COMMUNITY

Family copes with ‘death’ after houses demolished for Steele lot

17 houses were torn down for Colonial Honda expansion in north-end Halifax

Daniel Egilsson still likes his neighbourhood despite the fact that he's surrounded by a car lot.
Daniel Egilsson still likes his neighbourhood despite the fact he’s surrounded by a car lot.   Erin McIntosh

Daniel Egilsson and his partner Chelsi Ferguson added flower boxes, lights and a fresh coat of paint to their home as the houses around them came crashing down.

The couple lives in one of the three colourful row houses remaining on May Street, next to the expanded Colonial Honda property on Robie Street. Between June and October, 17 houses were demolished to make way for the car lot and showcase building.

“We’re doing everything we can to enhance our property, to show that we’re still here,” said Egilsson. “All we can do is take pride in the ownership of what we have.”

In April, Steele Auto Group purchased a number of residential buildings surrounding its Colonial Honda location. The move was controversial.

Ferguson created a campaign called Homes Not Hondas. What started out with a small group of close friends and neighbours on Facebook quickly grew to include hundreds of supporters. All summer the group held protests outside of Colonial Honda, hoping to save some of the historic homes.

The demolition went ahead anyway. The project took down houses on North Street, May Street, Fern Lane, McCully Street and Robie Street.

“It feels like the teeth got knocked out of our streets,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson compared having the houses around her torn down to “a death.”

“It’s like they changed the whole vibe of the community,” she said. “It was a pedestrian friendly, vibrant little area and they just literally wiped it out.”

Construction workers built a tall wooden fence as a barrier in September between the row houses and the parking lot.

A different view

Gregory Hayes, owner of Hayes Antiques on McCully Street, is not a part of Homes Not Hondas. He supports Colonial Honda and its move to demolish houses in order to expand.

“It cleaned up the neighbourhood a lot; it made us a lot busier because we are a lot more visible,” Hayes said. “So for selfish reasons, it’s wonderful. Also, it got rid of the mess across the street.”

Hayes has owned the antique shop for decades. He said the houses on McCully Street were slum housing, substandard, very cheap and they were for sale for five years. Since “nobody stepped up,” to preserve them, fix them and rent them out, Steele bought them.

Moving on

With the project coming to an end, Ferguson is trying to move on.

“We want to have a vision of optimism for the future,” she said. “We don’t accept that we’ve been defeated just because they went ahead with the whole plan; the spirit of what we believe in has not changed.”

Ferguson hopes that the core members of the Homes Not Hondas group will continue to meet and support each other and their neighbourhood. The Facebook group is still active and has over 1,000 members.

“We really made some amazing friendships and contacts,” said Ferguson. “People I didn’t even know (who) lived around me, I was able to meet.”

The Signal reached out to Colonial Honda several times, but no one was available to comment.