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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Khyber renovation is going nowhere

City seems to have abandoned project.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM

click to enlarge khyber1-1.jpg
It’s been over a year since city workers started tearing up the first floor space at the Khyber, but the renovations remain indefinitely stalled. The city was supposed to be helping the 125-year-old building get up to code when construction crews started tearing holes in the walls back in October, 2011. Shortly thereafter, the work stopped.

"It's really frustrating because I'd be more than happy to go patch the holes myself and start using it again,” says Khyber Arts Society artistic director Dan Joyce. “But since the room isn't being leased to anyone, no one can go in."

Joyce suspects the depth of the work needed, including cleaning out asbestos, surpassed the project's initial cost and caused the delay.

“They're still planning on (finishing the renovations),” he says. “I just don't know when.”

The well-known arts centre on Barrington Street has had a complicated history with the city. The KAS is still waiting on a three year lease initially promised in 2009, and struggles to meet safety codes and acquire funding have been common in their “roller coaster” relationship with HRM.

"Sometimes it's really good and the city's getting involved," says Joyce. "Then they fire, or remove or shuffle their staff around and you're working with someone new."

"Over the last couple of years they've been more proactive, but at times it still really feels like we're kind of this pothole they don't want to fix."

Some help might arrive from the HRM's just announced arts advisory committee, which is hoping to develop a multi-year plan for increased arts funding once set up later this spring. Until then, visitors will have to put up with the mess.

"It's hard to operate an arts centre when people first walk in they see just an abandoned, vacant looking space,” says Joyce.

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