Nova Scotia

Halifax's Young Avenue mansions 'endangered' by development

It's known as Halifax's grand boulevard: a street filled with large estates that once housed the who's who of the city. But now a group of residents say it's endangered.

One estate sold and several more for sale as well-known homes face uncertain future

Young Avenue's Cleveland Estate was recently sold. The Save Young Ave committee says the new owner is a developer who plans to tear it down and replace it with several homes. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

It's known as Halifax's grand boulevard: a street filled with large estates that once housed the who's who of the city.

But now some people are worried that Young Avenue's mansions could face a wrecking ball from developers eyeing the expensive properties.

People who live in the area have formed a new group called Save Young Ave. They say the old Cleveland Estate at 851 Young (often referred to as the wedding cake house) was just sold to a developer who plans to replace it with several row houses.

Change is important. We want to have a vibrant city. But preservation of the past is also important- Peggy Cunningham, Save Young Ave- Peggy Cunningham, Save Young Ave

The problem is, developers have the right to do that, says Waye Mason, the councillor for the area.

"There's no rule against subdividing," he said. "I think it would be a loss for the city. There's a lot of really good heritage there."

This isn't just about one property. Next door to the Cleveland Estate, a for sale sign is on the lawn of another grand house. The price is listed as $2.4 million.

A few doors down, two neighbouring smaller lots are also for sale. If developers snap up all the properties, there's a chance one entire section of the street could be replaced, says Mason.

"While it is technically allowed, it doesn't mean it's a good thing."

Neighbourhood committee

Peggy Cunningham knows the desire of developers all too well.

She bought her home on Young Avenue just six years ago, and ended up in a bidding war with two developers who wanted to convert the lot into two or three townhouses.

There are currently four homes for sale on one block on Young Avenue. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

"To see them disappearing one by one I think is just very sad," she said. "I think the city is losing a really valuable part of its heritage."

Cunningham, who is part of the Save Young Ave committee, stresses the group's fight is to save heritage, and not about money. The vast majority of the large properties were converted into apartments years ago.

"That's everybody's heritage. It's not just the rich heritage."

Cunningham points to nearby Inglis Street. Its homes are decorated in heritage markings, but for some reason the city didn't issue the same for Young Avenue.

The current rules mean the lots only have to be 40 feet wide, she says, which would give developers plenty of room to increase density in the area.

"Change is important. We want to have a vibrant city. But preservation of the past is also important."

Moving forward

Now both Mason and Cunningham say the city needs to act with urgency.

"I'd hate to see the character of that street completely erased," said Mason. "I grew up in Dartmouth. My parents, we'd come over to Point Pleasant Park, we'd do the loop around Tower and you'd go, 'Wow this is amazing.'"

Mason wonders if there's a way to find a happy medium.

One of his suggestions is to keep the homes as apartments, but allow developers to build matching carriage houses in the back of large lots.

Cunningham hopes developers agree, and slow down the pace of their plans.

"I hope the city takes a real leadership role in this," she said. "You can't get it back once it's lost."


Carolyn Ray


Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at


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