Joe Ramia ended weeks of speculation Thursday, announcing his $500 million Nova Centre project will go ahead.
Ramia broke the news to a room full of Halifax’s political and business elite at Neptune Theatre.
“It took a long, long time to get here,” Ramia said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
“It took a whole lot of patience and perseverance from everyone, including our partners and tenants for us to be standing here today.”
As to the Nova Centre’s tenants, Ramia is remaining silent. He refused to comment on how many tenants he has secured for the one million square foot mixed-use development bordered by Argyle, Sackville, Market and Prince streets.
But Ramia did say he expected to be well over 70 per cent occupancy – the “conservative” baseline estimate used by HRM – by the time the facility opens in early 2016.
“We’ll be making announcements in the future, (depending) on the tenants that we have, when they would like to make them,” Ramia told reporters after the announcement.
“We have agreements in place, yes … I believe we’ll be higher than (70 per cent occupancy) by the time we open.”
Excavation work on the prime downtown lot is expected to begin by Aug. 30. The development – including the convention centre, a hotel, an office tower, and a financial centre – is scheduled to be “substantially complete” by Dec. 31, 2015.
It is only after that date that public money – specifically, $51.4 million from the federal government – will flow to Ramia. The balance of the municipal and provincial capital contributions will be amortized over the 25 year lease of the 289,000 square foot convention centre.
The final agreement between Ramia’s Argyle Developments Inc. and the provincial government has yet to be inked. That document is expected to be finalized by August and signed by November.
Most of the details of that agreement are expected to be made public, according to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
The Nova Centre is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification, making it one of the largest “green” development in the province, according to Ramia.
MacKay, Dexter, Kelly all cheered for
The three politicians responsible for public investment in the Nova Centre development – Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Premier Darrell Dexter and Mayor Peter Kelly – all received standing ovations at Joe Ramia’s announcement.
“This is going to really revitalize the city, and I believe there is much to celebrate,” said MacKay.
“We must all continue to work to take the ‘no’ out of Nova Scotia.”
Dexter told the crowd downtown Halifax isn’t reaching its potential.
“It can be better. It can be more populous, more dynamic, more active,” he said. “Halifax is the capital of Atlantic Canada, and I want to keep it that way.”
“Everyone who calls Halifax home has a stake in this project,” Kelly also said.