Luxury development in Halifax and how it’s forcing some businesses out: ‘I’ll have no money’

Click to play video: 'Development forcing Halifax businesses to move'
Development forcing Halifax businesses to move
More than a dozen businesses in Halifax's south end are facing the termination of their lease agreements, as a new development prepares to break ground in the near future. The municipality gave the green light for the development of a mixed-use residential and commercial tower back in January. And now, Ella MacDonald reports, business owners are unsure of their future.

Business owners in Halifax are expressing frustrations as a new residential-commercial development is expected to force the relocation — and potential closure — of several establishments operating in the city’s Spring Garden Road area.

Dexel, a Halifax-based residential development company, will spearhead a mixed-use development that aims to be “a driving force for the rejuvenation of the Spring Garden district,” according to its website. The new structure will be built in the area of Spring Garden Road and Carlton Street.

The project, known as the Spring Garden West development, will be home to medical offices, commercial spaces and more than 300 luxury apartments. Halifax councillors approved Dexel’s proposal for the 30-storey building in January.

Kong On Jean, owner of Jean’s Chinese Restaurant, has seen his business become a staple of the area’s restaurant scene over the past 20 years. Now, he’s at risk of losing everything he’s built as a result of the new development in the area.

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“I put all my life in here and worked really hard to build up the family and if they tear down the building, I have nothing,” he said.

“I cannot retire, I’ll have no money.”

Kong On Jean, owner of Jean’s Chinese Restaurant in Halifax, says he’s at risk of losing everything he’s built over the past 20 years due to an approved commercial-residential development project on Spring Garden Road. Ella MacDonald

In addition to concerns regarding his business’s sustainability, Jean is also worried about the potential repercussions for his 20-person staff.

“If I close the business, what are they going to do?” he asked.

“I have 20 people working for me at the moment; what are they going to do?”

Jean said he isn’t able to sell his restaurant space as the prospect of the entire building being demolished will scare prospective buyers away.

“I work hard. I try my best. It’s crazy in this country, if you have money, you can do whatever you want,” he said. “They can do anything. They buy you out.”

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Jean said he hopes the municipal government will intervene and not allow the building to be destroyed. Otherwise, relocating his restaurant might prove to be too difficult of a task.

“I don’t think I can save $200,000 to move the business. It’s really hard. To move the business, you need money,” he said.

‘Just the reality of this city’

Danielle Jakubiak, owner of Tin Drum Therapy, has been operating in her Carlton Street office for nearly two years. She said she wasn’t sure of the development timeline when she first moved in.

“I did know it (her office space) was a temporary situation, like many people’s situations in Halifax with tenancy. It’s all unpredictable for so many people,” she said.

“That’s just the reality of this city right now.”

Danielle Jakubiak, owner of Tin Drum Therapy, said she expects her business expenses to increase when relocating to a new office space. Ella MacDonald

Jakubiak said her lease is set to expire in December. She said she’s requested an extension but hasn’t heard back from the property manager. The building is operated by Paramount Management and owned by Lawen Group, which also owns Dexel.

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Global News reached out to Dexel Developments on Friday and did not receive a response.

To her surprise, Jakubiak said she discovered ads for available rental units within her current building while she was searching for alternative commercial space options elsewhere.

“I saw a whole bunch of spaces in this building being advertised. I don’t know what their plan is,” she said.

Jakubiak said she remains confident she will find an available office space in a nearby professional centre, although she expects her operational expenses to substantially increase.

“Affordability is going to be tough moving forward and that really impacts the business, for sure, just being able to keep my head above water and pay exorbitant lease payments every month,” she said, adding that she expects her costs to nearly double once she relocates.

“I think that’s why a lot of people are moving towards online work. But I really love having a place to come to that feels like ours and I think that’s important to maintain.”

As a counsellor, Jakubiak said operating in an intimate, private space is essential — and downsizing her office space could pose a challenge for her practice.

“For people who are going through really hard times … it’s so important to give them a safe space for that,” she explained, adding that she hopes to not relocate into a louder, busier building.

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“There’s something different about being in person with somebody. You can get a sense of their energy and emotions much more than you can online.”

Halifax councillor responds

Halifax Coun. Waye Mason, who represents the city’s downtown area, said he “would be happy” to assist any business in its relocation process.

“It is a huge disruption for those businesses, I don’t want to minimize it,” he said on Monday, shortly after announcing that he will be running for mayor this fall.

“But those two sites together are going to put almost 900 units of housing into the peninsula, and we need those really badly. And there will be retail there when they’re done.”

Mason said he’s already spoken with a few of the affected business owners in the area regarding the development.

“That kind of change is always very difficult,” he said.

— with files from Ella MacDonald

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