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Halifax council approves motion that could lead to demolition of historic library


After more than a decade of discussions and plans that failed to materialize, Halifax council is bringing in a consultant to develop a plan for the old memorial library that could see it at least partially demolished.

At a regular meeting on Tuesday, council voted 13-1 on a motion to direct the chief administrative officer, along with a consultant, design a plan for the Halifax Memorial Library site that includes “substantial and/or full removal of the building.” The estimated consulting budget is $300,000.

“It’s been longer than a decade we’ve been trying to figure this out,” Mayor Mike Savage said. “I’ve had my hopes up on many occasions. I wish it would (revert to the province), but the province has indicated it’s not looking to take it on.

“There hasn’t been a perfect partner with deep pockets and we can’t continue to ignore it.”

The memorial library on Spring Garden Road has sat empty since the nearby Halifax Central Library opened its doors in 2014. Council has seen several proposals in the last decade, but none have come to fruition.

Councillor David Hendsbee, who was the only one who voted against the motion, noted Dalhousie University put forward a proposal to convert the library into “unique educational centre.”

“I still believe there’s an opportunity to find willing partners to develop it,” he said. “That building is structurally sound on the outside, all you have to do it gut the inside.”

The old Halifax Memorial Library is pictured. (Source: Jim Kvammen/CTV News Atlantic)

Last November, the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia suggested transforming the building into public housing. On Monday they expressed concern about the library potentially being torn down.

“Rather than demolish the old library, the Trust is asking that Council should explore alternative public uses for the building,” a news release from the group read. “Rather than allocating $300,000 solely to exploring how the site can be turned into (a) park, the scope of work, the Trust suggests, should also include exploration of such alternative public uses of the building.”

The building, which was built in 1951, received municipal heritage status in February 2020. At the Tuesday council meeting, several councillors discussed preserving the façade of the library.

“If we just demolish it and walk away, we miss an opportunity to tell over 200 years of history,” said Councillor Pam Lovelace.

The old Halifax Memorial Library is pictured. (Source: Jim Kvammen/CTV News Atlantic)

Councillor Patty Cuttell noted the library site could add much-needed green space to the downtown area.

“One thing we lack is park space,” she said. “This is a terrific opportunity to re-imagine that space and add some new part assets to our peninsula.” 

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