The Joseph Howe Building in downtown Halifax has been sold to Universal Properties Limited. ((CBC))

The Nova Scotia government is selling the Joseph Howe Building in downtown Halifax to Universal Realty Limited.

Universal Realty will pay $14.9 million for the building, with a commitment to the Justice Department for a 10-year lease starting Oct. 1, 2014, the government announced Thursday.  

The province issued a tender to sell after determining that was the most cost-effective option for taxpayers.

"Taxpayers have invested enough in this building, it's time to move forward," Bill Estabrooks, minister of transportation and infrastructure renewal, said in a news release.

"After careful consideration, we have determined that selling rather than renovating is, by far, the best option."

The government signed a 25-year-old lease agreement in 1987, with an option to buy the building on Hollis Street. The province assumes ownership in 2012.

In October, the government decided to sell the building as soon as it takes ownership because an assessment of the building concluded it requires about $36 million in renovations and upgrades.

The Joe Howe building contains offices for the Department of Health, Speaker's Office, Human Rights Commission, Voluntary Planning, Security Commission and Intergovernmental Affairs.   The province has also awarded three tenders for rental space to Crombie Developments Limited.

Crombie was the lowest bidder on all three tenders. These leases for the Department of Health, the Securities Commission, Legislative TV and Legislative Counsel offices will begin Sept. 1, 2012.

Tenders will be issued for other smaller departments in the building over the next several months.