Halifax farmers' market creditor not calling loan
Farm Credit Canada supports port authority's takeover
The largest secured creditor of the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market supports the Halifax Port Authority's plan to take control of the market and has decided not to call its loan for now, CBC News has learned.
Myrna Stark Leader, a spokeswoman for Farm Credit Canada, told CBC News in an email that the creditor supports the Halifax Port Authority assuming management of the market.
"We are continuing to work with them," she wrote.
"FCC has no intention of taking any action on its loan at this time. We are working with the Port Authority to explore all options that will help the market become viable over the long term."
Farm Credit Canada has not disclosed how much money it has loaned to the market.
Frank Schwartz, one of 500 Nova Scotians who invested a combined $1.45 million in the market, said it's great news for individual investors who risk losing their money if the market had to close.
Schwartz said the money from individual investors was all spent on rent — prepaid for 26 years — to the Halifax Port Authority, which owns the building and is now poised to take over the market.
"We picked something that we could identify for our investors," said Schwartz, chair of the Farmers' Market Investment Co-operative.
"One of the things we could be proud of was paying the lease on this building, that was the agreement."
Members of the City Market of Halifax Co-operative — made up of market vendors — voted overwhelmingly last month in favour of handing the market over to the Halifax Port Authority and surrendering the 40-year lease — even though that means the co-operative would dissolve.
Market struggling with multimillion-dollar debt
The Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, located on the Halifax waterfront, is $10.6 million in debt and facing a lawsuit from the contractor who helped build it.
Schwartz conceded the prepaid rent arrangement was an unusual one, but said it might have worked if the decision had not been made to make the building even more energy efficient than first planned.
"That increased the cost of the construction by about $4 million," he said Wednesday.
"Some people are calling that an overrun. It wasn't an overrun, it was actually part of the design."
The Halifax Port Authority has said it will not take over the market until the City Market of Halifax Co-operative has made arrangements for the $10.6-million debt.
The vendors' co-operative has said applying for creditor protection remains an expensive last resort.
Schwartz said he and other investors want a say in the future operation and governance of the market, as run by either the Halifax Port Authority or as a non-profit corporation.
He said even if there turns out to be no financial return for the 500 individual investors, the effort was worth it.
"People took money out of their own pockets and if you saw the members, it's not entirely an affluent group. But it's a very, very committed group," he said.
"A farmers' market for Halifax showcasing local and Nova Scotian produce — we have that."
Schwartz said the individual investors contributed $50 to $10,000 each, with the average investment at $3,000.