Construction may soon begin on a new trade and convention centre for downtown Halifax, CBC News has learned.

After months of delay, the provincial government says the developer, Rank Inc., is now ready to break ground.

The city still has to give its final approval, which could happen as early as next week.

If council approves the memorandum of agreement as expected, Maurice Smith, Nova Scotia's Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, said construction of the new convention centre could start as early as this summer.

In December of 2010 the province and the HRM reached a memorandum of agreement to each contribute $56 million to the construction costs and equally share operational costs.


Some opponents say the building will obstruct the view from Citadel Hill. (CBC)

Last August, the federal government announced a contribution of $51.4 million toward the project.

But the developer Rank Inc. still wasn't ready to commit. The company's head, Joe Ramia, said the company needed to line up tenants for the office and retail space that will make up most of the $500 million project.

Smith said he has been told those tenants are now in place and Rank Inc. is finally ready to start building.

"He's indicated that he's ready to move so this is the next formalize the legal wording of the agreements between the province and HRM," Smith told CBC News.

The CEO of Trade Centre Limited, Scott Ferguson, said the new convention centre would open later than expected: it was orginally slated to open by the end of 2014.

In an interview last August, Premier Darrell Dexter said the project means about $9.5 million in provincial tax revenue.

Mayor Peter Kelly said this is a huge development for downtown Halifax. 

"It's a very positive step, of course, moving this whole project forward and hopefully once we dot the i's and cross the t's we're able to get things going," Kelly said.

The convention centre proposal is controversial. Some opponents say the building will obstruct the view from Citadel Hill, while others argue there is simply no business case to support it.

"In giving this project the green light, the feds have ensured taxpayers will be on the hook for a heavy initial outlay as well as millions more in future operating loses," Kevin Lacey, regional spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said in a statement last August.

"What we'd rather see is the private sector, if they want this stuff, they should invest in it," said Lacey. "The average taxpayer would see very little benefit as a result of this project, yet they're being expected to shoulder most of the burden."