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Regional council approves new heritage conservation district in downtown Halifax

Old South Suburb plan will introduce new rules for future development

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Black-Binney House
caption The Black-Binney House at 1472 Hollis St. marks the northern boundary of the heritage district.
Ben Bogstie

One of the oldest suburbs in Halifax is set to become a new heritage district.

After a public hearing on Tuesday night, Halifax regional council voted unanimously to adopt the Old South Suburb Heritage Conservation District Plan.

According to a Sept. 25, 2019 staff report, around two-thirds of all buildings in the district have heritage value. The plan will protect those properties and place restrictions on new developments to ensure they comply with the traditional character of the neighbourhood.

“Of course having a heritage district is a great idea. It’s great for tourism, it’s great for creating that diverse and interesting setting that will help attract people to come here, especially young people,” said Andrew Murphy, president of Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, at the public hearing.

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The protected area encompasses Hollis Street and Barrington Street south of Bishop Street and stretches as far as Cornwallis Park and the Atlantic Superstore. The district features an extension on Hollis Street north of Bishop Street to include the Black-Binney House which is adjacent to the Maritime Centre.

Heritage Map
caption Map of the Old South Suburb Heritage Conservation District.

The district will be the third of its kind in the city, joining the Barrington Street and Schmidtville Street heritage conservation districts.

Halifax regional council initiated the process to establish the Old South Suburb Heritage Conservation District Plan on March 24, 2015.

Heritage advisory committee member William Breckenridge was happy the nearly five-year process was over.

“It’s major. It’s like finally stamping and saying Halifax approves of having some kind of history remain in place, some kind of sense of neighbourhood,” he said after the vote.

However, the public hearing and vote were in jeopardy of being postponed, which would have delayed the process further. Earlier in the day regional council allowed an appeal for a substantive site plan for 1144, 1148 and 1150 Barrington St. that would have allowed for development on the site under the old rules.

For about 15 minutes, regional council debated whether or not to hold the public hearing. A yes vote on the Old South Suburb Heritage Conservation District Plan would cancel the approved substantive site plan.

The design review committee “approves the building for the site, so it’s micro level site-specific for the design. Where the bylaw and the whole system fails, is to take into consideration the macro level of the design,” said Breckenridge.

The site plan will now have to be redesigned and submitted again to comply with the new rules.

At the meeting, Hammonds Plains–St. Margarets Coun. Matt Whitman expressed regret that they couldn’t make both plans work.

“Both are important, that appeal is important, it’s a good project,” Whitman said, referring to the site plan at 1144, 1148 and 1150 Barrington St.

“This is an important designation and an important district and one’s winning and one’s not and we should have looked after both of them and we didn’t.”

New developments in the heritage conservation district will be limited in height to complement the two-and-a-half storey high streetscape. They will also be set back one to three metres more than abutting heritage buildings.

Developments must meet heritage design guidelines consistent with the Georgian style architecture common in the area.

Approval from the provincial ministers of Communities, Culture and Heritage and Municipal Affairs and Housing are required before the Old South Suburb Heritage Conservation District Plan is implemented.

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  1. E


    The district is small; it definitely should expand.
  2. B

    Barry Dorey

    I hope there is a very eligable contender in the Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets district in the next HRM election.
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