Nova Scotia

Halifax Convention Centre tour shows $169.2M work in progress

Argyle Developments Inc. opened the doors Tuesday to show off the new $169.2-million Halifax Convention Centre, but there's still no set completion date.

Still no exact completion date, says Argyle Developments president

The first convention at the $169.2-million facility is booked for April 2017. (Paul Withers/CBC)

Argyle Developments Inc. opened the doors Tuesday to show off the new $169.2-million Halifax Convention Centre — the centrepiece of the Nova Centre development.

But company president Joe Ramia said he still doesn't have an exact idea of when the massive downtown facility will open, and he won't know until the fall.

"Look at it. It's the complexity of it," said Ramia, gesturing at the construction work underway in the convention centre's showpiece 30,000-square-foot ballroom.

Several delays

Weather and a labour shortages have contributed to the uncertainty of the opening date, he said.

The showpiece of the Halifax Convention Centre is a 30,000 square foot ballroom. (CBC)

The project has been delayed several times, and various completion dates have come and gone.

The building was originally slated to be completed by January 2016. This spring, the latest opening date of fall 2016 was pushed to early 2017.

Target of 18,000 delegates reached

Argyle Developments Inc. has a 25-year lease with Trade Centre Ltd. The provincial Crown corporation will operate the 50,000-square-foot facility. The lease starts in February 2017.

On Tuesday, Trade Centre CEO Scott Ferguson said 50 conventions — including the first one for April 2017 — have been booked for the first three years. He also said the target of 18,000 delegates in 2017 was reached a month ago.

Argyle Development has leased about a third of the office space to BMO. (Paul Withers/CBC)

Ferguson said it was time to show off the facility — even if it remains very much a work in progress.

"It will be worth it in the end," he said. "We are very, very close to the finale on this. I thought it was time to get people into the building.

"Months ago people didn't understand what this space was about. Now the building is dominating the downtown core, so I felt it was time to show it." 

Cost increased by $10M

The city of Halifax and the province of Nova Scotia will each pay $59 million for the space. Ottawa will make a lump sum payment of $51 million when it opens.

The original cost has jumped by $10 million. Ramia said his company picked up half of the amount and government grabbed the rest.

"That's for technological advancements that have happened when they put the [request for proposal] out in 2008 to today. This will be the most technically advanced convention centre in North America," Ramia said Tuesday.

The convention centre is just one element in Ramia's $500-million Nova Centre project, which includes an office tower and a hotel. Argyle has leased about a third of the office space to BMO, which is the only tenant announced so far.

Ramia said the hotel will be the last part to be completed.