Queen's Marque development on Halifax waterfront approved without staff-recommended conditions
The committee allowed all of requested variances to go forward, unanimously approving the development with no conditions.
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The municipality’s Design Review Committee approved the massive Queen’s Marque project for the Halifax waterfront during its meeting on Thursday, despite concerns from municipal staff about multiple aspects of the project.
The committee’s approval was the last step for the Lower Water Street development, a collaboration between the Armour Group and the Waterfront Development Corporation, which will lease out the land.
The 10-storey, 450,000-square-foot building will house hotel, residential, office and retail space atop the area historically known as Queen’s Landing – which runs along Lower Water Street, bordered by George Street and Prince Street.
The developer requested 13 variances to land use bylaws in the area, and the committee allowed all of them to go forward, unanimously approving the development with no conditions. Municipal staff recommended all but one, for streetwall height on Lower Water Street.
The maximum height for a streetwall in the area is 18.5 metres. The building as proposed has one streetwall at 32.9 metres. In the report before the committee, municipal staff had concerns about the wall creating a “canyon effect” on Lower Water Street, and wrote, “it is difficult to rationalize a near doubling of the maximum permitted streetwall height … as being a modest variance.”
To fix this, staff recommended the committee require that the developer create an upper storey stepback – something Armour Group CEO Scott McCrea told the committee would force his architects to have to start from scratch.
Staff also recommended changes to the materials used on the roof and sides of the building. The committee threw those recommendations out.
“We’re very pleased with the Design Review Committee’s learned and thoughtful consideration of the entirety of the project,” McCrea said after the meeting.
As for the “canyon effect” staff worried about, McCrea said the renderings made the scale of the building look larger than it would in reality.
“We know that people feel it’s big,” he said. “It is a big change, and I’m not sure it’s the size of the development so much as it is the degree to which it changes what’s there today.”
Site preparation has begun, though McCrea said that’s not a full commitment, as “there are a lot of things that need to be fully aligned for it to happen.” Nonetheless, he said he’s hoping construction will begin in early 2017. McCrea said the office and residential portions of the building will open in late 2019, and the hotel, which his company will operate, in 2020.