NS: Is Halifax ready for 22nd Commerce Square?

Haley Ryan, Metro Halifax
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HRM’s Design Review Committee will debate a staff report that recommends the downtown Halifax project go ahead to the permit and construction phases.

The proposed design at the corner of George and Granville streets for 22nd Commerce Square

[HALIFAX, NS] - The architects behind the proposed redevelopment of an entire city block in downtown Halifax are hoping their few exceptions to the land-use bylaw will be accepted Thursday.

HRM’s Design Review Committee will debate a staff report that recommends the 22nd Commerce Square project go ahead to the permit and construction phases.

“We’re delighted to see that they’re providing a positive recommendation to the committee,” said Eugene Pieczonka of Lydon Lynch Architects on Wednesday.

The 22nd Commerce Square is a mixed-use, 500,000 square-foot design which includes two 85-metre towers for residential and office space bounded by Duke, Hollis, George, and Granville streets.

Lydon Lynch is seeking six variances to HRM by Design rules in pursuit of extra space along the sidewalk and further setbacks than usual.

“We’re actually asking to make the buildings smaller so that we can provide more outdoor space for the public,” Pieczonka said.

Nearly all the existing buildings on the block will be demolished to make way for the new towers, large atrium and retail space, but four heritage buildings will have their facades preserved.

“It’s a bit of everything within one city block, which is really what the downtown is trying to accomplish,” Pieczonka said.

The Bank of Commerce Building, better known as the former Merrill’s, will be kept completely intact as a “significant piece of architecture” in Halifax, Pieczonka said.

At 85 metres, the towers are well above the maximum pre-bonus height of 49 metres allowed under HRM by Design, but staff is recommending allowing the increase because of the public benefit provided by the investment in heritage infrastructure, sustainable construction practices, and the inclusion of significant public space.

An unusual design for Halifax due to the large amount of glass and modern “ribbon” tying the buildings together, Pieczonka said he’s a firm believer locals are “more than ready” so see something progressive in the downtown area.

If the rest of the approval process goes by smoothly, Pieczonka said activity around the site could begin in 2015.

Organizations: Design Review Committee, Lydon Lynch Architects, Pieczonka said.The Bank of Commerce Building

Geographic location: Halifax

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