A rendering of the proposal from Summer Wind Holdings. Rendering: HRM/WSP

The city’s peninsula planning advisory committee is recommending in favour of a big developer’s plans to add a modern eight-storey building to the back of a South Street heritage property.

Summer Wind Holdings, with the same owners as Southwest Properties, wants to build a total of 112 units in the space between South and Harvey streets, ranging from 500-square foot one-bedroom units to 1,700-square foot three-bedroom units. The developer is proposing 83 underground parking spaces, and the main entrance would face Harvey Street.

The developer is also proposing to restore Stairs House and connect the municipally-registered heritage property to the new building. Dating back to 1838, the building is named for its second owner, “merchant, banker, and politician” William James Stairs.

“While it has endured some questionable additions of form and material, and has been converted to multi-tenant use, it has retained its essential original form, detailing and residential use, presenting to the street a clear image of a well-proportioned Georgian cottage,” reads a heritage impact statement by WSP, submitted as part of the application.

A slide from the staff presentation to the committee.

The developer would remove an addition made in 1863, restore the front porch, and remove the vinyl siding and restore the wood shingle siding underneath.

It would also tear down two existing apartment buildings on Harvey Street and one between those and Stairs House.

The Harvey Street buildings

The city’s peninsula planning advisory committee met by teleconference on Monday to consider the application, and the draft minutes were posted online on Tuesday afternoon.

The minutes indicate that the committee asked municipal planner Jesse Morton about what the Centre Plan would allow for the site without a development agreement, and expressed concern about the design on the Harvey Street side and how it would effect pedestrian traffic.

“Morton answered that the as of right development allows for mixed residential uses and 11 meters in height. The application is before the Committee as the applicant is requesting additional height to a total height of 23 ½ meters,” the minutes say.

The development agreement is being considered under a Centre Plan policy that allows developers to build bigger and taller when they restore a heritage property.

The committee was also concerned about the affordability of the new building.

“Members questioned the number of existing units that will be lost when the buildings on Harvey Street are demolished … The Committee would like to see the same number of affordable housing units remain in the new development,” the minutes say.

“Morton indicated there is no criteria for staff to request affordable housing units and that the 27 existing units will be lost when the buildings are demolished.”

The committee eventually passed a motion recommending approval “with consideration given to the stepback on Harvey Street in making it more welcoming to the pedestrian experience, more of a setback along the western elevation of the building and an increase in the number of two or more-bedroom units.”

The proposal is about halfway through the development agreement process. It will head to the heritage advisory committee and then to Halifax regional council for approval of the substantial alteration to a heritage property, and to the Halifax and West community council for a public hearing and final approval of the development agreement.

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 would like to contact all the commenters who believe there has to be provision for affordable housing. I think it’s time for a committee to pressure the powers that be. Please get in touch with me, Judy. jhaiven at gmail.com. I have experience in community organising in Schmidtville. We got heritage designation a few years ago.

  2. This is what the Centre Plan says about affordable housing under the Density Bonus section: “ Proposals that seek to demolish any portion of a registered heritage property shall be excluded from incentive or bonus zoning. Public benefits for the Centre Plan Area shall include affordable housing, heritage conservation, public art, improvements to municipal parks, affordable community cultural indoor spaces, and such other public benefits that may be set out in the Land Use By-law. The Land Use By-law shall establish the public benefits for which only money-in-lieu shall be accepted.” I think money can be paid to support future affordable housing initiatives should the province and HRM get their act together. Currently the plan offers no real way to preserve existing affordable housing downtown or to ensure replacement . Most affordable housing if built will likely be off peninsula.

    1. The buildings that would be demolished in this proposal are not registered heritage properties. Only the Stairs House is registered, and it’s being restored not demolished.

  3. If your city council gives approval of this development without requiring a fixed number of affordable housing units then they are not using their power wisely. They can withhold approval. But they are not. So they are choosing not to wield the power they do have.

  4. Until concerned citizens come together, hire a lawyer and sue the city council for destruction of the urban environment which benefits the developers and not the citizens, this is just going to go on and on.

    Only legal action will wake up our so-called “representatives !” Look at the devastation of the stupid- beyond- imagining new Convention Centre…this hulking monster has destroyed the character of the downtown area where people used to enjoy walking and socializing.

  5. The proposal estimates approximately $1 million will be spent on the restoration of Stairs House. A committee member also asked that consideration be given to reducing the height from 8 storeys to 6, bringing it in line with the building immediately adjacent to Stairs House, but this was rejected.

  6. Again ?!?!
    “ The Committee would like to see the same number of affordable housing units remain in the new development,” the minutes say.

    “Morton indicated there is no criteria for staff to request affordable housing units and that the 27 existing units will be lost when the buildings are demolished.” “

    Wrong. This is wrong.
    Why are they just letting this slip through the system??

  7. Why no provision for any affordable units????? I thought that was required. And this proposal involves removing some already existing affordable units. Where are those people to go? I think this is wrong. The Centre Plan seems to have more holes (loopholes) in it than my old socks.

    1. It isn’t required, and I believe its forbidden. Affordable housing units are not a legal concern of HRM.