Halifax Convention Centre set to open, but lease yet to be signed

The provincial government still has not finalized a lease for the new convention centre in downtown Halifax, despite the fact the massive development is scheduled to open next week.

Project must meet 'substantial completion' before document can be finalized, says infrastructure minister

The new Halifax convention centre officially opens next week but it will likely be January before provincial government officials sign off on a lease for the site. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The provincial government still has not finalized a lease for the new convention centre in downtown Halifax, even though the massive development is scheduled to open next week.

Late last month it was announced the convention centre will host an official opening on Dec. 15 and host its first actual event a month later. The Canadian Junior Weightlifting Championships is the first of 90 events slated for 2018.

The convention centre will be operated by Events East, a partnership between the city and the province. The space will be leased over 25 years from Argyle Developments, the builder.

But while the doors on the convention centre are about to spring open, Infrastructure Minister Lloyd Hines confirmed Thursday it would likely not be until the end of January before a lease for the site is complete and ready to be made public.

Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said the province still needs to finalize long-term financing for its lease on the new Halifax Convention Centre. (CBC)

"It is subject to substantial completion," Hines told reporters following the government's semi-regular cabinet meeting.

Substantial completion doesn't reflect whether the site is actually able to open, but whether it's complete to the level of specification the government requires before signing off on the project.

"There are some administrative details that are waiting on the substantial completion," said Hines.

Favourable interest rates

Those details include agreeing with the developer on an interest rate and long-term financing for the project. Taxpayers will spend $169.2 million on the project over the life of a 25-year lease. Upon substantial completion, the developer is owed $51.4 million. The balance is paid out over the life of the lease. The interest rate will not be established until the day the lease is signed.

"We're in a much better interest rate environment now than we were five years ago when this project was undertaken, which will work to our advantage," said Hines.

The convention centre is the public portion of the larger private development the Nova Centre, which includes office and retail space, and a hotel that has yet to have an operator announced.

Headaches for businesses

Joe Ramia, CEO of Argyle Developments, has previously said he has an operator secured for the hotel and he expected it to open around the same time as the convention centre.

The Nova Centre is several years behind schedule, much to the consternation of businesses in the downtown area that have weathered the loss of parking, construction noise and dust, streets being ripped up and other impediments they say have driven customers from the area and harmed their bottom lines.

Some of the businesses launched but eventually abandoned a legal effort to collect restitution for some of their losses.

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

With files from Paul Withers