Queen’s Marque site at the Halifax Waterfront.
A general view of the Queen’s Marque site at the Halifax Waterfront. August 28, 2017.
By Jordan Parker, photos by Jorge Sanchez

In their quest to provide open space through downtown Halifax’s Queen’s Marque, developers have unearthed important archaeological artifacts.

The 75,000-square foot endeavour, under the control of Waterfront Development Inc., will provide access to the water’s edge in the area.

Featuring a permeable ground level, European-style plaza and public squares at George and Prince streets, it is set to be a structure like no other in the area. However, great care is now being paid to the artifacts being uncovered.

“It was recognized from the outset that the Queen’s Marque District played an important role in the history of Halifax, from its founding through to the present day. As such, it was no surprise that significant archaeological artifacts and features would be encountered during excavation,” Bruce Stewart, president and senior technical advisor of CRM Group Ltd. said in an email.

“The Armour Group engaged Cultural Resource Management (CRM) Group, a Halifax-based archaeological consulting firm, to undertake a thorough background study on the development history of the Queen’s Marque District. Since construction started on site, CRM Group has been actively involved in monitoring all excavation in order to identify and document archaeological resources as they were encountered.”

Artifacts at the Queen’s Marque

So far, artifacts include 19th to early 20th century domestic pieces that would have passed through the port, as well as military items, like cannonballs.

“If anything was surprising, it was the relatively low percentage of artifacts that could be attributed to the eighteenth century,” he said.

“Taken as a total assemblage, artifacts and features identified within the Queen’s Marque District tell the story of the Halifax waterfront – military activities relating to the early development of the town site, commercial ventures associated with trans-Atlantic trade and the North Atlantic fishery.”

He said CRM has been working closely with The Armour Group, local construction companies and the Nova Scotia government to ensure proper care is taken with the artifacts.

“Once archaeological features were documented, the structural remains were removed to facilitate redevelopment of the Queen’s Marque District.

The artifacts collected as a result of archaeological excavation (mitigation) of the various features and those collected during monitoring are being retained for processing and interpretation,” he said.

“All artifacts will be turned over to the Special Places Program for long term curation. It is anticipated that specific artifacts will be loaned to The Armour Group for incorporation into the completed development.”

The Armour Group said the discovery of artifacts has not caused delays in construction. In an email, they said one difficulty was getting the cofferdam construction just right.

“Queen’s Marque is a challenging and unique construction project. The lower parking level has a finished floor level that is 9.5 ft. below sea level and our excavation is as much as 15 ft. below sea level,” they said in an email.

“Meticulous planning and a dedicated construction team allowed us to overcome this building challenge to complete the cofferdam successfully.”

Equipment on site

This project represents a $200 million private investment, and the group hopes to finish sometime in 2019.

Right now, they are using a tower crane, mobile crane, mobile drill machine, numerous excavators and “other miscellaneous equipment” to get the job done.

“The tower crane will be used throughout most of the project to move formwork panels and concrete reinforcing steel. The mobile crane is used for placing rock anchors and rebar cages in the drilled piles and the mobile drill machine is used to drill the steel pile casings, sockets and rock anchors,” they wrote.

“The excavators are used for mass excavation, loading of material and backfilling among other tasks.”

Cofferdam construction will be used for 300 parking stalls in the two-level underground parking structure, and the project maximizes solar heating while shading larger glass sections.

A story told through architecture

“The primary heating and cooling systems for the district will use chilled beam and heat pump technology where water is drawn in from the harbour and is circulated throughout Queen’s Marque, creating a comfortable environment while dramatically lowering energy usage,” they wrote.

Armour says the design of Queen’s Marque “tells the story” of the province through architecture.

“Marine qualities, like the grand sweep of a vessel and the graceful bend of a bow are articulated through elegant hull-like shapes.”