A dodgy old garage with beige brick and a brown roof, covered in graffiti, is seen in an overgrown green field. It's a sunny day with some big clouds in the sky.
The site as seen from Williams Street on Monday. The bridge is visible in the back right. Photo: Zane Woodford

A city committee has given a 26-storey Dartmouth development its stamp of approval, but it has some notes on the public art proposed for the site.

The Design Advisory Committee, tasked with reviewing development proposals submitted under the Centre Plan, met virtually on Wednesday, and considered a proposal for the block bounded by Williams, Faulkner, Dickson, and Lyle streets in downtown Dartmouth.

The site is right next to the Macdonald Bridge, comprises 10 lots, and sold for $2.8 million in March 2021, according to Property Valuation Services Corporation. The tattoo shop at the corner of Lyle and Dickson streets is staying put.

WM Fares submitted the proposal on behalf of Boston Developments Ltd., which teased the development on Instagram in March. The company is owned by Jeremy, Boston, and Mark Ghosn.

The Ghosns want to build a 26-storey tower with 160 apartments. More than half of those are two-bedrooms with a few three-bedrooms. Forty-five percent of the apartments proposed are one-bedroom units.

There’d be 202 parking spots in the building, most of which are underground, along with 80 indoor bicycle parking spots.

A rendering of the proposal for the block bounded by Williams, Faulkner, Dickson, and Lyle streets in Dartmouth, as seen from the other side of Faulkner Street. WM Fares Architects

The developers are looking to stray from the Centre Plan on one aspect.

“The applicant is requesting a variation for streetwall articulation, and has proposed wider, horizontal recesses for the streetwall articulation,” HRM planner and development officer Ashlee Bevis wrote in the report to the committee.

A rough translation: the developers want the walls on the main floor to be relatively uniform, rather than sectioned and differentiated with colour and material every eight metres, as required by the plan.

This sort of variance is allowed under the Centre Plan as long as the design is “dramatic,” and the developers provide public art on the site.

To satisfy that variance condition, the developers have proposed a sculpture by artist Vassilis Vassili, who has a piece on the Halifax waterfront near Bishop’s Landing called Passage — this one.

A rendering of the proposal, as seen from Williams Street. The sculpture is on the left. WM Fares Architects

“The sculpture belongs to a group of works whose forms are a combination of obelisks and houses,” WM Fares wrote in the public art submission.

“Located at the corner of the site along Williams and Faulkner Street, the sculpture which will be roughly 10’ tall and built mainly from stone will include lighting into its design that will create a beacon on site and attract members of the public.”

The committee had no issue with the variance, but several members had concerns about the art.

“I find it’s not art at all. It doesn’t inspire me in the slightest,” Thomas Gribbin said.

Gribbin argued the building’s public art should be its sustainability, like a windmill or a filtering garden.

Sujana Devabhaktuni agreed that “it’s not a very inspiring art piece.”

WM Fares architect Rimon Soliman said the team chose this piece early in the design process, and it would be part of the proposal whether it was required to satisfy the land-use bylaw or not.

“Having that piece of art there … it will animate this sidewalk, attract people to go through the site and have an opportunity to to see the project from further away,” Soliman said.

Committee vice-chair Jesse Hitchcock asked whether there was any community consultation around the choice of the artist or the piece. Soliman said there wasn’t.

“I think that the developer should engage with the community when choosing an artist and an art installation that’s going to be in a residential neighbourhood,” Hitchcock said.

Sarah MacDonald agreed.

“I understand that it’s private property, but when it’s for the public consumption, the art pieces, I think community is really important, particularly when you’re building community in a certain area like North Dartmouth and adding a lot of folks to that community,” MacDonald said.

Ultimately, the art isn’t within the committee’s purview, as committee chair Ted Farquhar reminded his colleagues.

“Public art must be included. There is public art,” Farquhar said. “We don’t have the right to judge whether or not the public art is good or not good enough, right?”

But the committee tacked on two similar amendments anyway. First, MacDonald moved “to encourage the applicant to engage with surrounding communities about their pedestrian experience around both the public art and the grounds of the building.”

Second, Gribbin moved to recommend public consultation “on the public art submission, include additional landscaping, relocation of the public outdoor amenity spaces to the south of the building” and a better landscape design generally. Gribbin argued the public amenities planned for the north side of the building would be perpetually shaded.

The amendment passed, and so did the positive recommendation as a whole. The committee can only make non-binding recommendations. The development officer on the file, Bevis, is tasked with approving or denying the proposal, and doesn’t have to consider the committee’s input.

Zane Woodford

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. I have never seen much public art that someone didn’t like. It is the nature of art. Art developed or approved by a committee usually is bland and sterile trying to please everybody.