Calling its signature feature “funky and fun,” if maybe redundant and potentially dangerous, members of a citizen committee are recommending in favour of a development proposal for north end Halifax.
Architect Richard Doucette submitted one of those three proposals, for the corner of Bilby and Gottingen streets, on behalf of Michael Lawen’s Corner Stone Developments Ltd.
It’s a seven-storey, 40-unit residential building with three levels of underground parking. On the ground floor, every unit would be a “work-live” unit, where some commercial activity is allowed, and the developer gets around the requirement to provide private entrances for the units.
On the top floor, there’s a clock tower on one side, and a second clock hanging off of a rod cantilevered off the corner on the other side. Because the building’s floor area is more than 2,000 square metres, the developer has to provide public benefit based on a formula baked into the Centre Plan.
At least 60% of the value has to be cash paid into the city’s affordable housing fund. The remaining 40% can be spent on a list of items that includes public art. In this case, the developer has proposed the cantilevered clock as public art. The design is preliminary, however, and there’s been no artist selected.
The design of the building as a whole required one variance to the rules, allowing the developer to build the mechanical penthouse behind the clock tower closer to the property line. No member of the committee took issue with that variance, but there was debate over the work-live units, the colour scheme and of course the clock.
“I think it’s funky and fun,” committee member Jonathan Lampier said, adding a few concerns.
“It’s maybe a little redundant because there is already one a couple metres away from it … I don’t think it could be engineered to be quite so simple as it’s demonstrated. It would probably need some guide wires and such.”
Alex Kawchuk said he doesn’t mind the clock, but was concerned about safety due to falling ice and the ability of the hanging clock to withstand hurricane-force Halifax winds.
Committee chair Ted Farquhar questioned the architect about the safety, and whether the design had progressed to that level. Docuette, the architect, said the clock design wasn’t finalized, but it would be safe.
“We’re very serious professionals,” Doucette said. “We’re not going to put anything up there that’s of any risk to anybody.”
Asked whether he’d consider any other kind of public art instead, Doucette said he and the developer just want to do something on the corner.
“Conceptually, we want to do something on that corner right there. This is one of the aspects that we’re considering. We’ll look at it in more detail when we get further down the road,” he said.
Thomas Gribbin suggested the committee should recommend against the clock.
“I think the cantilevered clock is a lot of nonsense and we should dump it right off,” Gribbin said. “There’s a clock already there on the tower which is fine, it’s integrated into the building. The only people who will see it are the soldiers and it’ll keep them all on time.”
Gribbin suggested a windmill or some other environmentally-friendly piece on the corner instead.
“That clock doesn’t do anything for the building, but we can add art and value to the building,” he said.
In the end, the committee didn’t adopt a firm stance on the clock, but suggested consideration of environmental features like more solar panels or a windmill “as opposed to the proposed public art.”
It made a series of other recommendations on the building generally, including but not limited to: increased visual interest on a blank wall on the south side of the building; reevaluation of the use of colours on the facade; and privacy screening for the work-live units on the first floor.
Another one for Gottingen
Also during Thursday’s meeting, the committee recommended in favour of a proposal for the corner of Gottingen and Cogswell streets — across from Staples on Gottingen and Centennial Pool on Cogswell.
It’s an 11-storey, 174-unit building with commercial space on Gottingen and three levels underground. Architect Michael Napier made the application on behalf of Peter, Paul and Renée Metlej’s Principal Developments Ltd.
Farquhar said he was “underwhelmed” by the design, calling it “uninspired.” He said from Cogswell, it looks like a photocopier, and recommended that the architect apply the Downtown Halifax rules for prominent civic frontage to this building. Particularly, he wanted to see something to distinguish the corner, like a turret, spire, or even a digital billboard.
The committee also recommended the architect add a public art component from a local artist, street trees, and consideration for the kind of environmentally-friendly designed contemplated in the city’s climate change strategy, HalifACT 2050.
A neighbour for Morris House
And third, the committee considered a proposal for the corner of Maynard and Charles streets, behind the relocated Morris House and across the street from Joseph Howe Elementary School.
Harvey Architecture submitted the application for a five-storey, 44-unit residential building on behalf of a numbered company owned by Simon Wilbee, Adam Conter and Gilles Comeau.
Morris House is a municipally registered heritage property, and there was some concern that the newly proposed design didn’t meet the standard for standing next to such a building.
The committee recommended the architect shift some decorative cornice lines to better match Morris House, and consider more classic windows to match, among other considerations.
All three applications are considered Level II under the Centre Plan. Next, each developer will be required to post a sign about the proposal at the properties and create a website for public information.
Using the committee’s recommendations as suggestions, they’ll then submit their final plans, and development officer and planner Sean Audas will ultimately decide whether they go ahead.