Nova Centre construction costing Halifax businesses big bucks
'There is a risk it could put some of these businesses out of business'
Some downtown Halifax business owners say they're struggling to keep their heads above water as they deal with the fallout from construction of the Nova Centre.
Construction of the massive one million square foot development, which will house a convention centre, hotel, business towers and shops, has forced businesses in the area to deal with dirt, noise, reduced parking and street closures. All of it, they say, is resulting in fewer customers and sales.
"Since the process started, I would say business is probably down about 35 per cent, which is a lot," said Mike Campbell, owner of the The Carleton Bar and Grill.
He said the city doesn't seem to recognize the urgency of the situation but it needs to do something.
"We've been asking for all kinds of things surrounding this project since it started," he said.
"We've talked to the developer, we've talked to contractors, we've talked to just about everybody and there's always an excuse as to why things don't go the way we'd like them to go."
'I feel very abandoned'
The owners of the Wooden Monkey are also feeling the effects. Lil MacPherson and Christine Bower said they can't maintain their business at the current rate.
"The fact that they can actually think that small business owners that surround this project can withstand 5 years of pounding. Basically I feel very abandoned, " MacPherson said.
The Wooden Monkey is bordered by two streets that are both closed to traffic because of construction. It was forced to close for an entire day so the Nova Centre could do work. It also lost power unexpectedly and as a result, lost business. There is no compensation even though its losses were the result of construction work.
"We don't know how we're going to get through this because this is not sustainable," MacPherson said, noting their losses have an impact on staff who are working reduced hours and 18 farmers who supply them.
CFIB urges council to act
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has written a letter to Halifax council, asking it to do something in the short term to help struggling businesses and implement a construction mitigation policy to govern future construction projects.
"CFIB and its members recognize that new infrastructure is vital to revitalizing our downtown, but it is the manner in which it is executed that is a big issue for small business in Halifax," the letter said.
It points to construction mitigation policies in other cities, including Montreal, and makes a number of recommendations on how to help businesses currently impacted.
Downtown District 7 councillor Waye Mason says construction has been the defining issue for downtown businesses since he was elected in 2012, noting businesses in other parts of the municipality face similar issues with road closures.
Street closed for 3 weeks before Christmas
The most recent hit for downtown businesses is notice that Market Street will be closed from Nov. 25 to Dec.18.
"Closing a street in front of a business for 2 or 3 weeks before Christmas where most of the businesses are making most of their profit for the entire year is horrible," he said.
"I'd like to see a policy considered that says unless its an emergency we don't go in and block a street in the month before Christmas because it's hugely damaging for some of these businesses."
Eight downtown businesses signed the letter to council, which included information from each on their losses since Nova Centre construction began. Some say they've lost ten of thousands of dollars, others say they lost hundreds of thousands.
"There is a risk it could put some of these businesses out of business so you're just putting one priority, the construction of the building, over the priority of trying to keep the other businesses open that are already there, that can't move that are paying rent and have leases so we need to do a lot more," Mason said.
City working with developers
City spokeswoman Tiffany Chase said the developer is required to give notice to businesses in the impacted area and pedestrians will still have access to sidewalks.
"The municipality has a key point of contact in the Planning and Development department liaising with the developer and contractors," Chase said. "One responsibility is to identify and assist with development permitting and approval processes, and work with them to identify solutions to issues as they arise."
Mike Campbell said that isn't working.
"Everything's always a fait accompli," he said. "This is handed to you. It's not let's get everybody together and figure out maybe a better time to close that street would be after the Christmas rush, for instance."
Mason asked for a staff report on a construction mitigation policy nine months ago, but it was sent back for additional work and now is expected to be presented to council in the new year.