This summer is the first time in years pedestrians can consistently be seen strolling up and down Argyle Street, and that is welcome news for local businesses.
Between the Nova Centre construction and last year’s Argyle streetscape project, many businesses lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some closed up shop.
“It impacted it enough that I had to sell the place,” said Mike Campbell, former owner of The Carleton.
Lil Macpherson is the co-owner of the Wooden Monkey and said foot traffic alone dropped 35 per cent.
“People just stopped coming downtown.”
Philip Holmans, owns the World Tea House. It’s located further away from the Nova Centre but said timing on construction projects nearly destroyed his business. Just as the Nova Centre completed most of the construction outside, the street was torn up for the streetscape project.
“We were barely paying rent,” he said.
Both projects have since been completed. Argyle Street was re-opened in November and the Nova Centre held it’s grand opening in December. Several conventions have been held at the Nova Centre, but some businesses are wondering if and when they will see a boost because of it.
“When they have street parties, stuff like that outside we can hardly staff our store to accommodate the amount of people we get but larger conventions that don’t have any outside events, we really see no big spin off from,” Holmans said.
MacPherson echoes that, and said most people now coming by are local.
“People are coming downtown but not from the convention centre, because there’s also buffets at the convention centre. They have food in there as well, so is the convention centre changing the economy? I’m not sure how much.”
Although Campbell sold The Carleton, he continues to work there as the program director and said things are looking up.
“Now that it’s been finished it’s been great for the street,” he said.
“We see people on it, lots of tourists, lots of conventions, when they come in we see a an uptick in business when that happens.”
All three businesses were part of a lawsuit launched against the different levels of government as well as Argyle Developments Inc., its parent company Rank Incorporated and the Halifax Convention Centre Corporation. The lawsuit has since been dropped and the business owners are doing what they can to move forward, but note that it will take time to recover what was lost over the past five years.
“My five-year plan was to have two stores and then three stores after 10 years and we’re still one store unable to expand because of the debt we incurred last year. We’re still paying off our debt we paid to keep the store open,” said Holmans.
“It’s going to take some years, it’s not instant,” said MacPherson. “I know there’s a few people, few councillors who think, ‘Oh, we’re going to be rich,’ but it takes time.”