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Khyber Supporters Concerned about City Staff Reports: Call for Delay and Consultation

by Friends of the Khyber


K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX), Nova Scotia (March 23, 2015) - Several Halifax community and arts groups are concerned about two new staff reports that may set the stage for the sale of the “Khyber Building” at 1588 Barrington Street. Groups including Friends of the Khyber (FoK) and the Khyber Arts Society (KAS) want to see it restored as a community arts hub, but fear the reports to be discussed at this Tuesday’smeeting of Halifax Regional Council may jeopardize those plans. They are troubled that city staff did not reach out to the community. 

“We’re surprised and disappointed that these reports are being brought forward with absolutely no public engagement,” said Emily Davidson, FoK representative. “Over the past six months FoK has worked diligently with KAS, Neptune Theatre and engineering and architectural experts to create a plan for a sustainable, multi-organizational cultural hub in the Khyber Building.” The working group advised the City of their progress in a letter sent by Amy Melmock, Neptune General Manager, on January 28.

"Neptune Theatre respects the autonomy of HRM staff in bringing forward information and recommendations with respect to the structural status of the Khyber Building. Notwithstanding this, the staff reports are noticeably absent of community consultation,” says Memlock. “We hope that the end result of this process will see the Khyber preserved as a viable arts facility and arts incubator. It is also our hope that the City will be a willing collaborator in these consultations. There is much to be gained working in harmony with the diverse stakeholders who have expressed support for the Khyber.”

In January of 2014 the City closed the Khyber Building citing safety concerns, forcing the anchor tenant KAS to relocate to temporary premises on Cornwallis Street. In July, city staff recommended the building be declared “surplus” and sold. This prompted strong protests from the arts, cultural and LGBTQ communities in Halifax and around the world. Friends of the Khyber generated a petition of over 2,300 signatures and staged a vigorous letter writing campaign asking council to reject the staff's recommendation and instead renovate and maintain the building as a community and arts hub. 

On September 9 2014 City Council voted to remove the Khyber Building from the list of surplus properties. Council requested two staff reports to explain how the estimated renovation costs had increased by $3 million and why city staff did not follow through on previous directives to maintain the Khyber Building as an arts incubator. Since that time, a consortium of groups has been building an alternate plan for the space.

These groups are frustrated that the new reports were drafted without consulting KAS or other community stakeholders. “Instead of supporting a multi-disciplinary arts hub, the city’s latest reports suggest that all is well with KAS at its temporary location, laying the ground to relinquish HRM from its commitment for our return to 1588 Barrington,” says Craig Leonard, Chair of the KAS Board of Directors. “Not only is this false, but it’s framed as the result of ‘operational’ funding from HRM, which is in fact money explicitly directed to KAS as compensation for temporary displacement to Cornwallis St.”

The groups plan to have representatives at Tuesday’s council meeting to request more time to draft their proposal and make clear that community consultation is essential as this issue moves forward.

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