Council greenlights Nova Centre redesign despite opposition at public hearing

Ruth Davenport, Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - Halifax regional councillors have approved several changes to the design of the new downtown convention centre, despite strident opposition from many people who came to a public meeting.

Work being done on the new convention centre - Nova Centre - in Halifax.

More than 30 Halifax residents attended city hall Tuesday evening to weigh in on the changes of the Nova Centre, which affect the width and shape of the towers on the mixed-use development and the relocation of the convention centre from under to above ground.

Most speakers panned the new design as out of character for the 18th-century downtown street grid and out of step with planning regulations.

“It would break the block pattern, rupture the height limit, block views, tower over the Citadel,” said Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia president Phil Pacey.

“Instead of changing the development to comply with the law, HRM is being asked to change the law to match the development.”

Several speakers came to the defence of the design – and Ramia himself.

“Mr. Ramia and his group…went out to public consultation, and I believe they’ve made tremendous improvements to the design of the centre,” said Danny Chedrawe. “For him to open this whole thing up to another public process is bringing tremendous risk to him and his company, and we should acknowledge that.”

The most contentious change involves handing over a portion of Grafton Street as part of the development. The revised plans suggest the street will be used for public programming and events, but will be owned by the developer.

“There’s something about that that does not feel, on a gut level, to be completely justifiable,” said Hudson Shotwell. “Why do you think it’s so necessary to privatize one of the streets of beautiful downtown Halifax?”

City staff will report back to council with options for terms and conditions to ensure the street remains open to the public while under private ownership.

The changes were approved by a vote of 14-1.

Organizations: Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia

Geographic location: Halifax, Grafton Street

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