Downtown

New development will re-shape historic corner with modern lines

Westwood’s plan for the site opposite the new Halifax Central Library will swap historic charm for contemporary style

Portrayal of what the new Boutique Hotel will look like on Spring Garden rd.
Portrayal of what the new boutique hotel will look like on Spring Garden Road.   Sindi Skenderi

Does the city really need more unit rentals on the market? Since 2011 the number of multi-unit condominiums and apartments have been on a tremendous rise in Halifax. One development company thinks there’s still room for more.

“People keep saying ‘well where are the people coming from for these spaces?’” says Michael Haddad, the leasing manager at Westwood Developments Limited, “[but] there is a lot of older stock out there, and we are having migration from people from other parts of the province, as well as immigration.”

About 1,000 to 1,500 units are currently popping up around the city, just waiting for someone to buy the space along with the appliances and furniture that follow.

Haddad is quick to state that the Westwood group strives to keep the local and traditional charm of Halifax intact with all their developments — but its latest commercial property, which just opened on Sept. 28 at 1488 Birmingham St. on the corner of Spring Garden Road, is anything but. Paneled in clean, shiny sound-proof glass, the cool, modern exterior of the new BMO location on the former Winsby’s site represents what’s to come for Halifax on nearby Westwood property at a prime location in downtown Halifax.

The current property on the Doyle, Queen and Spring Garden still block holds Halifax's historic charm
The current property on the block still holds Halifax’s historic charm   Sindi Skenderi

That same contemporary design will be replicated with a new multi-use facility that Westwood is planning to build just opposite the new Halifax Central Library. Taking up the whole block from Queen Street, to Brunswick Street, and Spring Garden Road to Doyle Street, a new seven-storey boutique hotel will open mid-year 2018. Haddad says the construction will take approximately two and a half years, breaking ground either in the middle or end of October 2015.

A new face on an old city

Forty-five units will make up the hotel, 60-70 units will be luxury apartment rentals and around 30,000 square feet of commercial space will be available at ground level. Haddad said they will build a restaurant in the second floor, with views over Spring Garden and a rooftop patio for the summer months.

“We don’t want to be the Toronto’s of the world, we don’t want to be the Vancouver’s of the world, they’re on a completely different scale, but we still have that home grown touch in our city — still very community oriented.”

Even though Haddad and his team have the design of the building prepared and are already planning demolition dates, the Halifax Regional Municipality says it has yet to receive a mandatory planning application from them. The application is a requirement by the city for any new development projects.

While the seven-storey building is within the city’s regulations for new developments, the application still needs to be submitted and approved for construction.

Tiffany Chase, the senior communications adviser for the Halifax Regional Municipality says, “The approval process shouldn’t take longer than 60 days if what [they’ve] submitted meets the general bylaws.” But with Haddad’s plans of breaking ground mid-October, they aren’t left with much time.

But these new buildings with clean-lines and minimalist architecture don’t appeal to everyone.

Historical properties aren’t being preserved: resident

“I think there are too many hotels. We’re destroying what the city used to be like — the charm,” says Dorothy Dorrington, a Halifax born resident now living on Spring Garden but who’s lived in the city for more than 80 years.

“To me they haven’t provided the people that are living in these places or buying them with all the necessities that they are going to need,” she says.

The site includes a decades-old ornate stone building that until recently housed a BMO branch.

While Dorrington understands that new developments are good for the city, bringing more people and more jobs, she wishes the developers kept some of the city’s beauty intact.

Bruce Bowen, manager of the athletic retail store Running Room on Spring Garden Road, agrees.

“Just going modern, modern, modern is not always good. They’ve got to keep some of the culture and heritage,” he says.

Bowen understands though that change is good, and even necessary, “you can’t stay stuck in the past.” His main worry with this new boutique hotel coming up on the corner of Queen and Spring Garden is the ongoing construction and the related loss of parking.

“I’m hoping for short-term pain for some long-term gain,” Bowen says. The Westwood Group says it will incorporate 70-90 parking spots for this new hotel that will be available to the merchants on Spring Garden Road.