Design Review Committee, Dec. 17, 2020
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
The Design Review Committee approved the application for variances for the development on Granville Street.
In his presentation to the committee Fathom Studios Vice President Chris Crawford pointed out the storied history of the press in the buildings beside Province House. The buildings on the Granville block beside Freak Lunchbox were where the Acadian Recorder and Halifax Herald were founded.
The applicants were asking for substantive changes to the allowed zoning for the site: making the buildings taller in some places, shorter in other places, wider in some places and deeper in others. But since it all fits in with the surrounding buildings there were no issues raised by the committee. They voted unanimously to approve the application.
The designers of the buildings are Fathom Studio, the owner of the land is the province of Nova Scotia, but the company Dexel Developments Ltd. has a 99 year lease from the province and has permission to build on the site. Dexel Developments is a division of the Lawen Group.
Since the architects are committed to honouring the press heritage of the site, Committee Trawler would happily take some free office space to continue that tradition. Joking aside, we did reach out to Fathom to ask if there were any plans to incentivize the media to occupy some of the space in the building and we’ll update the story with their response when we get it.
The Design Review Committee also approved their meeting schedule for the new year.
Who said what (paraphrased):
Armstrong: Okay —
Staff: Can we confirm our applicant is here for the one case we have on the agenda?
Armstrong: Are you here applicant?
Chris Crawford (Fathom Studio): Yes I am.
Armstrong: Any updates on the work we’ve done?
Staff: Your recommendation from July 31 to consider an update to the Design Manual, regarding the frontage of balconies on the side of a building, Council sent that to Community Design Committee, that’s where that is. Regarding the motion that DRC (Design Review Committee) had recommended improvements to the substantive site plan, approval, and appeal process, council did request a staff report. The last recommendation to council, about the DRC’s terms of reference, to use automatic renewals of terms, that’s at the Executive Standing Committee.
Armstrong: Questions from members about any of those?
Someone (phonecall; if they don’t announce names I probably won’t know who it is): What’s the process for staff reports? They come back to council with the report and make a decision?
Armstrong: Yes. On to the upcoming application report.
Staff: No updates at this time, nothing expected for next meeting.
Armstrong: On to the presentation for Case 23050.
Jamie Allen (city planner): The proposal is for an eight-story mixed use building on Granville. They’re requesting variances for streetwall height (a streetwall is the wall of a building facing the street) height min and max, width, setback, and land use, and building height. Staff is recommending approve all of them. (In technical language:) Staff is recommending approval because the design fits with what’s currently there, there are some limitations with the heritage properties that must be preserved, and they’re all allowed according to the design manual.
Shepard Kutcher: Why are there different setbacks for the various gaps? I understand the purpose, but why are they different?
Allen: That’s an applicant question I think?
Shepard Kutcher: I’ll hold the question then.
Jessica: The heritage stuff went to council and was approved, does it still have to go to the Heritage Advisory Committee?
Staff: The heritage officer, not the committee.
Armstrong: Now on to the applicant’s presentation.
Crawford: This site has been a real missing piece of the fabric of Barrington Street, and we’re looking to repair that fabric with a well articulated humanscale streetscape (architects, smh). We looked at a lot of the history of this building and street. The Cragg building, when it was built, was the tallest building in Halifax. Beyond the architectural history, the journalism history on this site is extensive, the Acadian Recorder, and the Halifax Herald turned Chronicle Herald both started on this site. Our team focused on the rich architectural and cultural history of the site. We want this to be considered a district with the newspaper being the institution. Mail-Star, Morning Herald, and Evening Mail all operated on this site on top of the two that were founded here. The brand and naming to date is the Press Block.
Shepard Kutcher: You mentioned that the muntz metal, you said it will patina in age?
Crawford: It will generally darken, it’s not going to be like raw copper that’ll be super green. It doesn’t vary drastically, but the modern materials don’t change, this one will a little bit.
Shepard Kutcher: The sightlines at Granville and George, the view will be the Dennis building?
Shepard Kutcher: This is one development, but it appears to be a bunch of distinctive ones. Is the interior all one building?
Crawford: The heritage building interiors will feel like their own building. It’ll feel like five buildings, but legally it’s one building.
MacDonald: Are you going to try and illuminate any of the detailing of the old buildings?
Crawford: Don’t know yet. We do want to make sure the buildings stand out in the evening though, but we really don’t know.
Solomon: What will the use of the building be? The entrance on Barrington, what’s it for?
Crawford: Retail on Barrington, except for one entrance into the residential. The ‘main address’ if you were in the building would be on Granville. The parking garage had to not be on Granville for security reasons, and Barrington would be a traffic nightmare, so this is the only place it could really be.
Armstrong: In the two years I’ve been on the committee, these are probably the best presentations I’ve seen. The motion?
Staff: Now would be the time to correct the language around the wind study.
Armstrong: Do we have to do anything formal?
Staff: No, just read the motion with the change and we’re good.
Armstrong: Whoever reads the motion read ‘quantitative’, not ‘qualitative.’
Ralph: (Reads the motion with ‘quantitative’ in place of ‘qualitative’)
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Armstrong: Approve the meeting schedule?
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
N/A – COVID
Erica Armstrong, Chair
Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:
A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.
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