Province takes 2 historic buildings off the market
Dennis, Acadian Recorder buildings will be leased for redevelopment
The provincial government has decided not to sell two historic properties across the street from Province House.
For several years, government officials have been working on a process to sell the Dennis and Acadian Recorder buildings and a small parking lot between the two on Granville Street, in downtown Halifax.
The government created a short list of five tender responses and later cut the list to three.
But last week Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines said the process has changed. The tender was cancelled and government has returned to the five developers on the original short list, asking them instead to submit a plan for a long-term lease redevelopment of the property, with the province retaining ownership.
Hines said government officials have been "wrestling" with the idea of giving up ownership of the property, and as bids were narrowed down to five they started thinking about the "100-year horizon."
"Our government's position is to think long term about that particular corner," he said.
Given the location — Province House on one side and Halifax City Hall, Grand Parade and St. Paul's church on the other — Hines said the government couldn't overlook the historical significance of the area.
"I think we owe it to the people of Nova Scotia and ourselves as government to explore the lease option," he said.
"Once you sign the deed, it's gone."
Joe Ballard, Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia president, couldn't agree more. The group advocates for the preservation of buildings that are of cultural, historic or architectural significance.
"This is where responsible government was born and where freedom of the press was entrenched," Ballard said. "When you start bringing in all of these things that are so important not just to Nova Scotia and not even just to Canada … it's pretty significant."
Ballard said the Dennis Building in particular is "saturated with heritage value." It was first home to T. & E. Kenny Merchants (and known then as the Kenny Building) before William Dennis purchased it in 1900 and it became the headquarters of the Halifax Herald.
Hines said the plans submitted by the three finalists were within the design rules attached to the tender. While he's "anxious" to accelerate the process, the minister said the ability to maintain ownership of the property whenever a lease expires means the government has the right to control the nature of the development.
Ballard said he believes it's achievable for a new development at the site to pay tribute to the history of the area while also breathing new life into the corner. The previous tender called for any new development to maintain the facades of both buildings.
"It's such an icon to our past financial successes and it should be part of our financial successes in the future, too."