Nova Centre developer cleared to begin some construction on downtown site

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By Ruth Davenport - Metro Halifax

HALIFAX - Halifax regional council has approved a measure that will allow construction of the new convention centre to partly proceed while the developer gets approval for changes to the design.

The design for the Nova Centre.

The design of the Nova Centre has changed considerably as a result of public consultations held from July to December 2012, according to a staff report, and developer Joe Ramia will need amendments to the downtown planning regulations before moving ahead with construction.

Approval could take up to eight months, threatening to derail plans to host conventions in January 2016.

City staff is recommending that HRM ask the province for a Statement of Interest, which will allow construction to begin immediately on underground parking and the lowest level of the centre.

“The motion today is…about a process of amending the plan so the centre we get is the centre the public consultation has requested,” said Coun. Waye Mason Tuesday.

Several councillors said they’d been contacted by developers who claim Ramia is getting special treatment.

“I’m all for proceeding as quickly as possible whenever we can, but just as long as we’re fair to other developers in the future,” said Coun. Matt Whitman.

CAO Richard Butts said the circumstances that made the Statement of Interest necessary were so rare, they weren’t likely to be repeated – and added the city routinely works with developers to address expediency.

“We give them all kinds of consideration…I’ve got three or four on the go right now, we’re trying very hard to expedite their timelines and approval processes,” said Butts.

Other councillors pointed out that the expedited measure is necessary only because of the public consultation.

“The public are always complaining that nobody listens to them. So in this instance, the developer is listening,” said Coun. Gloria McCluskey.

HRM will now forward the request to the province for consideration.

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