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HRM, province and Dal working on plan to modernize former Halifax library

Proposal calls for shared space with architecture school, retailers

3 min read
caption Drawing of the new development idea for the Halifax Memorial Library.
Halifax Regional Municipality

The former Spring Garden Road Memorial Library site might be getting a new lease on life.

Halifax regional council voted on Tuesday for chief administrative officer Jaques Dubé to work on a proposal with the provincial government and Dalhousie University to modernize the site.

“I never ever liked the idea of just throwing that property and building to the wind and letting it be torn down,” said Coun. Steve Streatch.

The proposal will look at the possibility of a multi-use building, with space shared between Dalhousie, the municipality and province. The idea is to have a public atrium, space for Dalhousie’s architecture school, space for the municipality and commercial and retail space. The current building is to be renovated to increase its size from 40,000 to 85,000 square feet.

The current park and Winston Churchill statue in front of the Memorial Library would remain.

Council supported the proposal 13-3.

caption Another angle of the proposed idea to modernize the Memorial Library.
Halifax Regional Municipality

Streatch liked the idea because, he said, it connects young Dalhousie students to the history of the municipality. The library opened in 1951 and closed in 2014.

Coun. Waye Mason also supported the idea.

“I don’t want folks to say we didn’t try to save this building,” said Mason during council.“It is an important historical building that I would like to see if we can save it; this is our last Hail Mary.”

The Memorial Library has been vacant since it closed, but there have been discussions around what should be done with the space. This included the possibility of it housing a Centre for Mi’kmaq Governance and Culture and Volta Labs.

The province owns the land and gave the municipality access to it to build the library. When it closed, the province requested the land back and took control of it. Now it’s open to give responsibility back to the municipality so it can take the lead on this project.

caption The perspective of the building from Grafton Street.
Halifax Regional Municipality

As part of the project, the province outlined a set of 10 rules. The two that were major talking points at council were that the province would need to be consulted on changes to the site and would not be required to pay any of the costs.

Coun. Richard Zurawski said he voted against the proposal because he’s worried the province won’t work well with the municipality. He said something should be done, however.

“I look at that site and I say ‘gosh darn, gee whiz, shucks, isn’t there something we can do with that site?’” said Zurawski.

Coun. Tim Outhit also didn’t support the decision. He said the municipality has other pressing matters, like building a new police station, renovating the Halifax Forum and building a municipal museum. He added the municipality doesn’t have an endless supply of funds.

Coun. Steve Craig also voted no.

A formal proposal for the site will be created and presented to regional council for a vote at a later date.

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  1. S

    Samot Guil

    Hey Tim.... Instead of building a new police station and a municipal museum, why not see if there is an empty building around that may be used for such endeavors. Oh wait, there's one on the corner of Grafton and Spring Garden!
    • D

      David Whittaker

      Thanks for the reply Samot, we appreciate the input.
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