Southwest Properties design for former YMCA site rejected by Halifax staff

Halifax's design review committee votes next Thursday on a staff report recommending to reject a design proposal for a development on the former YMCA and CBC sites.

Halifax's design review committee will consider the report and vote next Thursday

Halifax staff recommend rejecting the developer's request for variances of the design bylaw, including building close to the Paramount apartment building. (Southwest Properties)

A Halifax developer says he's "not totally surprised" city staff rejected a design for a major development on the former YMCA and CBC sites.

Southwest Properties and Toronto's Streamliner Properties Fund Ltd. are building a $140-million development on South Park Street at Sackville Street in downtown Halifax.

In a report released Friday, city staff recommend Halifax's design review committee turn down nearly half of 14 bylaw variances requested by the developers. 

"I'm a little disappointed," Southwest president Jim Spatz said Friday. "We've known from the beginning that they weren't thrilled about some of the variances."

The proposed development will include apartments and a new YMCA fitness centre. (Southwest Properties)

But despite having been told of potential issues, the designers went ahead to pitch a "beautiful building," Spatz said.

Most of the rejected variances have to do with exceeding maximum tower width and depth limits, and not stepping back from street lines.

As a result, the report said the proposed buildings will crowd the street, negatively impacting "compatibility and livability." It said one is "simply too close" to the neighbouring Paramount apartment building.

The Halifax staff report says the proposed building is 'simply too close' to this wall of the Paramount apartment building on South Park Street. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

'Simply too close' to Paramount

The report recommends the side closest to Paramount be tapered back from the other building. But Spatz disputes the recommendation as the Paramount has no windows on that side.

"We would have come up with an ugly wedding cake shaped kind of building," Spatz said. "We've come up with a better building than had we nipped and tucked where they'd suggested."

Spatz said he will attend the design review committee meeting Jan. 14. 

Can't 'colour totally within the lines'

In all, the report recommends turning down six variances to the building bylaws. The rules allow for some flexibility in design, but are "not intended to increase building volumes," the report said.

"We like to do beautiful buildings," Spatz said. "If you colour totally within the lines of the land-use bylaw ... you don't always get to beautiful buildings."

Spatz said the former CBC Radio building on Sackville Street will be demolished in February. 

He hopes to start excavating that and the former YMCA site in May and June. Construction is scheduled to be finished sometime in 2018, he said. 

About the Author

Rachel Ward

Associate Producer

Rachel Ward is a journalist with CBC News in Calgary. You can reach her at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.

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