News / Halifax

New blueprint unveiled for Nova Centre megaproject

After months of consulting residents across the province, the design team behind the Nova Centre unveiled a new blueprint for the downtown megaproject at Pier 21 on Wednesday night.

The project which includes the new convention centre borders Prince, Market, Sackville and Argyle streets and promises to be more pedestrian friendly and inline with the current architectural theme of the city.

The initial plan that’s since been scrapped, after the consultation process began in July, would have seen a giant glass encased ballroom form a superblock by crossing Grafton Street.

Now the 80,000 square foot space that will fit anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 people has been moved up 25 feet. It would stretch from Grafton extending to Argyle.

Wednesday’s public input session was another opportunity for residents to have their voice heard on the project design.

Most of the 150 people who attended the meeting expressed concerns about maintaining the vibrancy of Argyle Street and minimizing the project’s intrusiveness on the traditional architecture in the downtown core.

The final design plan is scheduled to be unveiled Dec. 5.

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More sidewalk space on Argyle Street is included in the new plan. Among the most important details in the concept are two 16 storey financial towers planned for Argyle Street: one of which intersects with Prince Street, the other with Sackville Street.

Another 17-storey hotel is planned for the corner of Grafton and Prince streets.

The bottom level of the convention centre, which would comprise of mostly retail space, would also feature restaurants and a giant video screen along Argyle Street. The main floor would also be split by Grafton Street with the idea of creating a vibrant, social setting. The design team is hoping that traffic will flow along the Grafton artery.

We’re really trying to make this something that’s meaningful for the entire province. - Joe Ramia

Joe Ramia, the developer for the project, said since the public consultation began, it was clear to him Nova Scotians wanted the convention centre to reflect the province as a whole.

“People want it to represent the old but look to the future,” he said. “These plans are very preliminary we have to listen and see what adjustments we have to make.”

Mostly positive response to the Nova Centre design

Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, says the development is essential for the growing downtown core as well as an integral part of the province’s economy.

He says residents should also be encouraged that the design team is holding public consultations and has already made dramatic changes to it.

“People are getting involved and I think it’s very exciting,” MacKinnon said at Wednesday night’s meeting. “People want Argyle Street to maintain its character, it’s one of the streets downtown that works really well. I think it’s being respected in the plans.

“We still have a long ways to go before it’s actually going to open.”

At least one person showed up dead against the centre, however.

Save The View’s Phil Pacey, a longtime critic of the project, says most people in the city don’t want high-rise buildings that this centre offers.

“I think that’s a big mistake. Halifax doesn’t have the market to support this sort of project,” he said.

The $500 million Nova Centre project is scheduled to open in early 2016.

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