Blue balls on Grafton Street

Substantial completion cruelly withheld by Nova Centre.

An artist's rendering of the Nova Centre complex upon climax.
An artist's rendering of the Nova Centre complex upon climax.

The good news is we all have an extra year to buy our convention centre-warming gifts, now that the Nova Centre isn’t going to be what we asked for, when we asked for it.

A week ago the news broke that the Ivany tower dream project which is the Nova Centre is delayed nearly a year. The half-billion dollar development will reach “substantial completion” before October 2016, if nothing else goes wrong. That’s almost a year after the legally agreed upon date. The official opening for the $160-million centre will take place in the far-off future of January of 2017, “Close enough,” says Nova Scotia.

Theoretically there are terms and conditions involved in government tenders that, if not met, mean consequences for the contracted party. Given the egregious delay, I asked if the government planned to look into those options for the Nova Centre. Not so much.

“The province has been in constant contact with the developer on the convention centre project and is aware of the circumstances that led to a change in the construction schedule,” says spokesperson Brian Taylor. “These are deemed reasonable.”

Those circumstances, according to Argyle Development head Joe Ramia, came from changes following the public consultation, the approval process and a tough winter construction season last year.

More on that “province has been in constant contact with the developer” point, though. That doesn’t seem to match what Taylor himself told Tim Bousquet this week:

“We’ve only recently learned of the new date. It was shared publicly at the event on Friday. Staff are working on a new, refined agreement with the developer that will include the new date and project milestones."

Former The Coast news editor and registered Nova Centre fan, Tim Bousquet had had some thoughts about the delay over at his Halifax Examiner. Particularly how a developer can change the terms of an agreement and leave the province to play catch-up amending the contract after the fact.

‘People are always going on about how government should be “run like a business.” You know how a hard-nosed businessperson would handle this? He’d say: “look, you agreed to a December 31, 2015 completion date. You either finish it by then or you don’t get paid.”’

Elsewhere in not getting what we’re paying for, Bousquet notes the original tender for a 35,000 square foot ballroom with 30-foot ceilings is now down to 30,000 feet with 24-foot ceilings. All that time-consuming public input spread things out to two distinct convention levels with mixed-use space scattered throughout. “Okay, sure,” says the government.

“With respect to the requirement of 120,000 square foot of rentable space, the developer has met that requirement in its final floor plans,” Taylor writes me over email.

Halifax and the province are contributing over $56 million each towards the capital construction costs of the Nova Centre project. The federal government is kicking in an extra $51 million. None of that is to be unlocked until the facility is substantially—97 percent—complete. Then Ramia will get a lump sum from Canada, and the rest paid out over 25 years.

Aside from the dozens of events which were already lined up and now need to be re-booked, Trade Centre Ltd. also tells the Herald it's spent $2 million on “sales activation” and marketing.

City spokesperson Jennifer Stairs explains the original RFP was from the province, so it’s up to them to punish any infractions. She also says that while the municipality is disappointed by the delay, “there is still much to celebrate.” ‘Tis the season.

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