Halifax's historic Dennis Building could be redeveloped

The 152-year-old Dennis Building is currently being gutted to remove mould and asbestos. The exterior is so deteriorated, officials have put up scaffolding around the downtown Halifax building to protect pedestrians.

Cabinet minister Labi Kousoulis had recommended tearing down 152-year-old building

The Dennis Building was built in the 1860s, but was completely remodelled after a fire gutted the premises in 1912. The province is gutting the structure in hopes a developer may want to buy it. (CBC)

One of Nova Scotia's oldest government buildings may be spared the wrecking ball.

Crews are gutting the 152-year-old Dennis Building to remove mould and asbestos. The exterior is so deteriorated, officials have put up scaffolding around the downtown Halifax building to protect pedestrians in case a brick or stone breaks loose and falls.

A year ago, Labi Kousoulis, the cabinet minister responsible for government buildings, told CBC News he would recommend demolishing the building.

"Saving the building, at this point, is not an option," he said last May.

But the minister now says there's a chance a private developer might be able to use the shell of the building.

Boutique hotel possibility

"What we committed to was at minimum we would keep the façade. One developer said that they'd have to look at the building. There might be the opportunity to build a boutique hotel but they'd have to look at the floor-to-ceiling heights to see if they could fit the mechanical in." 

The building used to be home to a handful of government departments, library storage, as well the legislature's committee room. Employees moved out two years ago for safety reasons. 

Kousoulis told reporters Thursday that there's a lot of interest from local developers, in both the building and the parking lot next to it. "Pretty much every one of them had interest in it," he said.

The minister said a decision on the fate of the seven-storey structure is coming "within the next few months."

According to Kousoulis, the plan is to make the building and land available for redevelopment.

Parking space sought

"Government will not build a new building there but we want to partner with someone on the private sector so that they can build it and use their expertise as developers," Kousoulis said. 

"It's not necessarily that we would lease the whole building but we are looking at a percentage of the building leasing it."

The province is especially interested in parking for provincial politicians and staff at Province House across from the Dennis Building.

Those people currently park on the grounds of the legislature but Kousoulis said freeing up that space would allow the province to restore the green space that used to be there.

As for existing zoning, the minister is adamant: "We would adhere to HRM by Design."

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