[HALIFAX, NS] — Mayor Peter Kelly isn’t expecting any surprises in a memorandum of understanding between the municipality and the province on the proposed convention centre for downtown Halifax.
That MOU is expected to be made public on the municipality’s website sometime today. Halifax regional council will then discuss it in a public meeting on Tuesday.
“Council gave a directive to staff to go prepare or to get an MOU signed with the province. In there, there were stipulations … in terms of ownership and time frames and all those other things,” Kelly said Sunday. “Basically we gave direction to staff to go fulfill. I expect that in the report that they would have had fulfilled (that direction).”
Kelly couldn’t say whether that means shovels will be in the ground soon, but comments made Friday by the provincial minister responsible for the file, Maurice Smith, imply construction could be imminent.
Kelly, along with former Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Bill Estabrooks, originally announced their respective levels of government had come to an agreement on the convention centre project in December 2010.
Back then, the deal included a 25-year lease on the convention centre portion of Joe Ramia’s $500 million Nova Centre, with an option to buy the facility after 22 years, and another option to buy it for $1 after 30 years.
The two levels of government agreed to cost share the facilities property taxes — using the $1.1 million assessment of the current World Trade and Convention Centre to determine the new facility’s worth.
The original agreement assumed construction on the Nova Centre would begin in spring 2012, so some variation on the proposed timelines should be expected.
Repeated delays and missed deadlines have fed speculation that Ramia, the head of Rank Inc., was having difficulties attracting tenants for the financial building — the largest component of the Nova Centre.
A seemingly interminable financial crisis in Europe also bolstered the project’s detractors and worried supporters.
Ramia told reporters last month he hoped to have an announcement on the project’s future this summer, and was “optimistic” the project would go ahead.
The MOU still requires council’s sign off, with a vote expected during Tuesday’s meeting.