Development duo to build on downtown Halifax lots
Public parking lots behind Spring Garden Road to house retail, commercial structures
By CHRIS LAMBIE Business Editor
Wed, Jun 29 - 4:00 PM
Two prominent Halifax developers are buying two large downtown Halifax lots.
W.M. Fares Group and Banc Developments are now hammering out a deal with the city for two parking lots on Clyde Street, divided by Birmingham Street.
Both developers said the two eight-storey commercial and residential developments they plan to build should be worth a total of about $60 million once constructed.
“We bid on both of them and we got them both,” Wadih Fares, president of the Fares Group, told thechronicleherald.ca today.
“We thought it would make it a lot more appealing to have both lots, from the economic point of view and the control point of view.”
The city had planned to sell three lots individually. The properties are identified as "Mary Ann", "Margaretta" and "Rosina" - the Schmidt sisters who lived in the area, known as Schmidtville, about 140 years ago.
But the request for proposals for Mary Ann, the 33,869-square-foot property bounded by Birmingham, Queen and Clyde streets, gave developers the option to also bid on Margaretta, the neighbouring 42,600-square-foot lot on the west side of Birmingham.
The city plans to sell Rosina, which is the former Halifax Infirmary site, at a later date.
“We’ll do our best to get the third one when it comes up,” Besim Halef of Banc Developments, said with a chuckle.
Halef said he’s had his eye on the Mary Ann and Margaretta lots since he came to Canada in 1975.
“I always thought it would be a great opportunity to build something over there,” Halef said. “Luckily, 36 years later, it came to fruition.”
Peter Stickings, manager of real estate and facility services for the municipality, confirmed negotiations are now going on with the developers for both downtown lots. Three of the eight bidders for the Mary Ann site also wanted Margaretta, he said.
Fares and Banc plan to build an eight-storey, commercial-residential development on the Mary Ann site that will include three levels of underground parking.
The ground floor on Mary Ann, which may include a Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. outlet to replace the existing Clyde Street store, would be retail space. The upper floors would contain 120 to 130 apartments.
Margaretta should contain a similar combination of apartments and ground floor retail, as well as underground parking, he said.
“They’ll be almost the same type of development,” Fares said. “They will be compatible with each other.”
But each building will have its own distinguishing characteristics, Halef said.
The developers are looking at connecting the two projects with either a bridge or a tunnel.
“We can’t say anything right now because it’s all ideas,” Fares said.
The request for proposals from the city gave developers two years to begin construction.
But Fares said today construction on at least one of the two properties could start next spring and take two years to complete.
“We anticipate to close in a short order of time with the city and in the meantime, we will be doing our detailed design,” Halef said.
“We’re going to break ground (on at least one site) next year for sure. We are comfortable either building them one at a time or both of them at the same time.”
Neither Fares nor Halef would say what they offered to pay for the Mary Ann and Margaretta properties. They are estimated to be worth $6 million a piece for tax purposes.
A confidential May 20 city hall report on the deal won’t be released until the transaction closes.
“We’ll wait for the city to make it public, Fares said.
Other bidders on the Mary Ann property included Killam Properties Inc. and Urban Capital Property, Mythos Developments Ltd., Dexel Developments, Universal Properties, Armour Group Ltd., Tony Metlege and Westwood Developments Ltd.
“We have a lot of respect for everyone who put in a bid and I’m sure every one of them would have done a great job,” Fares said.
“That’s what’s so exciting about this. It really drew the top of the development industry in our city.