Council approves Khyber sale to community group

Patrons of the arts rejoice! The Khyber will return.

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1588 but no heartbreaks. - DANIELLE MCCREADIE
  • DANIELLE MCCREADIE
  • 1588 but no heartbreaks.

After years of waiting, supporters of the old Khyber building can finally begin to rebuild.

During a public hearing Tuesday night, Regional Council approved the sale of 1588 Barrington Street—the former location of the Khyber—to the non-profit 1588 Barrington Street Building Preservation Society for a nominal price of one dollar.

The vote was met with cheers from the assembled crowd at City Hall.

For Khyber Centre for the Arts director Hannah Guinan, it’s been a long four years—and two moves—since the organization was pushed out of its Barrington Street home back in 2014.

“So many organizations like us do struggle with space, have struggled with space. It would be really important for the city to make it a priority,” she says.

The 1588 Society is working in partnership with the Khyber Centre and Neptune Theatre to re-establish the building as a not-for-profit community arts hub. Emily Davidson, president of the 1588 Society says she hopes to see the historic property become a safe space once again for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s a space that we believe is going to foster collaboration between arts and other non-profit sectors and a space that is really going to take this historic gem and bring it right up to date into this very alive space,” she says.

“We really want to make good on our promise to the community as the new stewards of this building, to bring this plan to fruition,” says Emily Davidson. - DANIELLE MCCREADIE
  • DANIELLE MCCREADIE
  • “We really want to make good on our promise to the community as the new stewards of this building, to bring this plan to fruition,” says Emily Davidson.
1588 Barrington Street has been in limbo for almost 25 years, with its tenancy constantly in flux. The Khyber Arts Society laid its roots at the site in 1993, in exchange for maintaining the property, but HRM closed the building down in April 2014 due to structural degradation and asbestos.

The four-storey Victorian Gothic building on Barrington Street is worth $1.5 million on paper, but will need $3.2 million in renovations and improvements. The site has been a registered heritage property since 1988 when the former City of Halifax purchased it from a private owner.

Municipal staff have said the deteriorating 127-year-old building is the second-worst in HRM’s property portfolio. Shortly after displacing tenants back in 2014, HRM tried to sell the property off as surplus before public outcry had council instead promise to find an alternative solution to “save the Khyber.”

But the journey isn’t over yet. While council also approved a $250,000 grant for redevelopment of the building, there’s still a lot of fundraising to be done, says Davidson. The building has been unoccupied for several years and needs some TLC. The 1588 Society also wants to increase wheelchair accessibility, add an elevator, and create a fourth floor.

“We really want to make good on our promise to the community as the new stewards of this building, to bring this plan to fruition,” says Davidson. “That is going to mean gathering our talents and making sure that we can reach our fundraising goals for this project.”

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