Halifax regional council approved a motion to include the Dennis Building in the heritage property registry, to help ensure Province House Square’s heritage feel.
The move will guarantee the exterior design elements of the building at 1740 Granville St. are protected under Nova Scotia’s Heritage Property Act. Council voted 17-0 Tuesday in favour of the designation.
The Dennis Building, located on the corner of Granville and George streets, was constructed over 150 years ago as a storage space for T & E Kenny Drygoods. It was purchased by William Dennis in 1900 and served as headquarters for the Halifax Herald until a fire in 1912 saw the paper move to Argyle Street.
The property is currently owned by the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, which used it for office space until 2013. The department attempted to sell the Dennis Building for redevelopment. Earlier this year, it asked five short-listed developers to submit plans for a long-term lease redevelopment.
The third-party motion to recognize the building’s heritage was put forth by Paul Armstrong, president of the Maritime Institute for the Renewal of Civil Society.
A MIRCS historical assessment report on the Dennis Building said “Halifax has a responsibility, as the capital city of the province, (to) protect the dignity of the legislature and the heritage assets that surround it.”
When the transportation department asked for redevelopment proposals, the province initially rejected the society’s motion to have the building added to the registry.
In a letter to regional council, Shannon Delbridge, executive director for Public Works, said the move would “do no more to ensure the Dennis Building maintains its heritage character than what the Province is currently doing, but instead will impede the development of a very important piece of the downtown Halifax core.”
Under the Heritage Property Act, the motion’s passing means any proposed building changes would first need to be approved by the heritage advisory committee and regional council.
During Tuesday’s meeting, it was revealed in a letter to council that the province withdrew its rejection for the designation last week.
Seamus McGreal, a municipal urban design and heritage planner, said two other lots adjacent to the building — the Acadian Recorder Building, and the vacant lot between it and the Dennis Building — are already protected under the Heritage Property Act. This means the province would already have to consult council on any new developments done in the area.
At regional council, McGreal noted the importance of the building to the downtown core.
The Dennis Building’s an “important architectural asset contributing to the heritage character of Province House and the surrounding area, and is the earliest example of a building that considers the immediate context of Province House Square,” he said.
Coun. Waye Mason was glad to see the building’s addition to the registry.
“I thank the province for withdrawing their objection to this. I don’t see this as a huge impediment to their redevelopment,” he said.
Following a report by the heritage advisory committee, the Dennis Building was given a score of 77 out of 100. The minimum score a potential heritage building can receive is 50. Factors that are considered include the building’s age, architectural merit and its relationship to the surrounding area.