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Halifax heritage in jeopardy

Thirty-three potential historic buildings demolished in last 10 years

2 min read
caption Potential heritage buildings on Dresden Row in downtown Halifax.
Ben Cleary

Up to half of the 71 potential heritage buildings in Halifax may be demolished within the next decade if they aren’t protected, warns a municipal urban planner.

“We see a trend where registered heritage buildings are integrated into development; potential heritage buildings are just erased or demolished,” says Seamus McGreal, a municipal urban design and heritage planner.

Not every building with heritage significance is registered, so the heritage advisory committee is trying to slow down the rate of demolitions. The committee has submitted recommendations to municipal council to stop the demolitions.

Since 2009, 33 potential heritage buildings have been destroyed.

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Registration is key

Heritage protection can be achieved in two ways.

The first is through individual registration, which can be as quick as three months. To be approved as a heritage property, a building is given a heritage score based factors such as its age, historical importance and architectural merit.

The second option is to have a building included in a heritage conservation district, similar to what exists on Barrington Street. That process takes much longer — up to three or more years — and there is no interim protection. However, conservation districts tend to be more inclusive of buildings that received a lower heritage score.

If a building is granted protection, or put within a heritage conservation district, the structure would be likely be saved from demolition. Any developments or major changes would have to be appropriate to the site.

Aaron Murnaghan, principal heritage planner with the Halifax Regional Municipality, says there are a lot of misconceptions about heritage registration and property rights.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t build additions, undertake internal renovations, or even add more storeys to a building,” he says.

He adds the municipality is trying to offset limitations caused by heritage registration with extra development rights and financial incentives for owners.

One example is Barrington Street, which saw close to $4.1 million spent on incentives and tax rebates.

Owners in the dark

Some building owners are unaware their properties have historic value.

When contacted, George Tsuluhas, who owns 1512 Dresden Row, said he had no idea he owned a potential heritage building.

“This is the first time I’ve heard that,” he told The Signal. “There are other buildings downtown where you’ll find (heritage).”

Most of the potential heritage buildings in Halifax can be found on and around Spring Garden Road, and between Blowers Street and Sackville Street.

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  1. G

    Graham Brownlie

    Schmidtville is actually protected now, but that was a 10 year effort by many of our residents, and only after many buildings were lost to current developments recently completed or in progress. However, many heritage buildings just outside the boundaries are in peril, or are being developed into condos (MacLean and Lucknow Streets) with only the original facade to skirt the heritage requirements.
  2. B

    B Cullen

    When heritage buildings are demolished the character and soul of the city is lost. Visitors to a city want to know who she is. Europeans learned this many years ago. We must pay attention. We don’t want to just be “anywhere”, saving our heritage does not mean we can’t grow with the modern world. We must not “throw the baby out with the bath water”. Perhaps the owners of the heritage buildings could be informed and encouraged to register. Perhaps there could be incentives to register and incentives to repair the “eyesores”.
  3. c


    a lot of these buildings are eyesores and are in terrible shape
    • G


      Eyesores just usually need a little TLC. I fail to see why the owners are not forced to fix them up by the bylaw agents. They had no problem demanding I fix my front porch(one banister was broken by a bunch of hooligan kids on Halloween a year ago.I am on a very small disability pension, and repairs like this take me a year to save for. But the by-law agent was rude and demanding I had 10 days to repair it. Other than that my property is immaculate with manicured gardens etc.Do I fail to see why these owners have not been forced to spruce up these "eyesores"!!
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