Downtown Halifax businesses take legal action over Nova Centre construction impact

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Halifax businesses take legal action over Nova Centre construction
WATCH ABOVE: Three downtown Halifax businesses have retained a law firm to help them recover losses they say they suffered during the ongoing construction of the Nova Centre. Rebecca Lau has more – Jun 27, 2016

Three downtown Halifax businesses are taking legal action to recover losses they say they suffered during the construction of the Nova Centre.

The Wooden Monkey restaurant, The Carleton Music Bar & Grill, and Attica Furnishings have retained Wagners Law Firm as part of a mass tort.

“If I wanted to recoup the demonstrable losses that we’ve had, it’d be at least $100,000 a year for the past three years. And that’s minimally,” said Carleton owner, Mike Campbell.

“Everybody that’s involved in this legal action, our staff has shrunk by 30, 35 per cent as well so there’s a lot of people suffering.”

Construction on the million square foot convention centre started in January 2013 and isn’t expected to finish until early 2017 after several delays to its timeline.

READ MORE: Small downtown business suffering due to Nova Centre construction

During the lengthy process, several small businesses in the area have blamed the street and sidewalk closures, dust and noise and overall process for a major lull in business.

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Suzanne Saul, the co-owner of Attica Furnishings on Barrington Street says she has seen a significant drop in pedestrian traffic on the street since construction began three years ago.

“We’re supportive of thoughtful development projects, and feel that there are many positive changes that are happening with the downtown,” Saul said in an e-mail.

“No one development project, though, should be able to take over the downtown core for such a prolonged period of time without regard for the surrounding local, independent businesses.”

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READ MORE: Hear ye! Hear ye! Light-hearted #HFXPylonClub video supports downtown businesses

In recent months, owners of businesses around the massive construction site have spoken out against the fact that the city has no mitigation plan in place for businesses that are negatively impacted by large projects such as the Nova Centre.

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The issues brought up have prompted the creation of proposed construction mitigation guidelines, that are now going through the regional council approval process.

It passed first reading last week and a public hearing will be set for mid-July.

However, the guidelines don’t include financial compensation for businesses, which is why lawyer Ray Wagner says his clients need to take legal action.

“So that’s fine that we’re going forward with a mitigation plan and that may stem the amount of losses that have been incurred by these businesses but nonetheless, they’ve been harmed almost mortally by the impact over the last number of years.”

Campbell says he and his fellow business owners tried to endure the construction, but repeated delays to the project timeline has made their future uncertain.

He says there is also no guarantee they will reap the expected rewards once the convention centre is open.

“We hope it’s going to do wonderful things but it’s taken so long to complete and there is no 100 per cent guarantee … all of a sudden everybody comes back down here and everything returns to normal and better,” Campbell said.

“We believe it will, but if you can’t afford to stay open, that’s all there is to it.”

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The defendants — all three levels of government, Argyle Developments Inc., its parent company Rank Incorporated and the Halifax Convention Centre Corporation — received notice on Monday morning.

Wagner says the next step will be to try and agree on compensation through negotiation. If they cannot reach an agreement, the businesses will make a claim for compensation to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

READ MORE: The Carleton turns to crowdfunding to stay open during Nova Centre construction

“I can confirm that we’ve been notified of the intended action by three local businesses seeking injurious affection under the expropriations act,” said HRM spokesperson, Tiffany Chase.

“We will be reviewing the documentation and preparing for next steps on our filing.

Wagner expects several more businesses will sign up with them in the days to come.

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