Halifax merchants hurt by Nova Centre construction want compensation
Businesses say encroachment fees could be re-invested to make up for losses
Merchants in downtown Halifax say they're skeptical of the city's efforts to make up for lost business during the construction of Nova Centre.
Business owners want mitigation — money from the city to compensate for financial losses caused by road closures and traffic delays related to the massive development.
They're asking the city to establish a construction mitigation reserve in the 2016-2017 budget.
Some owners say a portion of encroachment fees — money paid to the city by developers to shut down a street or sidewalk — could help serve their purpose.
Wendy Friedman of Biscuit, a store on Argyle Street facing the construction, estimates Nova Centre has paid the city more than $1 million in fees so far.
"I would like to see those funds invested back in to the downtown and also some given to the merchants for mitigation," she said.
That might happen, but it won't this year.
Coun. Waye Mason asked city staff for a report on its mitigation policy, but it won't be ready until 2016.
"Hopefully by the time we get to the new construction season, we have a new set of rules that make it a lot clearer about what a developer has to do to try and help take care of the businesses that are effected," Mason said.
Friedman says she isn't holding her breath.
"I don't actually expect that to happen, but it would be a nice gesture," she said.
Christmas retail season hurting
Merchants say the scale of construction is thinning their customer base and killing their Christmas retail season.
Sam Shannon and some other staff at Inkwell on Market Street started a group last week called The Pylon Club to try to encourage Christmas shoppers to come downtown. So far, about a dozen merchants have signed up.
Those businesses have agreed that any customer who braves the downtown construction and buys something from a participating shop gets a discount.
"Saturday was great, but the battle doesn't end there. And we're still dealing with construction now," Shannon said.
Mason says there is some good news for merchants along Market Street. The street was to remain closed until Dec. 18, but is now scheduled to reopen on Dec. 3.