People working on common challenges in close proximity to each other is a classic recipe for fostering new and broader thinking. Recent articles detail two such initiatives in Halifax—one that’s been around for five years, and one in the musing stage
Volta Labs, a “tech incubator” and “innovation hub,” has been working with start-up companies in Halifax since 2013 (fifty to date), offering working space, some early seed financing, training and common resources to help get ideas off the ground. The idea, pioneered in other cities, was an attempt to replicate on a small scale the dense interlocking networks of companies, funders and consultants that have helped propel so many Silicon Valley startups to major success.
Tech hubs also draw from the worldwide Hub co-working space movement, started in London two decades ago. Hubs are large open spaces with individual working areas and shared office amenities geared to professionals, freelancers, and small business entrepreneurs and innovators; some hubs are focused on those with a social mission. Members have access to the collective talents and knowledge of others who work there. There was a Halifax Hub on Barrington Street for several years but it was early days and hard to get the business model to work.
Now, people at the Dalhousie faculty of architecture and planning are looking at an idea to turn the old Halifax Public library on Spring Garden into “a hub for the built environment, providing a platform for the exchange and development of knowledge.” The early stage idea envisions the building expanded and shared by HRM’s planning department; Dalhousie’s faculty of architecture and planning; some public interest groups with a focus on Halifax’s future —such as heritage organizations and transportation coalitions; and a public space, where all aspects of planning for the city’s future could be hashed out.
This kind of human contact and exchange of ideas among people who have to work next to each other would seem to create a stronger chance for good, if not innovative, planning. Are there other obvious places where this approach could be applied?