HALIFAX – Plans revealed at a public consultation last night promise a landmark change in the Halifax landscape. Fenwick tower is getting all dolled up. If all goes according to plan, the building will be turned into luxury apartments within the next couple of years. The former Dalhousie residence will be cloaked in a lavish glass shell, shielding Haligonians from the building’s grim, oppressive concrete appearance. The glass exoskeleton will add about 11 metres to the building’s girth, flanked by an additional 8-storey and 10-storey building, with street-level restaurants and boutiques.
Happy new homeowners, Templeton Properties, are geared to live up to their name, creating a decadent retreat for the Halifax elite. This marks a seminal shift in the building’s tumultuous legacy. After developer Kenney Construction went bankrupt during the tower’s construction in the 1970s, Dalhousie took on the unfinished apartment building to provide student housing, often to families and international students. Its brutal exterior and context-insensitive height have been the butt of criticism through the decades and rumours about a mysterious non-functional top-floor swimming pool have further cemented its status as a symbol of bad planning.
The revamped tower will no doubt say goodbye to students, and a big, warm, 33-storey hello to high-income renters. You’ve got to give Templeton points for cleverness — it’s extremely unlikely a building of this height would now be approved in Halifax. A glass sweater might fare better.
With City approval pending, a few questions stand out: Will a shimmery glass exterior help this 1970s eyesore bring new vitality to the South End neighbourhood? Or do we really want luxury apartments to define a new movement in Halifax architecture? How will changes to this landmark — the tallest building in the Maritimes — impact the city’s identity?
photo by Elena Romera