Nova Scotia

Schmidtville group holds vigil at Brenton Street demolition site

Residents from the neighbourhood of Schmidtville held a vigil Saturday on Brenton Street where historical houses are slated to be torn down to make way for new buildings.

Several houses are being torn down this weekend to make way for two new downtown developments

Residents from the neighbourhood of Schmidtville held a vigil Saturday on Brenton Street where homes will be torn down to make way for new buildings. (CBC)

Residents of a historic neighbourhood in downtown Halifax held a vigil on Saturday to coincide with the demolition of several houses.

The properties on Brenton Street are being torn down to make way for a couple of new developments.

People who live in Schmidtville, a cultural district south of Spring Garden Road and west of Queen Street, gathered in the area to mourn the loss of the houses.

'What constitutes a heritage building?'

William Breckenridge, who belongs to the non-profit group Friends of Schmidtville, said several prominent people lived in the homes slated to be torn down and some of the buildings have unique architecture.

"When you really dive into the history of the buildings that are going to be torn down, you're going back to the 1840s," he said.

William Breckenridge (left) stands with a group of Schmidtville supporters on Saturday. (CBC)

"So what constitutes a heritage building? Does it have to have a plaque on it in order for it to be considered true heritage?" 

Breckenridge said he expects Schmidtville — one of Halifax's first suburbs — to be recognized as a heritage conservation district by November.

Those districts are protected by regulations surrounding demolition, exterior alteration and new development.

Breckenridge's group tried to have Brenton Street included in the district, but Halifax planners would not approve that boundary.

Effects on tourism

Andrew Murphy, vice president of finance for the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, said demolition is ridding the city of valuable tourism assets.

"We're very sure tourists don't come here to see the latest bank building on Spring Garden Road," he said. "They come to see this old stuff and it needs to be preserved." 

This 17-storey building by WM Fares Group is one of the developments planned for Brenton Street. (WM Fares Group)

He said the lack of heritage designations mean it's "open season" for demolition. Their vigil is to raise awareness in hopes they can slow it down. 

"We want people to ask questions to get to the bottom of why this is happening and continuing to happen," Murphy said.

17-storey building planned

The new developments slated for Brenton Street include Brenton Place, a 17-storey, mixed-use building being constructed by WM Fares Group, and South Park Lofts, an 11-floor residential building by Olympus Properties Management.

The sidewalk on Brenton Street will be closed for the demolition and motorists should expect delays and are advised to avoid the area if they can.

With files from Jeorge Sadi