Halifax Historic Properties renovation to begin in September

Historic Properties in Halifax is seen through the fog on Saturday. (Taryn Grant/CBC - image credit)
Historic Properties in Halifax is seen through the fog on Saturday. (Taryn Grant/CBC - image credit)

An iconic group of buildings on the Halifax waterfront is slated to be renovated starting this September.

The stone and wooden buildings known as Historic Properties, which are occupied mostly by retail shops and restaurants, are owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality and leased to the Armour Group.

The Halifax real estate firm holds a long-term lease for the buildings, which are bordered by Upper Water Street, the harbour, the Law Courts building and the Marriott hotel. The area is a National Historic Site, with buildings dating back to the early 1800s.

Armour Group CEO Scott McCrea described the renovations as "enhancements" and said he has no intention of taking down any of the historic structures.

"In many ways, it's a public trust," he said of the area, adding that he knows people care deeply about the old warehouse buildings.

$2.5M in upgrades

McCrea said the renovations are part of Armour's agreement with the city, which, according to a 2015 council report, requires a $2.5-million investment from Armour for "public realm projects."

Upgrades will include new lighting, signage and landscaping. (Taryn Grant/CBC)

McCrea said the work will include new lighting, signage, landscaping and upgrades to the sewage system.

"It's going to be beautiful and really change the feel," he said.

Tenants moving out

McCrea would not discuss Armour's subleases with tenants of Historic Properties, but clothing designer Lisa Drader-Murphy said she was told she has to leave while the renovations are underway.

Drader-Murphy has her flagship store in Historic Properties.

"We, along with the other tenants of Historic Properties, will be out by the end of September," she said.

"I am heartbroken and sad. We have a lot of clients from around the world [and] across our country that come and visit us annually. It's just been such a great store experience for us."

Some businesses will be disrupted during the renovations. (Taryn Grant/CBC)

She said she's hopeful that she'll be able to return to Historic Properties after the renovations. In the meantime, she's renovating her studio and expanding its showroom.

McCrea said he expects the renovations to be complete by next summer.

More changes to come

He said the renovations are Phase 1 of a larger plan to upgrade Armour's holdings on the waterfront. Future phases will focus on the newer buildings right next to the water, which McCrea said may need more extensive modifications or a complete redevelopment.

Those buildings include the restaurants Salty's and Pickford & Black.

McCrea said there's no timeline for tackling those buildings.

"We're proceeding very methodically," he said.

Timing will depend, in part, on applications that have been made to the federal government and others for money aimed at mitigating anticipated sea level rise.

McCrea said the wharfs will need to be rebuilt higher.

There are more changes on the horizon for other parts of the Halifax waterfront, including the redevelopment of the Halifax Ferry Terminal to accommodate a new route to Bedford.

McCrea said Armour has no role in that project, but "some alignment would be ideal," since it neighbours Historic Properties.

A spokesperson for provincial Crown corporation Build Nova Scotia said that project is in the very early stages.

"We are planning to work with Public Works on timelines, budgets, and other details associated with this project," Beverley Ware said in an email.