Last house standing

A historical building, the last of its kind on the commercial end of Spring Garden, is currently being renovated. Erin O’Halloran hammers out the story.

Stand alone 5517 Spring Garden is unique to the shopping district—and up for rent. photo Darryl James

Beholding 5517 Spring Garden invokes that Sesame Street song: “One of these things just doesn’t belong.” The old Victorian-style house has pink, purple and blue chipped paint on its original wood facade and is squeezed in between big box record store HMV and the wholesale optical chain Hakim Optical. It’s the only homey looking house on the street, the rest having converted into boutiques, restaurants or cafes.

Number 5517 is attracting even more attention this week. It’s getting a new coat of paint and some work done to the exterior, thanks in some part to the municipality. The property was slapped with a dangerous and unsightly order last year, after a concerned citizen made a complaint.

The property is owned by the Petropolis family and represented by one family member, Nina. Petropolis spoke of the character and history of 5517, a house more than 100 years old, still in its original state with elegance and lots of natural light. She says it was the type of architecture and design that has kept past tenants there for 40 years or more. The house is vacant now—it has been for about four years—but Petropolis is currently trying to lease the house for commercial use.

Petropolis admits that 5517 does need some work and that she did consider tearing it down. She says the Spring Garden area isn’t an easy place to attract business right now.

“We’ve asked to extend on the parking meters. You can’t get a haircut in an hour, let alone go shopping,” she says. “It makes it difficult to rent and people don’t like to come down here anymore.”

She also cited the competition for businesses to open up in the Bayer’s Lake area, where rent is cheaper. Petropolis says taxes aren’t cheap for someone trying to get a business started or property rented anywhere, especially in the Spring Garden area.

Dawn Sloane is the city councillor responsible for the Spring Garden area. She says she’s glad the municipal order has prompted the clean-up of 5517.

Sloane says had Petropolis not acted on the municipal order to clean up the appearance of 5517, the work would have been done by the city and a lein would have been put on the property, essentially costing Petropolis more.

“It’s a shame because that property shouldn’t be falling apart like that,” Sloane says. “I’m hoping that it will be kept up.”

Bernie Smith manages the Spring Garden Area Business Association and says he is glad the property is being cleaned up. His objective is to get 5517 working for the area as opposed to being vacant.

“Ideally it would be fully restored and turned into a lovely restaurant,” Smith says. “I don’t think it matters who owns it, because we have 60,000 square feet of retail waiting to get into the area.”

Smith says he would do anything, including help with business plans and connecting the owners to people looking for space, to help the property and the area, as well as Petropolis.

Smith has handled a few inquires into 5517 from interested business people looking to acquire property on Spring Garden. Commercially zoned and in a prime spot, the house attracts potential buyers from within Halifax and beyond.

The last potential buyer Smith dealt with was from the city. Canuck Reality made an offer on behalf of City Centre Atlantic two or three years ago. A Canuck representative would not comment on what was offered to Petropolis, although it is rumoured to be far more than the value of the house.

Petropolis says she doesn’t have plans to restore, tear down or sell 5517, despite the offers and the length of time the house has been vacant.

“I can’t even keep track of the number of times people have tried to buy it over the years,” Petropolis says.

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