When The Coast reaches Emily Davidson, president of the Turret Arts Space Society, by phone, it feels impossibly soon: It’s been less than a month since our last interview, on the heels of the federal government announcing a $200,000 investment in the organization’s vision of transforming the long-shuttered Khyber building (a historic site on Barrington Street) into a fully accessible arts and culture hub. Once the site of the city’s second gay bar (the first was one called Klub, also on Barrington), and later a thriving music venue that launched the likes of Joel Plaskett, the building’s been shuttered since 2014 due to code violations and asbestos. For about a decade now, Davidson’s been doing her bit to help make sure the building isn’t lost to history, joining the Turret Arts Space Society to recast the long-vacant manse as part art gallery, part performance venue, part meeting space for various cultural organizations and more.
Now, it seems the province is joining in the cause: On March 27, a press release announced Tim Houston’s government would be giving $200,000 to the Turret Arts Space Society, money that the release says will be used for “building remediation and design.”
It’s the first time in the struggle to resuscitate the Khyber building that the province has gotten involved. (Aside from recent federal support, the city has also thrown its weight behind the project, selling the building to the Turret Arts Space Society for a dollar in 2018 and giving a one-time grant of $250,000.) “It's really exciting to have a contribution in on this phase of the project from the province of Nova Scotia. It reflects that the Turret Arts Space is being built for artists throughout the province,” Davidson says. “And their support in our planning, design and abatement phase really shows how this project can be positioned not just for Halifax but for Nova Scotia as a whole.”
Asbestos abatement and finalizing detailed building plans are the bulk of what Davidson describes as “phase one” of the funding of a new Khyber building. “As you may be familiar with, in big projects like this, there are a lot of up front professional fees. So, what this funding from the province does is basically give us our next deliverable within phase one. So phase one— again, planning design and abatement—this money from the province of Nova Scotia will go towards the heart of our design planning, which is called design development,” she adds. “It means that we can just keep the ball rolling, and really make our project a reality."