Halifax city council has passed a motion opening the books and allowing the Khyber Arts Society, Friends of the Khyber and Neptune Theatre to create a plan for future use of the historic Halifax building.
The group will now have access to building schematics, engineering reports and CAD drawings (documents they couldn’t get previously) and will present a renovation plan and operating strategy to council in October.
That’s six months to find a way to save the landmark building which city staff have previously said will need $4 million in repairs. That potential cost left some, like councillor Linda Mosher, unconvinced about the new partnership.
"I just look at this, it doesn't compute," Mosher said, about the decreased space for tenants that staff estimates renovations will cause.
Mosher instead suggested starting over from scratch and planting a brand new arts incubator somewhere else, like the soon-to-be-renovated Halifax Forum or the redeveloping St. Pat’s high school land. Jane Fraser, director of operations support for the HRM, noted there is a strong emotional attachment to the Khyber building.
Emily Davidson, a spokesperson for Friends of the Khyber, echoed those sentiments after the meeting, saying, “There is something that is so powerful about this building that has people talking about it. That has people really invested.”
According to Halifax staff, the operating costs for the currently empty Khyber building sit at $30,000 a year.
Davidson blames the city’s deferred maintenance on the building for the Khyber’s current state, but believes a collaboration with Neptune and the Khyber Arts Society will help to leverage resources, including private investment.
“I guess my hopes are high because I know that we have an excellent team put together.”
Four councillors—Linda Mosher, Russell Walker, Stephen Adams and Matt Whitman—voted against yesterday’s motion.