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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Breaking News: Draft proposal for new Khyber management released for public review

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HALIFAX – This afternoon, HRM released a draft [pdf] of the potential operating schemes for the future management of the Khyber Bulding.  Built for the Church of England Institute in 1888, the building has a long and storied history.  Renamed the Khyber Building in the 1970s when the Khyber Cafe opened on the ground floor, since the mid-1990s it has acted as a focal point for the Halifax arts community.

Aside from making major renovation improvements that will, among other things, make the building accessible to all, the City’s proposal intends to honour both the heritage of the building and its cultural impact on the city by maintaining its role as a bedrock of the arts community. The question the draft addresses is how this should be accomplished.

The draft proposes five different scenarios:

A. Khyber Arts Society (KAS) as owner and operator of the property
This would mean that HRM would transfer ownership of the building to the KAS so long as the building continues to be used for heritage or arts activities.  As owners, the KAS would pay property taxes and would have to manage the building like any other property owner in the city along with special “management principles” handed down by the city regarding heritage preservation.  They would be allowed to rent out space to community groups provided they use it for “arts and heritage activity that [have] a connection to the general public.”

B. HRM ownership with KAS as facility management operator
The major difference between this scenario and A is regarding taxes. With HRM still holding the title to the property, the KAS would lease the entire building but would only pay tax on those spaces used by KAS or subletted by the KAS to other arts and culture .  Furthermore, KAS could apply for tax assistance and would use the money going to the City from rent to cover any capital repair costs.

C. HRM ownership with KAS as sole tenant
Much like scenario B with KAS still allowed to sublet, but HRM would be responsible for carrying out maintenance and repairs as the landlord.  The KAS would simply be paying rent.

D. HRM ownership with KAS as one of several arts-related tenants leasing the building
Identical to scenario C, except with multiple renters.

E. HRM ownership with some other organization as facility management operator
Exactly like scenario B, except that the KAS is not the operating manager.  This option leaves open the possibility for the creation of an arts management agency that might either be hired or created by the City, similar to how the Waterfront Development Corporation currently manages its waterfront properties with a unified goal in mind.

There will be a public information session held on December 9 at the Bloomfield Centre from 1-3pm and 6:30-9:30pm. For more information, see the HRM website.

photo by Shawn Micallef



  1. Do the KAS have any experience as property managers? If not, i’d worry that experimenting with them as the landlords could spell trouble for this heritage landmark. We need to know that the job of preserving Khyber building will be in good hands, regardless of who’s using the space.

  2. I think Scenario D makes the most sense by far from what I can glean from the proposal. It allows the risk to tenants around and allows them to focus on their mandates without the minutiae of property management which I am assuming is not part of their expertise’. The fact it opens up space for other organizations to have a spot all under one roof with accompanying synergies (hate that word) in creative output is a big plus. While I am not a big fan of the inflated prices that seem to accompany HRM management and maintenance this would not be an issue for the tenants and will, again, allow organizations to be better positioned to focus on their core operations and doing what they do best.

  3. I would like to clairify that in scenario’s A+B, with the Khyber as the building manager, it does not mean other entities will not be invited to rent the spaces. Quite the opposite, the Khyber has always been interested in having other community groups use the space. That is how the Khyber started after all, the Society was the umbrella for other groups to get them selves established (the bar, gallery, theatre, cinema, recording studio etc etc…) This time around, hopefully, the Khyber will get start to get some support from the city instead of it just being looked at as a financial burden. There seems to be support slowly growing from the city these days for non-profits, and seeing the wider picture of how important it is to properly fund them.

    Also if you look at the Khyber board, you will notice a lot of very experienced individuals with proven histories. Garry Kennedy, Bruce Barber, Colleen Wolstenholme, Wallace Brennan, to name a few.

  4. It seems like the simplest solution would be to have the property management be the same as who is going to be in the building, in this case, the KAS. But they all sound like very plausible solutions to the problem. It just depends on how they want to handle it.