more detailed planning and strategy for the redevelopment of the Cogswell Interchange.

Comparison of Staff Findings and Vaughan Report


Variables Project Team Vaughan Report
Total available land 18.5 acres 14.7 – 16.5 acres
Roads 3.0 acres 5.9 – 8.1 acres
Sewage plant 5.0 acres 2.7 acres
Open space 2.0 acres N/A
Developable land 8.5 acres 5.8 – 7.0 acres
Estimated build-out value $104 - $132 M $99 - $120 M
Infrastructure redevelopment costs $10 million $12 million
Upcoming structural repairs Within 20 years Restoration work required
At-grade road structure feasible?