An architectural rendering shows a modern addition towering behind an old Victorian apartment building.
A rendering of the proposed addition and alteration to the Elmwood. HRM/Zzap Consulting

An historic Halifax building will move four metres over and one metre up if a developer’s plans are approved.

The Elmwood, at 5185-5189 South St., dates back to 1826. The structure there today was mostly built later, in 1896, when it was converted to a Victorian hotel. The building was at risk in recent years, with the former owner, Peter, Paul, and Renée Metlej’s Principal Developments, looking to demolish it and build new.

In 2018, it was sold to a different Metlej family business, Anthony, David, and Elias Metlej and Anna Kabalen’s Galaxy Properties. The new owners started working with municipal staff on a proposal back then, and it came to a virtual meeting of council’s Heritage Advisory Committee on Wednesday.

Galaxy’s plan, submitted on its behalf by Zzap Consulting, is to pick up the Elmwood, move it closer to the street and put it down on top of a new foundation. It also includes rehabilitation of the building’s windows, trim, and roofing, and the restoration of some lost elements, like the full wraparound porch and wrought iron parapet, municipal heritage planner Seamus McGreal told the committee.

A rear wing would be removed, and a new nine-storey structure added. That would bring the number of units in the overall building from 12 to 79.

Another building behind it on Barrington Street, the one with the pink mural, would be demolished.

McGreal told the committee that while the Elmwood itself is not a heritage property, it’s part of the Old South Suburb Heritage District.

“The Elmwood itself embodies the heritage value of the district since it is itself a transition from a Georgian building to a Victorian-style building and nothing will will change as part of this development proposal with respect to its heritage value,” McGreal said.

In his report to the committee, McGreal recommended in favour of the substantial alteration, and the committee recommended council approve it.

“I’m really thrilled with this proposal. I love the Elmwood and it’s great to see some changes to improve it,” committee member Martha Caswell said.

Lois Yorke, another member of the committee, wondered aloud how the developer will move such a large structure.

“I’m sure it can be done,” Yorke said, “but can somebody give me some idea how, without it falling apart in transit?”

McGreal noted it’s been done. There’s a building on Queen Street that was recently moved. There’s also Morris House, which moved across town.

“These incredible projects, we do have examples of them here in Halifax,” McGreal said.

“This one I think will be probably the largest historic building to be moved if it is approved.”

The proposal is also going to the city’s Design Review Committee for a decision, pending council’s approval of the heritage alteration.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the committee voted to recommend council register 144 Pleasant Street — a two-storey home dating back to 1854. The committee scored the property 57 out of 100 points.

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. Great readaptive use of this historic building we’ve all been hoping to save. Now if only Dalhousie University could apply this same enlightened thinking to the historic home at 1245 Edward Street that they want to bulldoze for a parking lot (according to their own staff). But we know their real interest is in land, so when they decide to tear down the neighbouring Glengary student apartment building, they could incorporate the lovely old house like this.