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Halifax councillors vote to save historic Khyber building for now – Halifax

HALIFAX – The historic Khyber building on Barrington Street in Halifax has been saved for now.

City council voted Tuesday to remove the 126-year-old building from a list of surplus properties the municipality would consider selling.

Downtown councillor Waye Mason put forward the motion, which also directed staff to give a detailed report on the building’s condition and look into why a 2010 plan to make the Khyber an arts incubator never materialized.

“Even if everything goes our way and if everybody agrees that the arts centre is worth investing the money in and council votes to spend a couple million bucks, we’re still looking at a long time frame to get it done,” Mason said.

“But I think it’s worth doing and doing properly.”

Dozens of supporters wearing white T-shirts with the slogan ‘Khyber Forever’ gathered ahead of the council meeting and marched towards City Hall bearing a petition with more than 2,300 signatures.

Supporters wearing ‘Khyber Forever’ T-shirts marched towards City Hall ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting.

Rebecca Lau/ Global News

The event was organized by Friends of the Khyber, a group that includes artists and musicians who have a connection to the building.

“It’s a place I’ve been an art exhibitor, I’ve seen my favourite bands, I’ve played in my own band,” said Emily Davidson. “It’s a place I feel has a lot to give this city and I’m hoping to see Halifax give back to the artists’ community.”

Rebecca Lau/ Global News

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The Khyber used to be a bustling arts and music venue, but its condition has deteriorated over the years and asbestos was found in the plaster. The city estimated renovating the building would cost more than $4.1 million and its operating cost was a further $33,000 per year.

But advocates say preserving the building would have both cultural and historical significance.

“I think the city can show by the way it treats that building, how heritage buildings should be treated,” said Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia president, Linda Forbes.

Musician Joel Plaskett, who famously sang about the Khyber, was also at the council meeting.

“I think what the Khyber represents is sort of bigger than the building itself but the building itself is also incredible and it’s done a lot for the community so we want to keep that happening,” he said.

While he was encouraged by the councillors’ decision, he stopped short of calling it a victory.

“I think it’s promising but it isn’t a victory until the doors are open on that place again and we can get back in there.”

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