Nova Scotia

2 historic downtown Halifax buildings may be in private hands next year

Private developers will soon get to bid on a prime piece of downtown Halifax real estate owned by the province. The parcel includes the historic Dennis and Acadian Recorder buildings.

Taxpayers pay $46,000 for new scaffolding to protect pedestrians from possible injury

The minister responsible for the file, Labi Kousoulis, wants the issue settled as soon as possible. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

After years of sitting idle and as a potential hazard, the Nova Scotia government is hoping to sell the historic Dennis Building in downtown Halifax to a developer in the new year.

The minister responsible for the file, Labi Kousoulis, wants the issue settled as soon as possible.

"I anticipate that the tender will be on the street in January," Kousoulis told CBC News Thursday.

"I'm not sure the exact timing of the new owner taking over ownership of the building but I would be assuming within months after that." 

Acadian Recorder Building and lot also for sale

That tender call would include selling the neighbouring Acadian Recorder building on Granville Street and the parking lot between it and the Dennis Building.

Kousoulis has promised to safeguard the facade of the Dennis Building and the Acadian Recorder building has a heritage designation from the city. Any developer who bids on the site would have those factors to contend with as new owner.

A sale would end a lengthy and costly series of measures taken to ensure the Dennis Building didn't deteriorate further or pose a health and safety risk.

The red outline shows the Acadian Recorder building and the Dennis Building. (Nova Scotia Government photo)

The building once housed part of the legislature's library collection, government department offices, as well as committee meeting rooms. Staff were all moved out in 2013 due to air quality concerns.

The province subsequently had the building cleared of mold and asbestos. It also gutted some floors, which allowed the heat to be turned off and water drained from the pipes, with the exception of the sprinkler system.

This week the scaffolding that has surrounded two sides of the building had to be replaced when the company that was renting it to the province wanted it back.

Costly scaffolding change

Three years ago the provincial government put up reinforced scaffolding over the adjacent sidewalk after an engineering report warned that mortar was deteriorating and stone from the building could break loose, posing a danger to pedestrians.

The company that won the tender to take it down and install new scaffolding is charging $46,101.72. That's more than the province paid for renting the old scaffolding over three years. The rent from Nov. 30, 2013, to Nov. 30, 2016, was $30,998.08, plus HST.

A worker takes down scaffolding from the Dennis Building. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Kousoulis said he was initially surprised at the cost but was reassured it was the lowest bid. The new scaffolding will remain in place until the building changes hands.

The company that won the tender to take down old scaffolding and install new scaffolding is charging $46,101.72. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

He said the province was spending about $100,000 a year in upkeep for the building when it was still heated and there was as security officer posted inside.

"That's why we remediated the building and gutted it so that we could turn the heating off and eliminate all the water in the building except for the sprinkler system," Kousoulis said.


Jean Laroche


Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.