Monday, November 3, 2008

RIP Sweet Basil

Well, I was debating whether I should post a rant about the tearing down of the Sweet Basil building in Halifax. Whether I should be upset that no compromise could be found and an 1840s building has been lost.

What I have decided is that it is not the destruction of the building which upsets me as much as the political framework which allows heritage buildings to be torn down in the first place. As easy as it can be to blame developers, I don't think that this is appropriate in this case. Blaming a developer is somewhat like blaming a fox for eating a rabbit. A fox needs to eat and a developer needs to develop. I also appreciate that the Sweet Basil building was not governed by heritage legislation due to clerical errors in the 1980s.

Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada who has legislation that only protects heritage properties for one measly year. With the current situation, a developer can apply to make changes to a heritage property, or demolish it. If the municipality turns the proposal down for being inappropriate for a heritage structure, the developer has the ability to wait for one year and then proceed as if they had been given permission. This does not make sense. Either we appreciate the value of heritage buildings and will work toward adaptive reuse and responsible development or we do not. Heritage is a limited resource. Once a building is destroyed, it is gone. The legislation needs to be changed so that heritage buildings are offered more protection. This then places the onus on the heritage community to work co-operatively with developers and politicians to find a way to incorporate preservation into development plans.

I applaud Halifax for wanting to continue to grow into a vibrant and dynamic city. As the capital of Nova Scotia, it should be. I just wish that wish that the value of incorporating heritage perservation into the growth of a community were more self evident.

All for now,


  1. Way to go Ryan! If there are going to be heritage laws, they have to have some teeth! I notice you didn't comment on the threat of the Premier to intervene in Halifax's decision-making process... which would be an astounding move against the governing abilities of all municipalities... perhaps you are saving that for another rant?

  2. I have a feeling that there is a long way to go in this process. Our current Premier and former Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage will get some commentary as the development moves forward.