- Artist's rendering of the proposed new building.
The tug-of-war between preservationists and developers continues after the Mary Ann site open house this week. The Mary Ann construction, planned for September, is the latest luxury-living project by WM Fares Group and BANC Group; the proposed nine-storey building will face Clyde Street between Birmingham and Queen Streets. It’ll contain 135 units, with the main level is reserved for commercial space. The project’s website mentions the property’s proximity to stores, restaurants, the new library and Public Gardens, but missing from the attraction list is Schmidtville, the quaint neighbourhood that begins across the street. Schmidtville is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Halifax, with some homes built in 1850s.
A non-profit group called Friends of Schmidtville is asking Mary Ann site developers to pay attention to their neighbours. Judy Haiven of the Friends of Schmidtville steering committee says the community hasn’t been consulted and doesn’t have enough time to respond. “The building design doesn’t reflect the area. It looks like four architectural styles in one building, and where is the public or green space?” says Haiven.
Friends of Schmidtville is also unhappy about the nine-storey design---the property height restriction is seven storeys but developers can bypass HRM by Design rules if public amenities are included. Cesar Saleh of WM Fares,says this requirement will be met by providing affordable housing in the building.
The open house was inside the Trillium building, which is also owned by WM Fares. Saleh explains the meeting was held at Trillium to ensure community accessibility. Although easy to access, it was in an unfinished portion of the Trillium building, with concrete walls and no seating.
When Friends of Schmidtville members asked questions, Saleh answered briefly or politely directed them to the suggestion box. According to the site approval process, WM Fares is following the public response rules precisely: the company held an open house, has suggestion kiosks around the city and created a website. The next proposed project, on the Margaretta site, one block west from the Mary Ann site, and continues Friends of Schmidtville’s concern of tall buildings encroaching on their historic neighbourhood.