Council’s Heritage Advisory Committee is recommending in favour of an addition to the historic Kenny-Dennis and Acadian Recorder buildings in downtown Halifax.
Dexel Developments won the tender process to lease and develop the properties at 1724, 1730, and 1740 Granville St. from the provincial government, and posted the plan for what it calls the Press Block online in March. The developer wants to build about 120 one- and two-bedroom residential units, retail space on Barrington Street and underground parking. The building would be nine storeys tall on Granville Street and eight storeys tall on Barrington Street.
The history of the two buildings is rooted in journalism. In the early 1900s, the Kenny-Dennis building was home to what later became the Chronicle Herald, and the Acadian Recorder building hosted its namesake newspaper from 1900 to 1930.
Both provincially-owned buildings are now in rough shape and in need of restoration.
The Acadian Recorder building has been a registered heritage property since 1982. Council only added the Kenny-Dennis building to the registry in 2018 after a third-party application that was originally opposed by the provincial government.
Because they’re municipally-registered heritage properties, Halifax regional council has to approve the proposal as a substantial alteration. First, it went to council’s Heritage Advisory Committee on Thursday. The committee met via teleconference and the minutes were posted online Friday afternoon.
Municipal heritage planner Aaron Murnaghan recommended in favour of the alterations in a report to the committee.
“The alterations will have no impacts on the building’s character defining elements and will result in a full restoration of the building facades on these prominent but currently under-utilized historic buildings,” Murnaghan wrote. “The new construction will be set-back from the existing structures, providing prominence to the streetscape.”
According to the minutes, the committee was concerned about the parking portion of the development, which will include 36 spots, disturbing the façade of the heritage properties. The committee “discussed the potential of damage occurring to the facades during the parkade’s construction, discussing other examples of where this has proven to be challenging.
“This was considered a very important consideration which should be monitored,” the minutes say.
Committee member Jim Ballinger moved an amendment to the motion asking for a contingency plan “to ensure the structural integrity with the retention of the heritage façade of each building during the construction of the parking garage,” and to ask for public art to be included. The proposal means the removal of the colourful mural on the side of Freak Lunchbox.
The motion passed as amended, and will now go to regional council for approval. Meanwhile, a separate development application is proceeding and will eventually require public consultation and the approval of the city’s design review committee.