By Wendy Elliott
Over 125 people filled the Wolfville Fire Hall on Jan. 22 to air the pros and cons of a proposed residential/commercial structure to replace the old Home Hardware building on Main Street.
The 4.5-hour meeting ended with town council questions to the developer, Antigonish professor Chris Galea. Mayor Jeff Cantwell said a decision on the $6 million building would be made on Jan. 29.
Twenty-one individuals addressed council regarding the proposal from Micro Boutique Living Wolfville Incorporated. Thirteen raised concerns about the planned 71-unit building. Initially, Galea spoke for over 30 minutes, indicating that he would not want to proceed if there were fundamental concerns not addressed.
“Our target market are young professionals, seniors and students,” he said. “This is a real chance for Wolfville to have a leading edge development, like some of the coolest places on earth, New York and Boston.”
Downtown businesses seemed to be in favour of moving forward. Jim Chambers and the Wolfville Business Development Corporation director David Hovell spoke favourably about the project.
A delegation representing the local hospitality industry indicated surprise, however, at the town’s suggestion that 33 per cent of units could have a short-term hotel use. The owners of three bed and breakfast operations detailed their concerns.
Business owner and restaurateur Joe Rafih said the proposal has to either meet apartment or hotel rules. He also raised a concern about whether the town’s sewer system can handle that size development.
John Whidden, who has written a book about Wolfville architecture, cited both the town’s Municipal Planning Strategy and architectural controls. He stated that the building’s footprint will make it as large as Railtown or University Hall.
Several others supported this kind of development in general, but like landlady Maxine McCuaig, objected to its size, appearance and capacity.
“We’ll have to live with the results for many years if we do not get his right the first time,” said Gerry Robertson. “There are seriously flawed aspects to this development agreement.”
Galea said some of the inspiration for the façade came from a traditional Nova Scotia barn.
“The elegance of the design speaks to the past with its peaked roof, but also reaches to the future,” he said.
Reacting to one of Galea’s comments, Peter Proszynski said, “I’m not living in New York. I did live there, but I didn’t like it, so I moved here. This building does not match this town’s MPS, especially the compatibility of scale.”
Full engineering drawings won’t be prepared unless the project is approved, Galea stated. He agreed with one speaker that special attention would need to be paid to the north side of the building, which would face Waterfront Park’s gazebo.
The next meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. in town council chambers.