Nova Scotia

Steele Auto Group's Halifax Honda dealership demolition begins

The first of several Halifax homes slated for demolition to make way for a bigger parking lot for a car dealership started being torn down Friday morning.

'This is what Honda thinks of this community,' says neighbour protesting demolition

Protesters picketed the scene of a home being demolished on Fern Lane Friday. (CBC)

The first of several Halifax homes slated for demolition to make way for a bigger parking lot for a car dealership started being torn down Friday morning on Fern Lane.

Homeowner Candace Daye says she's "disheartened" watching the demolition in her lifelong north-end Halifax neighbourhood.

"Families live here. I live here," she said on the phone while holding her picket sign on the street. "This is one individual who will not leave this community."

Steele Auto Group owns Colonial Honda on Robie Street and has bought a number of properties surrounding the dealership. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

'Looks like degradation'

Steele Auto Group has bought 20 properties, many of which are residential, surrounding its recently purchased Colonial Honda location on Robie Street.

Crews moved in and started with a building on Fern Lane. A backhoe ripped through the roof while water was hosed onto the rubble.

"It looks like degradation," Daye said. "It's pretty sad that ... six months ago or so, there were people living in these homes — and now this is what Honda thinks of this community."

This is the Halifax neighbourhood affected by the property purchases and proposed demolitions. (CBC News Graphics)

Daye has owned her home for 21 years, but says she has lived in the neighbourhood her whole life.

She said she wishes Steele Auto had met with the community, or moved off the peninsula in order to expand.

"It's disgraceful that Honda would rather tear down homes and destroy a neighbourhood," Daye said.

'We saw an opportunity'

Steele weighed "many options" for the expansion, including moving off the peninsula, company president Dave MacRitchie said Friday afternoon. 

The group bought the dealership in December, and the other residential properties in the months that followed.

"It was something we felt was necessary, and the fact that ... the majority of the properties were on the market for sale, we saw an opportunity to expand the dealership," MacRitchie said. 

"They were zoned for this purpose. They were zoned C2 commercial."

Zoning changes coming

Local politicians have said they can't step in to prevent the demolition because of that zoning, which allows a variety of commercial development, but they've encouraged people to attend consultations about revamping regulations through the Centre Plan.

Those upcoming changes had no impact on Steele's decision to expand when they did, MacRitchie said.

The company plans to stay on Robie Street for at least another five to 10 years, he said. They'll work with the remaining homeowners, for example, to build buffers around the homes not sold on May Street, he said.

"We've stated all along we're going forward with our plans," MacRitchie said. "Obviously, there's opposition and I respect their opinions."

The Facebook group Homes Not Hondas asked for protestors to gather at the site. (CBC)

More to be demolished

The first few buildings were scheduled to come down on Fern Lane in late May, but were delayed to allow for proper disposal of asbestos and lead paint, MacRitchie said Friday.

The 12 houses, all rental units, on Robie, May and McCully streets will come down at the start of the summer, the company has said.

Renters were offered two months of rent and a full return of their damage deposit, in exchange for leaving by June 30.

Colonial Honda general manager Tim Peacock said in a statement in May that Habitat for Humanity would salvage lights, cabinets, windows, doors and appliances from the buildings, once vacated.

However, some of the buildings demolished Friday still had their windows and a refrigerator was spotted in the rubble.

MacRitchie said the group spent six days combing through the homes, so he believes anything left wasn't of a high enough quality to keep for resale or reuse.

A refrigerator stands in the rubble of a building on Fern Lane. (CBC)

Three homes to rubbles

The protest group Homes Not Hondas posted photos and video of the demolition to its Facebook page

Mark Butler, policy director at the Ecology Action Centre, has helped organize protests, including another one scheduled for Saturday at noon.

"This morning, there was three homes, and now there's nothing," said Butler. "Our neighbourhood's being turned into a big pile of rubble and I guess what's coming next is a parking lot."