Dartmouth underwent a period of rapid development in the 1970s, including the construction of the MacKay Bridge, Alderney Drive, the Circumferential Highway, Burnside, plus a new ferry terminal. Dartmouth Planning Department photographs document theses significant changes. Among that series are hundreds of photographs from the Neighbourhood Improvement Program (NIP) in Dartmouth. An initiative of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, NIP aimed to rehabilitate low-income neighbourhoods nation-wide. The program funded improvements to physical amenities, such as parks, recreation facilities, sidewalks, and roads. It also insisted on community involvement in both planning and implementing projects.
How NIP worked
In light of the negative reaction to federally-funded “urban renewal” programs of the 1950s and 1960s–Halifax’s so-called slum clearance being just one example–the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) developed the Neighbourhood Improvement Program in the early 1970s. NIP was a coordinated strategy involving all three levels of government: the CMHC tasked the provinces to select which municipalities would receive NIP funding; and the municipalities designated neighbourhoods. Each level of government was also responsible for a share of the costs associated with the neighbourhood projects. A coordinator hired for each neighbourhood initiated community participation and solicited members for the NIP committee. Guided by the NIP coordinator and in consultation with a Planner from the Dartmouth Planning Department, the committee developed a plan for improvements within their respective neighbourhoods. Each plan was presented to Dartmouth City Council–presentations that included slides, photographs, maps, and illustrations–who approved the plan and the City’s share of the costs. While not all the proposed projects came to fruition, the photographs show that NIP made important changes in each of the six neighbourhoods.
Harbourview NIP projects and photographs (1976-1979)
The Harbourview plan had three main objectives: constructing and landscaping parks, improving streets and roads, and cleaning-up the waterfront area. The 147 Harbourview NIP photographs show that Furness Park and St. Paul’s Cemetery both saw major improvements, including the construction of pathways, stairwells, and the placement of playground equipment. The photographs also picture streets undergoing repairs and upgrades. Among the Harbourview photographs are a series of composite panoramas showing some key areas. Shore Road and its embankment were of particular interest, given that they are captured in many slides and photographs. The area below the MacDonald Bridge was considered an eyesore, and is pictured strewn with wreckages and industrial debris. The Park School and land beside the Holiday Inn were also extensively photographed, although captions on some slides and photographs indicate that these projects were “unsuccessful.”
Notting Park NIP projects and photographs (1976-1979)
In Notting Park, the plan focused on parks and street repairs, but also on building a community centre for the neighbourhood. The 110 Notting Park NIP photographs indicate that many of their projects were successful including paving Chapman and Richmond Streets, clearing land to create Northbrook Park, upgrades to the Howe Street Park, and renovating the former Northbrook School to become the Northbrook Community Centre. Other slides and prints show members of the Notting Park Committee in meetings at the Neighbourhood Centre, providing a unique behind-the-scenes view of the people involved in NIP.
South Woodside NIP projects and photographs (1976-1979)
The South Woodside plan focused on improvements to Franklyn Street Park, Brompton Road Park, and High Street Park, as well as adding playground equipment at the South Woodside Elementary School. They also proposed building an addition to the school to serve as a Community Centre. The plan proposes upgrading and beautifying several streets in the neighbourhood with paving, sidewalk extensions, and landscaping. There are only 4 photographs associated with South Woodside NIP projects, therefore it is difficult to tell how many of these projects were implemented. However, among the images is a sign that indicates the school extension went ahead, while other photos show upgrades were done in at least one park.
Tuft’s Cove NIP projects and photographs (1977-1979)
The Tuft’s Cove plan focused largely on the creation of three parks: Farrell Street Park, Harbourview School Park, and a park along the waterfront at the end of Nivens Ave. Street improvements, including, paving, sidewalks, curbs, and gutters, were also a priority, plus the committee proposed helping the Boys and Girls Club with upgrades to their building. Several of the 37 photographs from this neighbourhood picture it before projects began, including some that were taken from the Nova Scotia Power Corporation stacks, showing a broad view of the community. Other photos indicate that streets were upgraded as planned, and a large park created – possibly the Farrell Street Park.
North Woodside NIP projects and photographs (1978-1979)
Much like the other NIP neighbourhoods, in North Woodside, the committee proposed developing parks: one at the north end of Marvin, Chadwick, and Renfrew Streets, and the other beside the North Woodside Elementary School. Street upgrades including sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and bus shelters were also proposed, as well as beautification projects such as tree planting. The 20 photographs from this neighbourhood were all taken before the NIP projects began, but the existence of Arnold Whitworth Park (which was the name the committee proposed for the park on Marvin, Chadwick, and Renfrew streets) indicates at least some of their goals were met.
Austenville NIP projects and photographs (1978-1979)
The Austenville plan proposed creating three parks: on the St. Peter’s School property, Pine Street, and Oak Street, which would honour Ruby Keeler. The committee also proposed putting a large portion of their budget toward improvements to pedestrian movement in the area by constructing sidewalks, curbs, and gutters on streets such as Beech, Dahlia, Maple, Pine, Tulip, Rose, and Mayflower. They further proposed beautification efforts including planting trees and shrubbery, sodding, etc. The committee was also concerned with pedestrian safety given heavy traffic in the area and proposed adding caution lights and lighted crosswalks and crosswalk guards. There are no photographs from this neighbourhood in the Dartmouth Planning Department records, so it is difficult to tell which projects were successful. But the neighbourhood’s many sidewalks plus the Pine Street Park and the park behind St. Peter’s Church suggest that NIP had a positive impact in Austenville.
NIP Harbourview Scheme: City of Dartmouth. City of Dartmouth Neighbourhood Improvement Program Report, 1976. HMA Reference Collection, 711.409716225 D 1976.
City of Dartmouth NIP Area: Notting Park Scheme. City of Dartmouth Neighbourhood Improvement Program Report, 1976. HMA Reference Collection, 711.409716225 .N6 1976.
South Woodside Plan. City of Dartmouth Neighbourhood Improvement Program Report, 1976. HMA Reference Collection, 711.409716225 .S6 1976.
Tuft’s Cove Plan. City of Dartmouth Neighbourhood Improvement Program Report, 1977. HMA Reference Collection, 711.409716225 D 1977.
North Woodside Plan. City of Dartmouth Neighbourhood Improvement Program Report, 1978. HMA Reference Collection, 711.409716225 D 1978.
Austenville Plan. Working Report. City of Dartmouth Neighbourhood Improvement Program, 1978. HMA Reference Collection, 711.409716225 D 1978.
Environmental Planning III class at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. An Evaluation of Citizen Participation in the Neighbourhood Improvement Program in Halifax and Dartmouth. Working Report. Halifax, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1979. HMA Reference Collection, 711.409716225 .N6 1979.
Lyon, Deborah and Lynda H. Newman, The Neighbourhood Improvement Program, 1973-1983: A National Review of an Intergovernmental Initiative. Research and Working Paper No. 15. Winnipeg: The Institute of Urban Studies, University of Winnipeg, 1986.