Have a question? Contact us.
What is the Khyber?
The Khyber Building is an elegant three-story heritage building in the heart of downtown Halifax, dating back to 1888. Since 1994, it has been home to a leading visual arts centre and the cafes and clubs that have operated there have launched the careers of some of Halifax’s best-known musicians. Before that (and to this day), it has been an important part of the city’s LGBTQ community, and it has at various times hosted cafes and restaurants that were key meeting points for newcomers and for Halifax’s diverse communities.
Why does it need to be saved?
The Kyber Building is owned by the city of Halifax. Earlier this year, the Khyber Centre for the Arts and other tenants were evicted when inspections revealed trace amounts of asbestos. In spite of repeated resolutions over the past five years from Halifax Regional Council (HRC) that endorsed the Khyber Building as a arts and cultural hub in the city’s downtown, on July 31 a city staff report recommended the building be classified as surplus and sold. HRC has deferred their decision until September 9. Now is the time to tell them we want the Khyber to be saved.
Why is it important?
The Khyber Building is part of Halifax’s cultural heritage. Its unique Victorian architecture is the heart of Barrington Street and key to the revivification of the city’s downtown. The Khyber Building has been and can continue to be a vital and generative incubator for world-class visual and performing arts.
The building is also vital to the local LGBT community: it was the site of The Turret, one of Halifax’s first gay clubs, housed the Gay Alliance for Equality (GAE), Halifax’s first HIV/AIDs clinic and LGBT bookstore and continues to be used for queer and trans* community events. (There is currently no other LGBT community space for those over 25 in Halifax.) Many small independent businesses and organizations that served the city’s immigrant communities also existed within the Khyber. With a rich history, fantastic location and gorgeous architecture, it’s too good to give away.
What do we want?
We want Halifax Regional Council to commit to renovate and maintain the Khyber Building so it can serve as a fully-accessible downtown community arts hub that reflects the city’s heritage and hosts the city’s future. We want you to help us send them that message.
Can’t a private developer or organization run the facility?
We want the Khyber Building to remain public. We believe the heritage the building contains and the programming it offers need to remain something we, as citizens, share. As a public building, the space can host a range of institutions and initiatives, its unique character can be maintained, and its accessibility can be guaranteed. Since this is already a public building, it makes financial and logistical sense to keep it as such. Finally, private property developers have a poor track record when it comes to maintaining heritage properties in Halifax.
Why can’t the same programming be run somewhere else?
The Khyber’s central location makes it an unparalleled meeting place for the many communities that depend on it. It provides a unique and inspirational space that allows for cross-pollination between arts and community organizations. Finally, we, the citizens of Halifax, deserve a beautiful, historically unique building as a hub for arts, culture and community, located in our downtown core, one that can inspire pride and imagination for decades to come.
Can we afford it?
The city estimates that the renovations to the Khyber Building, which is a Halifax success story, would cost $4.1-million, but many independent estimates put the cost much lower. In contrast, the Nova Centre, one block away, will cost the city an estimated $8.1-million per year (including operating costs and amortized construction costs). Over the next five years, the city has budgeted almost $100-million for buildings and $3.4-million per year simply in improving downtown streetscapes. The resources clearly exist to maintain and improve the Khyber Building, it is a question of political will and public demand.