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Nova Centre architect appointed to committee that will pass judgment on Nova Centre design 

Noel Fowler will have to abstain from decisions, but can the committee really take an objective view of the issue?

Construction cranes are swinging above the site, cement tucks line up on Argyle Street to deliver their loads and four floors' worth of parking garage are materializing in the slowly filling pit, but there’s still no approved plan for the Nova Centre complex, no development agreement, no building permits issued.

click image Noel Fowler
  • Noel Fowler
That’s because Halifax council has exempted Joe Ramia from the rules that every developer in the city has to follow, and is allowing Ramia to build everything in his proposed project up to the street level. Council says the rest of the project---all the above-ground stuff, the two towers, including the publicly financed and managed but privately owned convention centre---will have to follow the rules. And those rules require that the development first be approved by a group of citizens called the Design Review Committee. If the Design Review Committee rejects the proposed design of the Nova Centre, Ramia could conceivably have to tear out all the below-ground stuff he’s building now, and start again.

That probably won’t happen, however, because at a December council meeting, in a closed-door secret part of the meeting, after the TV cameras were turned off and the reporters kicked out of the room, council appointed two new members to the Design Review Committee. One of the two was Noel Fowler, an architect hired by Ramia to design the Nova Centre. After council made the appointment, it voted to make to make the appointment known publicly, but besides changing the committee membership list on its website, no effort was made to actually notify anyone about the appointment: no press release was issued, and Fowler’s name isn’t in the meeting minutes.

When the Design Review Committee considers Nova Centre---probably in a couple of months---Fowler will be required to abstain from the discussion. But he’ll be sitting at the table for every meeting before and after, working closely with people who will ultimately decide the fate of his own project. Fowler hasn’t returned a call from The Coast, but a city spokesperson insists social relations won’t influence the committee's work. We’ll see.

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