About Us

About the Society

The 1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society is a not-for-profit started by representatives from Khyber Arts Society, Friends of the Khyber, and Neptune Theatre, along with a broad range of artists and community professionals who are dedicated to restoring the Khyber Building.

What We Believe In

Our vision is a critically engaged community where artists connect and thrive in a space that is physically, economically and culturally accessible.

Our mission is to create collaborative multidisciplinary space that nurtures creativity, encourages experimentation and supports the development of artists and new artistic expression.

Our Values:

  • Creativity and the role creative activities can play in forming a more critically engaged, innovative and connected community;
  • Flexibility and fostering a dynamic environment in which experimentation can take place;
  • Accessibility and providing opportunities for all artists and their audiences, including those from marginalized communities, by eliminating or minimizing physical, cultural, and financial barriers;
  • Sustainability and operating in ways that seek to be financially and environmentally responsible;
  • Cooperation and interacting in ways that are productive and respectful;
  • Autonomy and the artistic and operational independence of the organizations and artists who utilize our space;
  • Heritage, including the architectural character of 1588 Barrington Street and the importance of preserving it.

Our Mandate:

  • managing a multi-tenant facility dedicated to the creation and production of artistic works by emerging and established professional artists in the Halifax Regional Municipality, including visual arts, music, theatre, literary arts and interdisciplinary arts;
  • fostering innovative collaborations and conversations between artists and arts organizations working in a variety of disciplines;
  • advancing the public’s appreciation of the arts by facilitating and coordinating exhibitions, educational programs and other experiences delivered by resident and visiting arts organizations and artists.

Building History

1588 Barrington Street is registered heritage property, the building was designed by architect Henry Busch, who also designed the bandstand in the Halifax Public Garden. The building was constructed in 1888 as the Church of England Institute and originally housed a library, lecture hall, billiards hall, gym and space for the women’s auxiliary. In the 1940s the Church of England Institute closed its doors. After that, the building housed a variety of community organizations, eventually becoming a home for arts and LGBTQ+ organizations such The Turret Club, the Gay Alliance for Equality and the Alternate Book Shop, Atlantic Film Coop and Wormwood Cinema. The nickname “Khyber Building” came from the Khyber Café, which operated out of the ground floor of the building during the 1970s and was run by Afghan-born Amin Nasr.

In 1994, the City of Halifax, which by that time owned the building, reached an agreement with a group of artists known as the No Money Down Cultural Society to operate the building as an art centre and dance club. In March 1995, the Khyber Arts Society was registered as a charitable organization and in 1998 opened the Khyber Club, which quickly established itself as a meeting place for visual artists and as an important venue for Halifax’s emerging music scene. Musicians and visual artists such as Emily Vey Duke, Shary Boyle, Kelly Mark, Joel Plaskett, Sloan, Classified, and Buck 65 all spent formative years at the Khyber Building before launching international careers.

In 2014, Halifax Regional Municipality closed the building due to evidence of hazardous materials and the last tenants were evicted. It appeared that the Khyber Building was slated for demolition. That’s when Friends of the Khyber stepped up to drum up community support save the building!

Our Work Thus Far

Since 2015 the 1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society has worked on a detailed plan to activate the Khyber Building as a publicly accessible, inclusive, and sustainable arts, community, and cultural space. Our plan was submitted to city staff in October 2015 as per an April 2015 directive from Council for staff to work with us to develop a plan for the renovation and operation of the Khyber Building.

On March 22, 2016, City Council unanimously voted to accept city staff’s recommendations to place the Khyber Building into the community stream for the sale of surplus assets through a public hearing process. On May 29, 2017, we made an official bid for the Khyber Building through the HRM Surplus Property Disposal – Community Interest program.

On May 22, 2018, Halifax Region Council passed a motion to sell the Khyber Building to our society for 1$ and provide us a with a grant towards holding costs and re-development. On November 30, 2018, our Society became the official owner of the 1588 Barrington Street.

As the new stewards of this important historic building in downtown Halifax we have been fundraising money from the private sector and applying for both federal and provincial grants. We have until November 2020 to secure funding for the renovation plan, or the HRM will be eligible to buy-back the building from our Society.

Read the Plan

Read the plan our group prepared for Halifax Regional Council detailing how we can reactivate the Khyber Building as hub for creative activity in downtown Halifax. Please note that this plan was prepared with the municipal staff as our main audience. We submitted a revised proposal, based on this plan, to the city in May of 2017.

Read the Feasibility Study & Business Plan

AL Arbic Consulting conducted a feasibility study and further developed the business plan for the Turret Arts Space. Read the Feasibility Study and Business Plan published in October 2018.

Acknowledgment 

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. Ce projet est financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada et le gouvernement de la Nouvelle-Écosse.