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‘These buildings deserve a voice’: rally held in downtown Halifax to save historic buildings

Click to play video: 'Halifax rally held calling for historic buildings to be saved from demolition' Halifax rally held calling for historic buildings to be saved from demolition
WATCH: Rally held in downtown Halifax to raise awareness over commercial listing of Queen St. row houses – Sep 24, 2020

The fate of several historic Queen St. row houses in downtown Halifax now lies in the hands of whoever purchases the properties.

Without heritage registration, the pre-confederation houses will likely be demolished to make way for what’s described in the listing as, ‘an exceptional opportunity for a mixed-use development steps from Spring Garden Road.’

Months before the row houses were listed for sale on a commercial real estate website, there was an attempt to save them from likely demolition by way of heritage registration.

“HRM council had the chance to designate a whole bunch of historic houses, like these, as heritage streetscapes and they missed the chance on their March the 10th meeting, they just withdrew all the streetscapes and it makes us very pessimistic about the fate of historic houses like this in Halifax,” Larry Haiven said, a Halifax resident and member of Development Options Halifax.

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Earlier this year, regional council voted against a recommendation from city staff to include 17 properties under the Registry of Heritage Property. The registration would have formed three heritage streetscapes along Queen, Birmingham, and Grafton streets.

In order for a heritage streetscape to be formed, two or more adjacent properties need to be registered whose collective appearance from the streets has heritage value.

Several property owners spoke at the hearing and weren’t in favour of the streetscape registration.

READ MORE: Historic buildings for sale in downtown Halifax months after heritage registration rejected

Many stated they aren’t against heritage preservation but the current incentives to register their properties aren’t enough to gain their approval.

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Haiven says it’s time for property owners to ‘step up’ to the heritage registration plate when it comes to saving historic Halifax buildings.

“How much money does the city have to put into it? If you’ve sat on a property for 40 years and you haven’t put much into it, then who’s to blame?” Haiven said.

Larry Haiven is calling on municipal election candidates to address concerns over the lack of historic buildings being registered as heritage properties. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Councillor Waye Mason previously stated in a September 10 interview with Global News that the heritage by-law prevents the general public from voicing their heritage registration viewpoints to council.

“Part of the issue with how heritage registration works in Halifax is that the by-law doesn’t allow anyone but the property owner to speak,” Mason said.

Mason says in the case of the Queen, Birmingham, and Grafton streetscape council meeting, most property owners were against the recommendation.

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“We have a lot of work to do to educate potential heritage property owners that they can still change their property and they can still have tremendous value from their property,” Mason said.

READ MORE: Halifax group concerned over lack of protection for heritage properties

Haiven was part of a few dozen people who rallied outside of the Queen St. row houses in support of their preservation.

One of the business owners of the houses, Maureen Court, has been renting 1530 Queen St. for the past 25-years, running a small used clothing store out of its location.

She is heartbroken over the listing of the properties.

“Any homeowner can tell you that buildings need to be maintained. Our landlord never put a cent into them in the 25-years I’ve been here. They were built in 1860, so they’ve got a few rocks falling out of their foundation, ya know?” Court said.

Court says she always felt like the owners weren’t interested in making the necessary investments to preserve the 1800s buildings and that she hopes future historic property owners invest in heritage.

“What happened on March 10th cannot happen again. It was a waste of time and it was really quite pathetic. So, if this changes the future for the next group of buildings coming up for review, then I’m all for it,” Court said.

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