A pile of rubble in central Halifax was a heritage building this time last week.

Now a piece of history is lost, the developer has two stop work orders, and they’ll need to find a way to make the municipality’s heritage planners whole.

1452 Carlton St. was part of the Carlton Victorian Streetscape, a strip of 17 mixed Greek Revival, Modified Gothic, and Second Empire-style houses built between 1860 and 1906.

On Friday, the building collapsed while workers tried to lift it with cranes.

Two cranes are seen on either side of a pile of rubble on a snowy day.
1452 Carlton St., as seen from College Street on Monday, March 6, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

Ameeta Vohra, a spokesperson with Labour, Skills, and Immigration, said the department is “actively investigating a structural collapse.”

“No injuries have been reported related to the incident and two stop work orders have been issued,” Vohra said in an email.

On Monday afternoon, the collapsed building and cranes were still there, appearing frozen in time under blowing snow. College Street was blocked and there was red “DANGER” tape around a fence securing the debris. Workers in idling pickups guarded either side.

Municipal spokesperson Klara Needler said the developer had permission to close the street to do the work.

“This is an evolving situation, and the road will remain closed until the crane can be safely removed,” Needler said in an email.

Heritage was part of big development agreement

The property is part of a big plan for the block between Robie and Carlton streets.

In September 2021, Halifax and West Community Council approved a development agreement that would allow Peter and Argyris Rouvalis’ 3088962 Nova Scotia Ltd. to build two towers of 30 and 29 storeys with a total of 577 homes. The Halifax Examiner reported on that meeting here, and the design here.

An updated rendering of Peter Rouvalis’ proposal for the corner of Robie and College streets. — ZZap Consulting Credit: ZZap Consulting

As part of the agreement, the developer proposed to restore 1452 and 1456 Carlton St.

The plan was to remove an addition from the rear of 1452, shore up that wall, and connect it to 1456 with a glass stairway. Then the developer would move the Gold Cure Institute building at 5969 College St. and the McCoy Building at 5963 College St. to the backyard of 1452 and 1456 Carlton St.

Once that work was complete, the developer could get to work on its towers.

The orange building in this rendering is the one that’s now in pieces. — ZZap Consulting

The developer is calling the building Promenade Robie South, with a website touting the conservation of heritage on site:

Promenade Robie South will respect the Carlton Victorian Streetscape, a nationally registered heritage gem. We will be revitalizing our two heritage properties on Carlton Street and relocating two historic homes around the corner on College Street. This will create the look and feel of a continuous streetscape of historic homes. The relocation of the homes will be carefully planned and executed. It will take time and meticulous attention to detail.

The Examiner submitted a request for comment through the contact us form on that site. We’ll update this article when we receive a response.

Amendment required to development agreement

The Examiner asked the municipality whether the developer will face any penalty for the collapse.

“While there are options to deal with violations under the Heritage Property Act of Nova Scotia, municipal staff are currently working internally, and with the property owner, to determine next steps and work toward an outcome that will mitigate the loss of this heritage building and ultimately retain the heritage value of both the site and of the Carlton Victorian Streetscape,” Needler said.

A collapsed building with green steal beams and big straps tangles up in it. It's a snowy day.
1452 Carlton St. on Monday, March 6, 2022. Credit: Zane Woodford

The developer will also need to work with the municipality on an amendment to its development agreement.

“As the planning policy for the site and the resulting development agreement specifically requires the conservation of 1452 Carlton Street, an amendment process will be required in order to account for the loss of the building,” Needler said.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. An accident you say? More like a complete disregard for a beautiful yet needful of tender loving care part of our city heritage being deliberately destroyed or at least not caring if it were to happen, as it stood in the way of my fancy new (read ugly) development and all my $. Much love, Mr. Developer.

  2. This is one of the ugliest design I have ever seen. It will create hundreds of tons of CO2 in the atmosphere if it is ever built. Shame on HRM City Council for approving this development!

  3. Thanks to the Halifax Examiner and Zane for covering this important story – the first and only news outlet to do so. A building falls down in our city, two streets are closed, thank goodness no-one was hurt or killed, a development proposal is revealed for being a sham (the state of the house was pretty appalling – demolition by neglect?) and no-one in the media reports? What’s up, Halifax?

  4. I’ve seen heritage buildings moved before. It usually takes specialized equipment, massive hydraulics and specialty trailers. I’ve never seen it done with cranes. I imagine the stresses placed on the building by attempting to lift it in this manner would have been extreme, hence the collapse. I can see windows and doors in the pictures post-collapse, did they really think they could lift it with those intact? Or is this a case of, “whoops, our bad (not really) can we just demolish it now, pay a slight fine and carry on with our towers?”

    1. I’d guess that’s exactly what happened. They were deliberately negligent and now, of course, the city will give them a pass and let them build their no-name towers without repercussions. It’s way past time for municipal politicians to disclose every last dime they take from these vultures.