Nova Centre construction leads to calls for compensation from 8 businesses
Letter to Mayor Mike Savage says some businesses have lost nearly half their revenue since construction began
Eight small businesses in downtown Halifax have asked for financial compensation from the city to help them survive in the near-term after they say ongoing Nova Centre construction has hit their bottom lines.
The group, which includes the owners of The Wooden Monkey restaurant and The Carleton Bar and Grill, made the request in a letter to Mayor Mike Savage and the rest of regional council on Nov. 20.
Nick Langley of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business helped craft the letter. He told CBC Radio's Information Morning that the situation is dire for businesses surrounding the Nova Centre development site.
"What we've seen — certainly from these businesses — they've shown through their own records that since construction has begun, revenue has sharply decreased," he said.
"Foot traffic has sharply decreased. Some businesses have lost close to 50 per cent of their revenue, and expenditures continue to rise."
It's only been made worse by the closure of Market Street to accommodate construction equipment. The street was supposed to be closed until Dec. 18, but it's now scheduled to reopen Dec. 3.
Mitigation policy urged
The eight businesses that signed the letter to mayor and council also attached an appendix, detailing the extent to which their revenues have dropped since construction began.
"There's really two issues: the immediacy of what we're seeing here, because it's really an issue of survival for these businesses. And then what CFIB has been talking about for a long time: for the city to have a construction mitigation policy," Langley said.
"So, before a project even begins there's a set of rules in place where everybody — developer, construction companies and small businesses — all have expectations so everybody can operate efficiently."
Langley said there will likely be constraints in terms of what kind of financial compensation the city can offer as there are currently no provisions for it under the HRM Charter.
Halifax South Downtown Coun. Waye Mason has told CBC he will try to bring forward a request at today's council meeting for a staff to investigate the possibility of a policy where businesses hurt by longer-term street closures are compensated by the municipality.
Not a 'handout'
Mason's item is not on the council agenda, but it can be added to the discussion if other councillors agree to add it.
Langley said the old City of Halifax, before amalgamation, had a policy called injurious affection. He said if a business was hurt by municipal policy over a long period, there was compensation.
"These businesses aren't looking for a handout," he said. "But at the same time, what's happened because of the city's lack of planning and consultation has created this situation for these businesses."
Langley brushes aside concerns that giving these eight businesses some form of financial compensation would lead to an expensive precedent for municipal ratepayers.
"Well, perhaps [Halifax] should have developed a construction mitigation policy prior to this, and then we wouldn't be talking about this today," he said.
"But there's other aspects that the city needs to consider as well: addressing parking issues, accessibility for pedestrians to get to those businesses."