Armour Group preparing to demolish Sweet Basil, by Amy Smith Chronicle Herald, Nov 1st, 2008
Armour Group preparing to demolish Sweet Basil
By AMY SMITH Provincial Reporter
Sat. Nov 1 - 10:35 AM
A Halifax developer began clearing the way Friday to knock down one of six buildings that were part of the company’s Waterside Centre proposal that regional council rejected last week.
Workers removed the windows from 1870 Upper Water St., the former home of the Sweet Basil Bistro, and knocked down a shed and a patio.
The Armour Group’s Waterside Centre project would have unified the six buildings on the block bordered by Duke, Hollis and Upper Water streets in downtown Halifax and put a six-storey glass office tower on top of them.
Council rejected the plan in a 9-9 vote on Oct. 21.
Doug MacIsaac, president of the Armour Group, issued a statement Friday announcing that the company will appeal council’s decision to the provincial Utility and Review Board.
"This is an unprecedented decision for our company," he said in the statement.
Armour has historically respected the decisions of council, viewing them as reflections of public opinion."
But Mr. MacIsaac said there has been a "public backlash" against council’s decision, and many people have urged Armour to appeal to the review board.
Last week, Armour Group chairman Ben McCrea said the Sweet Basil building, which is no longer a registered heritage property, would come down "forthwith" and the other buildings would remain in limbo during the required one-year waiting period for demolition.
Premier Rodney MacDonald has repeatedly vowed that the provincial government will find a way to get the Waterside Centre project reinstated, and he has even raised the possibility of bringing in legislation.
On Friday, the premier said the province plans to apply for intervener status with the review board.
"The way it is now, everybody loses," Mr. MacDonald said in an interview Friday afternoon. "The developer can’t build, and the heritage buildings will be torn down."
He said regional council should give "serious consideration" to revisiting its decision.
Valerie Payn, CEO of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, said Mr. McCrea’s action underscores the need for the province to fast-track passage of HRM by Design, a design plan for the downtown core.
She said the plan has been in the consultation phase since July 2006 and "it is time to move beyond planning and onto action."
"From discussions with developers, we know that a clear, efficient and predictable approval process is critical to ensuring that development happens in Halifax. If HRM by Design does not move forward in the House, development opportunities will be lost."
Stephen Dempsey, head of the Greater Halifax Partnership, agrees. He said that in the past four years, uncertainty in the development process has cost the city tens of millions of dollars in potential tax revenue from projects like the Twisted Sister condominium and hotel development that have yet to proceed.
Mayor Peter Kelly said Friday that council can’t just revisit its decision but that Mr. McCrae could put forward another application for the newly elected council to consider. That process would take two to three months, the mayor said.
New Democrat MLA Howard Epstein said he thinks the premier is using the Waterside Centre project to try to get more votes in metro Halifax.
"Ben McCrea has one vote. There are thousands of voters out there who have quite a different view than the premier," Mr. Epstein told reporters at Province House.
"And if he thinks he is going to win seats in metro on the basis of this, he’s just wrong."
Phil Pacey, president of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, said the Sweet Basil building was built in about 1840 and had heritage status for over 25 years until recently.
The designation was overturned in Nova Scotia Supreme Court earlier this year after Armour discovered in 2005 that a clerical error had been made in the registration process in 1981.
Even without heritage status, Mr. Pacey said, the building — which has served as a liquor store, confectionery, boarding house, grocery store and restaurant — is still an important part of Halifax’s history.
With Steve Proctor, business editor
’The way it is now, everybody loses.
can’t build, and the
will be torn down.’
Premier rodney macdonald