The Action Group for Better Architecture in Nova Scotia is pleased to congratulate Architecture 49, WSP Engage, and owners Jason and Joseph Ghosn, on obtaining council approval for substantial changes to the Green Lantern Building on Barrington Street. As the building is a registered heritage property, in a heritage conservation district, final approval was required to be given by council.
Built in 1896 and designed by Architect William Whiteway in an elaborate Romanesque Revival style, the building was originally called the Keith Building, due to its associations with Donald and Alexander Keith, of the Gordon and Keith Furniture Company. (Its more recent nickname comes from the Green Lantern restaurant which was housed in the building between 1917 and the mid 1960s).
Damaged during Hurricane Juan, the building has been in a state of disrepair for years and is in need of substantial restoration. The upper floors have been vacant since 2005, and the lower floors since 2013. It had been threatened repeatedly with demolition by its previous owner before being sold to the Ghosns, who saw a greater opportunity in investing in one of Halifax’s most distinguished historical commercial buildings.
The original 1896 facade faces Barrington street, while the Granville Street side is not original and has been altered over the years. (A portion is concrete construction, suggesting it was built after 1929.) The approved changes include a restoration of the Barrington half of the building to its original appearance, using the original Whiteway drawings as a reference; the demolition and reconstruction of the Granville Street half of the building; and the addition of three storeys above. The additional height will be set back, to be minimally visible from Barrington Street. This project largely preserve both internal and external elements of the building, retains the additional street-facing appearance of the building, and improves the Granville Street facade. The preservation of the three storefronts at sidewalk level will ensure a lively streetscape, and maintain the historic character of Barrington Street.
This project proves that historic structures, even those in poor repair, can be profitably preserved, rehabilitated, and modernized to the benefit of developers and the city at large. AGBANS hopes that this development is successful, and that it will serve as a model to other developers in possession of historic buildings.