Council is comfortable with the heritage aspect of a proposed addition to the Waverley Inn, but the developer still has to clear another hurdle before the project is approved.
Nassim Ghosn’s company Sterling Hotel Ltd. (or Grafton Developments Inc.) wants to redevelop the old hotel at 1266 Barrington St., tearing down an old addition in the back, restoring the front of the inn, and adding a modern 10-storey addition. The addition would bring the number of rooms at the hotel from 14 to 117.
The building dates back to 1866 and is part of the Old South Suburb Heritage Conservation District. That means any substantial alteration requires approval from council after a recommendation from its Heritage Advisory Committee.
As the Halifax Examiner reported in January, the committee unanimously agreed with the staff recommendation in favour of the alteration:
“I think it looks really good,” said committee member Jennifer Clarke-Hines. “I think the way they’ve integrated the building in the back and what they’re doing to the front really comes together nicely and I don’t always like these but I really do like the look of this one.”
Luke Stock agreed.
“Often we see these and they feel somewhat detached from the original historic property,” he said. “I appreciate that it looks like the owners, and the developers in this case, kind of [went] to lengths to try to work with the existing property.
During a public hearing at council’s meeting on Tuesday, five people spoke. Four of them were vehemently opposed to the project (the fifth was the hotel manager).
“It will modify the character of the neighbourhood substantially. I really hope you will reconsider because this is not restoration, it’s opportunism,” Mike Fitzmaurice told council.
Shelley Goulding argued the proposal was a “sleight of hand trick” where the developer uses the heritage restoration to get approval for the big new building behind it.
But Peninsular South-Downtown Coun. Waye Mason said that’s sort of the point of the Old South Suburb Heritage Conservation District.
“It’s the carrot and the stick, right? The stick is, once we created the heritage district, all of these buildings are registered now and can’t be torn down without an extensive process that council would probably say no to,” Mason said.
“The carrot is we’ll let you build these bigger buildings, but you have to fix the heritage.”
Mason said the proposal is exactly what the plans call for.
“We did years of consultation on the Old South Suburb and this is actually not the exception, this is the rule. This is the kind of thing that we’ve asked the property owners to come back to us with,” Mason said.
Council voted unanimously in favour of the motion to the substantial alteration to the inn.
Next, the proposal will go to the Design Review Committee for approval. Based on the developer’s drawings submitted as part of the staff report to council, it appears they’re seeking one variance from the Downtown Halifax Land-use Bylaw, for the side-yard setback on the north side of the building.