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Council OKs north end Business Improvement District 

But removes Hydrostone Market

The north end business climate is looking up. Hundreds of new condos have been constructed on lower Gottingen Street, long-standing eyesore Mitchell’s Environmental Treasures has finally been torn down, Agricola Street has come into its own as the newest hip shopping destination and merchants are becoming organized and starting interesting projects.

Among the latter is the creation of a Business Improvement District; with the guidance of Bernard Smith, who had previous led the Spring Garden Area Merchants Association, north end businesses convinced property owners to vote 66 percent in favour of increasing their taxes to fund the BID, which will use the money for business promotion. Presumably, the higher tax is passed on as higher rent, but the businesses consider the resulting increase in sales as worth it.

But Halifax council had to approve the plan, and councillor Jerry Blumenthal objected to the plan because, he said, the one property owner of the Hydrostone Market objected to being included in the BID along the more struggling businesses to the south. The suggestion was that the Hydrostone would be subsidizing other businesses, even though Hydrostone-based businesses were said to have supported creation of the BID.

Council agreed with Blumenthal, and approved the BID but removed the Hydrostone from the tax scheme. It’s unclear if the altered scheme is even legal. It changes the funding plan for the BID in perhaps irredeemable ways. And, most problematic, the incident recalls the racial overtones that accompanied changing the name of north Gottingen Street to Novalea Drive in the 1970s.

Smith isn’t prepared to talk about council’s decision yet, saying he first wants to discuss things with his board.

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