khyber building

Khyber building to be sold as community interest

1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society 'excited' for building's future

The Khyber building is now considered a community interest surplus.
The Khyber building is now considered a community interest surplus.   Fadila Chater

The old Khyber building will soon be seeing some changes.

Halifax regional council has declared the 1588 Barrington St. property as surplus, meaning the Khyber society can try to own it and turn it into an arts hub.

Council met Tuesday to discuss recommendations to salvage the old Khyber building. In a unanimous vote, council decided to declare the property a community interest surplus instead of selling it at market value.

“We’re excited that council just voted to put the Khyber building, the 1588 building, into the community stream,” said Emily Davidson, secretary of the 1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society.

The 1588 society had urged council to declare the Khyber building as surplus to municipal purposes.

One option was to put it under the economic development category, which meant the property could be sold at market value. If the Khyber groups wanted, they would have to raise significant funds.

Under the community interest category, the property could be sold to a non-profit organization for less than market value, even as little as $1. This means that the 1588 Society and other non-profits compete or collaborate with each other to make a new plan for renovations.

Robin Metcalfe, chair of the 1588 society, isn’t worried about competition.

“I’m not concerned about the process because we have a very good proposal. Everyone who might be interested is already involved in our society,” Metcalfe said.

The 1588 society is a collaboration with Friends of the Khyber, Neptune Theatre and the Khyber Arts Society. It wants to renovate the building and include an accessible elevator, a glass atrium between the Khyber Arts Society and Neptune Theatre School, as well as office and retail space.

‘Another piece to the puzzle’

The Khyber building has been the subject of much debate since its doors closed in 2014.

In November, staff received the final draft of the Khyber proposal. While the plan estimated restoration costs at $4 million, Davidson said it’s a $3 million project.

The next step in the process is a 12 to 24-month period of preparation for a public hearing during which the society will raise money. The 1588 society says it will release the final draft of its proposal in the coming days.

Davidson said Tuesday’s council decision is “just one piece of the puzzle.”