The Waterside development is down, but definitely not out.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board began hearing the matter yesterday. The Waterside development proposes a six-storey glass office building perched on three storeys of heritage buildings on Lower Water Street. It was voted down by city council in the fall, and the premier threatened to veto council’s decision.
Developer Armour Group took the matter to the UARB for appeal. A lawyer for Armour said council’s disapproval of the project doesn’t fit in with their Municipal Planning Strategy.
The first witness on the stand was Andy Lynch, the architect hired by Armour. He said his firm has been involved in $200-million worth of downtown buildings and the Waterside development is no different from any other. He used One Government Place as an example of a modern structure mixed with heritage buildings.
“That kind of streetscape is part of the urban fabric of Halifax that you walk by now and don’t take notice of,” he said.
“It was appealed to this board and it was won. We just walk by it now and consider it part of downtown Halifax. It doesn’t sweep people away from the sidewalk.”
Outside the hearing room, Philip Pacey, with the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, said heritage activists believe the law is on their side. Pacey says the project doesn’t follow a 2006 municipal policy that the new building must be subordinate to the heritage property, and must keep original architectural features.
All but the facades of the heritage buildings will be stripped.
“We wished that it wasn’t here (at the UARB),” he said in an interview.
“We feel that the sensible resolution to this is for a land exchange to occur between either the city or the province and Armour because there is all kinds of vacant land in downtown Halifax which would be very suitable for an office building. We don’t have to destroy a block of heritage buildings in order to have an office development.”
The hearing continues today.