Article from the Herald:
Residents give a listen to 9-storey proposal
By KRISTEN LIPSCOMBE Staff Reporter
Thu. May 8 - 5:37 PM
While Halifax resident Michael Bradfield feels the upper half of a new downtown office building would awkwardly resemble something a “mad hatter" would wear, fellow Haligonian Paul MacKinnon said he rather likes the modern design that would top the proposed redevelopment of several Hollis and Upper Water Street properties.
“I like the fact that it distinguishes itself from the rest of the building," said Mr. MacKinnon, who spoke as a resident but also happens to be executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission. “I do like the contrast in that."
More than 50 people showed up Wednesday night at city hall for an information meeting on The Armour Group Ltd.’s application to demolish the properties from 1855 to 1873 Hollis Street and 1860 to 1870 Upper Water Street (beside the Morse’s Tea building). A nine-storey office building would be built on the site, which would also offer retail space and underground parking.
Ben McCrea, chairman of The Armour Group, and architect Andy Lynch explained the historic façades of most businesses located there would remain, and the walkway from Hollis Street to Lower Water Street would be maintained.
Opinions on whether the redevelopment would work for downtown Halifax were mixed as several residents took to the microphone to share their thoughts on the proposed project.
“This may be the way to save these properties," Mr. MacKinnon said. “It may be a choice of losing them altogether, or saving them in this manner where they do have a functional use."
“We do need office space — we can’t argue about that," he added. “Our vacancy rate is less than four per cent in downtown Halifax for class A office space."
Mr. MacKinnon said the redevelopment would “bring life to the waterfront," pointing out that most businesses at the Historic Properties shut down in the off-season.
“We need to have more people downtown and this is going to accommodate that," he said.
But Phil Pacey, president of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, was less than impressed with The Armour Group’s plans, which would include tearing down a former registered heritage building at 1870 Upper Water St. The old wooden building is home to Sweet Basil Bistro.
“These are important heritage buildings in the city of Halifax," he said.
“It’s too bad that they weren’t provincially registered, but they’re not. They’re only municipally registered, which means that they could be demolished in a year with proper notice given."
Approving the project would be a “grave" decision, Mr. Pacey said.
Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown) was the only councillor to attend Wednesday’s meeting, just one of many steps to be taken before the proposal can be approved. That includes a staff report that will be presented to city council.