Downtown businesses launch legal action against Nova Centre

Mayoral candidate Lil MacPherson's Wooden Monkey amongst local businesses going after HRM.

"Nova Centre" is Latin for "New Center." - VIA HRM
via HRM
"Nova Centre" is Latin for "New Center."

Several downtown business owners—one of whom also happens to be running for mayor—are taking legal action over disruptions caused by the Nova Centre’s construction.

The Carleton, Attica and the Wooden Monkey have commenced action are "negotiating proceedings" against the municipal, provincial and federal governments in an effort to recover financial losses they say were incurred from the hotel and convention centre’s four years of construction.

“They were supposed to be done in September, 2015,” says Wooden Monkey co-owner Christine Bower. “It’s really changed, the timeline, and people don’t know what it takes to stay open, and pay your bills and keep your staff employed.”

Halifax’s Wagners law firm is representing the businesses in their notice, which also names the Halifax Convention Centre Corporation, Argyle Developments and Argyle’s parent company, Rank Inc. as defendants.

“After years of unfruitful communications with the Nova Centre stakeholders to make them aware of the negative impact, some frustrated businesses have now decided to take legal action,” reads a press release from Wagners.

There isn’t a precise compensation amount the group is looking for, says Wagner’s Erin Gillis in an email, “but it’s likely in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars per business.”

Periodic street and sidewalk closures, the loss of parking spaces, noise, dirt and utilities being cut off with insufficient notice are all among the list of problems that the downtown businesses have put up with during the Nova Centre’s build. Not to mention all those rats.

Bower says she's sent "hundreds" of emails to HRM over the last three-and-a-half years about disruptions, street closures, smashed patios and even water that poured into the restaurant's electrical room.

Both Carleton owner Mike Campbell and Wooden Monkey co-owner Lil MacPherson (who’s also running against Mike Savage in October’s election) have spoken up against the impact of the construction over the last year. Campbell recently told CBC his business has dropped 35 percent due to the Nova Centre’s erection next door.

“The so-called carrot for these businesses to stick it out is that when the Nova Centre is finished construction, they’ll benefit from the crowds that will be drawn to it,” lawyer Ray Wagner writes in today’s press release. “The trouble is these businesses may not survive to see the benefits of the golden promise. All they want is to recover what they lost and ensure that future massive construction projects respect and accommodate the viable small businesses that ultimately drive our economy.”

What impact legal action against the city will have on MacPherson’s campaign for mayor remains to be seen. MacPherson stresses in a message left for The Coast that it's not her, but her business that's involved in the matter.

“It’s not a personal thing for me. I’m trying—along with a lot of other businesses—to save my business.”

Gillis says Wagners will be meeting later this week with other downtown businesses affected by the construction who may want to join in on the lawsuit.

Construction on the Nova Centre is scheduled for completion early next year. In the meantime, HRM has been investigating new construction mitigation efforts for future downtown disruptions.

Update: No lawsuit has been filed with the courts yet, and Bower says she's hopeful the parties can come together for a "conversation" about compensation. We've updated the post to reflect that.

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