Business

Businesses struggling amid latest Nova Centre delay

'A lot of people have just found alternate places to go'

The construction of the Nova Centre looms over local businesses in downtown Halifax.
The new Nova Centre looms over local businesses in downtown Halifax.   Lexi Harrington

The owner of The Carleton Music Bar and Grill says the way the municipality has handled construction of the new convention centre on Argyle Street is causing downtown businesses to suffer.

“We’re not seeing anywhere near the kind of traffic that we used to see before all of this stuff started, and a lot of people are just fed up with coming downtown,” Mike Campbell says. “”It’s crippling.”

He blames the disruption on the construction, in combination with weekend closures of one of the harbour bridges and the fact there seems to be fewer people out and about in certain areas of downtown Halifax.

Campbell opened The Carleton in 2008. He says he was initially on board with the Nova Centre, which looms over his restaurant, but completion of the project has been delayed several times. Excavation for the $500-million project started in 2012. It was originally set to open in January 2016.

The Carleton is one of seven businesses in the area that are taking legal action against the city and the developer to recover money they say they’ve lost due to the prolonged construction.

News of The Carleton’s financial woes came just days before an announcement that the Nova Centre would not be completed as projected in the spring of 2017. A new opening date has not been announced.

Financial losses over the last few years have been so high that Campbell doesn’t think his business will recover.

“I can’t imagine how (we could), especially with the latest announcements about construction delays,” he says.

Since opening, The Carleton has been one of Halifax’s go-to venues for live music. Several concerts as a part of Halifax Pop Explosion are slated for the venue later this month.

Luke Levy provides guitar and vocals for The Reagle Beagle Band and Floodland and has played at The Carleton with both groups. He says that in his six years playing music in Halifax, he’s been inside every venue in the city.

“I’ve played late night one-offs with The Regal Beagle Band, four-week long residencies with Floodland, and even an afternoon fundraiser as an acoustic artist,” Levy wrote in an email.

“None of these things would’ve happened without The Carleton being there to support local music.”

Serge Sampson plays bass with The Valiants, another local band that frequents The Carleton, and he considers it a second home. He praises Campbell for his dedication to promoting live music.

“We feel a connection to the venue, to the staff, and to Mike.”

City council needs to reconsider “what is going to happen to our downtown in general, if all traces of small local businesses get easily, and eagerly, pushed out,” Sampson added.

Rand Gaynor, owner of Drala Books & Gifts on Grafton Street for the last eight years, is another business owner involved in the lawsuit. At first, Gaynor wasn’t going to join in on the lawsuit and planned to sell. When he saw the effect the Nova Centre had his property value, he changed his mind.

“We realized that the store was actually devalued because the sales were down,” Gaynor says.

Other downtown businesses involved in the lawsuit include Biscuit General Store and the Economy Shoe Shop on Argyle Street, Indochine on South Park Street, and The Wooden Monkey on Grafton Street. Attica Furnishing is also involved, but has announced it is closing its Barrington Street location to move to Robie Street.

“I think it’s worth making sure that even if we don’t get anything, for the people that come after us,” Campbell says, “that there’s some attention paid to what’s going to happen to them.”