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  #661  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2009, 7:48 AM
statsmlac statsmlac is offline
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I never said to remove from planning committees all people from the heritage groups. People must disclose their relationships when they create a conflict of interest.

If Ben McCrae was on the District 12 PAC, he would have obviously had a conflict of interest and should have excused himself from all discussions about the Waterside project.

I don't like the fact that Bev Miller didn't even disclose the fact that she is a Board member of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia. This is a clear conflict of interest here given the fact that the main opposition to this project is that same group.

I would be surprised if Bev Miller ever supported any major development over 6 floors in downtown Halifax in the past.

A committee like the District 12 Planning Advisory Committee should provide objective and reasoned recommendations to council. Bev Miller has already made up her mind on any large development in downtown Halifax before the proposal is even made - she is against them all.
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  #662  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2009, 1:41 PM
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Originally Posted by statsmlac View Post
I never said to remove from planning committees all people from the heritage groups. People must disclose their relationships when they create a conflict of interest.

If Ben McCrae was on the District 12 PAC, he would have obviously had a conflict of interest and should have excused himself from all discussions about the Waterside project.

I don't like the fact that Bev Miller didn't even disclose the fact that she is a Board member of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia. This is a clear conflict of interest here given the fact that the main opposition to this project is that same group.

I would be surprised if Bev Miller ever supported any major development over 6 floors in downtown Halifax in the past.

A committee like the District 12 Planning Advisory Committee should provide objective and reasoned recommendations to council. Bev Miller has already made up her mind on any large development in downtown Halifax before the proposal is even made - she is against them all.
Exactly. Well said.
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  #663  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2009, 5:03 PM
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Excluding Ben McCrae is easy, he has a financial stake in the project. Excluding people because of their political associations/views on the other hand is really problematic. Who do you exclude? Anyone in the heritage trust? What about members of the chamber of commerce? Are they eligible to serve? Who else shouldn't serve because of their politics? Ex-councilors? People with ties to political parties? People who worked on political campaigns? What about people involved in other non-profits like the Ecology Action Centre? Should all developers, architects and engineers be out? Should we have some kind of vetting committee to weed out the people whose minds are set to try and get the mythical person who is a "blank slate"? The point of our process is to try and involve the views of the entire community. We already get the "reasoned and objective" opinion from city staff. The point of bodies like the PAC is to involve other voices and provide a larger cross-section of views that reflect the community as a whole. You may not like their opinions, but excluding people based on politics is a really messy place to go and isn't what citizens advisory committee are about.
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  #664  
Old Posted Jan 25, 2009, 12:06 AM
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Originally Posted by spaustin View Post
Excluding Ben McCrae is easy, he has a financial stake in the project. Excluding people because of their political associations/views on the other hand is really problematic. Who do you exclude? Anyone in the heritage trust? What about members of the chamber of commerce? Are they eligible to serve? Who else shouldn't serve because of their politics? Ex-councilors? People with ties to political parties? People who worked on political campaigns? What about people involved in other non-profits like the Ecology Action Centre? Should all developers, architects and engineers be out? Should we have some kind of vetting committee to weed out the people whose minds are set to try and get the mythical person who is a "blank slate"? The point of our process is to try and involve the views of the entire community. We already get the "reasoned and objective" opinion from city staff. The point of bodies like the PAC is to involve other voices and provide a larger cross-section of views that reflect the community as a whole. You may not like their opinions, but excluding people based on politics is a really messy place to go and isn't what citizens advisory committee are about.
You have entirely missed the point. The argument is not that they cannot serve on such committees. Rather, it is that when they are in a position of conflict of interest on specific proposals or issues, they exclude themselves from those discussions and/or votes. That is standard practice in most committee structures. Apparently it is not in this case. That is just wrong if true.
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  #665  
Old Posted Jan 25, 2009, 12:12 AM
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Originally Posted by spaustin View Post
Excluding Ben McCrae is easy, he has a financial stake in the project. Excluding people because of their political associations/views on the other hand is really problematic. Who do you exclude? Anyone in the heritage trust? What about members of the chamber of commerce? Are they eligible to serve? Who else shouldn't serve because of their politics? Ex-councilors? People with ties to political parties? People who worked on political campaigns? What about people involved in other non-profits like the Ecology Action Centre? Should all developers, architects and engineers be out? Should we have some kind of vetting committee to weed out the people whose minds are set to try and get the mythical person who is a "blank slate"? The point of our process is to try and involve the views of the entire community. We already get the "reasoned and objective" opinion from city staff. The point of bodies like the PAC is to involve other voices and provide a larger cross-section of views that reflect the community as a whole. You may not like their opinions, but excluding people based on politics is a really messy place to go and isn't what citizens advisory committee are about.
Hmm, you're logic is extremely flawed. This is a classic example of conflict of interest.

"We can define a conflict of interest as a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as, say, a public official, an employee, or a professional."

You are correct in identifying other groups and individuals who may have a conflict of interest, however unlike this example of Bev Miller you are making assumptions.

Because someone is a business person or developer doesn't imply that they are for or against this project. However, it is clear from Miller's position is no different than the HT, which makes it, "sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties."
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  #666  
Old Posted Jan 25, 2009, 12:16 AM
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I really don't think it's a conflict of interest... She has no financial stake in whether or not the project goes forward, so I don't see how it's a conflict. She is a member of the heritage trust because she is opposed to certain things, not the other way around. If she was the exact same person, except she wasn't a member of the HT, would that be different? She would still have the exact same opinions, and she would still not benefit from certain proposals being turned down. For the process to truly be fair, we have to let people like her be members of these committees. I don't know much about this committee, but I would hope that there are members who are equally pro-development. If you excluded her, you would have to exclude pro-development people as well.
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  #667  
Old Posted Jan 25, 2009, 12:26 AM
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I really don't think it's a conflict of interest... She has no financial stake in whether or not the project goes forward, so I don't see how it's a conflict. She is a member of the heritage trust because she is opposed to certain things, not the other way around. If she was the exact same person, except she wasn't a member of the HT, would that be different? She would still have the exact same opinions, and she would still not benefit from certain proposals being turned down. For the process to truly be fair, we have to let people like her be members of these committees. I don't know much about this committee, but I would hope that there are members who are equally pro-development. If you excluded her, you would have to exclude pro-development people as well.
But its not a question of pro-development vs. anti-development per se. I'm pro-development and against this project. Its about objectivity, as outlined in the definition of conflict of interest. Nobody from Armour or the HT should be allowed to make a final decision on this.

As far as I know, there isn't a group called the Development Trust... so its a stretch to say that people who belong to any other party or group are completely pro-development and support every development. What can you say about the HT? It is clear that they have taken a completely anti-development stance.

Does she not gain a huge amount of cudos from her cronies in the HT by influencing this decision through supposed democratic channels? Its really ignorant to believe that this isn't the case. Financial benefit is not the only element of being a stakeholder.
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  #668  
Old Posted Jan 25, 2009, 4:34 AM
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Originally Posted by worldlyhaligonian View Post
Nobody from Armour or the HT should be allowed to make a final decision on this.
Armor has a financial stake in this, they have something tangible to gain. As far as I know, the HT doesn't... so it kinda makes me wonder how far you go, how many groups should also be excluded because they have opinions.. Fusion perhaps as well?
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  #669  
Old Posted Jan 25, 2009, 4:43 AM
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Originally Posted by worldlyhaligonian View Post
But its not a question of pro-development vs. anti-development per se. I'm pro-development and against this project. Its about objectivity, as outlined in the definition of conflict of interest. Nobody from Armour or the HT should be allowed to make a final decision on this.

As far as I know, there isn't a group called the Development Trust... so its a stretch to say that people who belong to any other party or group are completely pro-development and support every development. What can you say about the HT? It is clear that they have taken a completely anti-development stance.

Does she not gain a huge amount of cudos from her cronies in the HT by influencing this decision through supposed democratic channels? Its really ignorant to believe that this isn't the case. Financial benefit is not the only element of being a stakeholder.
It's true there can be conflicts of interest that aren't financial, but financial ones are the most clear cut and, to me, generally the only ones we should be concerned with. Getting bragging rights with your friends isn't much of a reason to kick someone off a committee, especially when it's a citizen committee that is only a piece of a larger process. It's not like Miller would change her views to be in line with her friends. As nightengale said, she's a member of the Trust because she has certain views, not the other way around.

There is an equivalent of the Trust on the other side. How often do you hear the Downtown Halifax Business Commission or the Halifax Chamber of Commerce or any of the other business associations speak against development? When was the last time you heard anything anti-development from Fusion?

At the end of the day, there is no such thing as the "objective" view. Everyone comes with their own biases and beliefs. Some people's views are just more visible and, perhaps, more polarized. "Objectivity" is built into the process in the form of city staff who work within the bounds of legislation. Miller most definitely has strong opinions and beliefs, but saying she was in a conflict of interest because of her politics and because she may get some kudos from her friends is a bit much.
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  #670  
Old Posted Jan 25, 2009, 2:51 PM
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Originally Posted by worldlyhaligonian View Post
Hmm, you're logic is extremely flawed. This is a classic example of conflict of interest.

"We can define a conflict of interest as a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as, say, a public official, an employee, or a professional."
What you are saying is B. Miller shouldn't be on the committee at all because of her affiliation with HT. You must keep in mind that the PAC is a volunteer group and no doubt most are on the committee because of their strong opinions. To assemble any group that wouldn't have strong personal opinions would be rare. A group without strong opinions may find it difficult to formulate decisions. Hopefully there is a balance of views on the committee and that Miller would do the right thing for the community as a whole in her decision making.
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  #671  
Old Posted Jan 25, 2009, 9:35 PM
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My big problem with this is that the PACs are treated somewhat as "expert panels" by council. What relevant, special expertise does Bev Miller bring to the table that is not available from other members of the public at regular information sessions? If she doesn't have special expertise, and is unwilling to be truly impartial in the way that for example the URB is, why is her voice given more weight than other members of the general public?

It seems like the biggest "qualifications" you can have in HRM politics are (1) to have lots of time on your hands, and (2) believe that your opinion is more important than others, justified or not.
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  #672  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2009, 12:41 AM
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My big problem with this is that the PACs are treated somewhat as "expert panels" by council. What relevant, special expertise does Bev Miller bring to the table that is not available from other members of the public at regular information sessions? If she doesn't have special expertise, and is unwilling to be truly impartial in the way that for example the URB is, why is her voice given more weight than other members of the general public?

It seems like the biggest "qualifications" you can have in HRM politics are (1) to have lots of time on your hands, and (2) believe that your opinion is more important than others, justified or not.
The URB members are paid to be impartial. The PAC is a volunteer advisory comittee. Council can choose to ignore any recommendation from this committee. If they are treated as more than an advisory body by council then council is not doing their job.
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  #673  
Old Posted Jan 27, 2009, 11:10 AM
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news out in allnovascotia of information during the appeal. It appears the retail at historic properties is on the verge of closure, and that the harbourside market saw its last two tenants move out.

doesn't sound very good.
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  #674  
Old Posted Jan 30, 2009, 2:13 PM
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wasn't sure where to put this but saw this in todays herald

McCrea business person of the year, Chronicle Herald, Jan 30th,2009
Jan. 30, 2009
McCrea business person of the year
Fri. Jan 30 - 5:39 AM


Halifax developer Ben McCrea received a standing ovation Thursday evening when he was named the Halifax Chamber of Commerce business person of the year.
Known as the elder statesman of the city’s development community, he has overseen the construction of close to 1.8 million square feet of residential and commercial property in Halifax and Dartmouth since the founding of his company Armour Group in 1972.
His best-known projects include Historic Properties and Founders Square, but in recent months he has been in the news as he battled with the city over the redevelopment of a series of properties along the Granville Mall to create an office tower. Mr. McCrea wants to use the facades of the heritage buildings in the project, but the city and a heritage lobby group maintain the interior of the buildings should remain intact as well.
The matter is before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, with hearings expected to conclude on Feb. 4.
Mr. McCrea said he is looking forward to putting the controversy behind him and continuing to lead the push to make Halifax the cultural and business capital of Atlantic Canada.
O’Regan Automotive Group, a Halifax car company with 11 dealerships, was selected the chamber’s business of the year. Moxie Creative, a marketing agency, won the award for new business of the year. The Hamachi Group of Restaurants was given the nod as the small business of the year.
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  #675  
Old Posted Jan 30, 2009, 4:38 PM
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news out in allnovascotia of information during the appeal. It appears the retail at historic properties is on the verge of closure, and that the harbourside market saw its last two tenants move out.

doesn't sound very good.
You always full of great news SDM.

"the harbourside market saw its last two tenants move out. "

i don't believe that at all. The place was full last summer. so mean to tell everyone of those tenants moved out... I doubt it.
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  #676  
Old Posted Jan 30, 2009, 5:14 PM
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You always full of great news SDM.

"the harbourside market saw its last two tenants move out. "

i don't believe that at all. The place was full last summer. so mean to tell everyone of those tenants moved out... I doubt it.
That was quoted in the paper from the developers under oath testimony.

It is well know in the industry that this has happened, just the public hasn't been made aware.
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  #677  
Old Posted Jan 30, 2009, 5:27 PM
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You always full of great news SDM.

"the harbourside market saw its last two tenants move out. "

i don't believe that at all. The place was full last summer. so mean to tell everyone of those tenants moved out... I doubt it.
here's the article.



McCrea Says Waterside
Would Be Boon To Retailers
By Andrew Macdonald
Page 11 of21
Proposed Waterside Centre developer Ben McCrea said one of the reasons he wants to do a $16million, 85,000 square foot redevelopment of Historic
Properties is to bolster its retail component.- He has previously said the redevelopment of the nearly whole city block is the only economic option.
Historic Properties is divided by Hollis Street, and retailers on the waterside section have experienced declining revenues in recent years.

McCrea, the owner of Armour Group, says the infusion of 400 office employees at Waterside would provide customers for the retailers at the enclosed Historic Properties mall.

There are close to 20 shops, food and drinking establishments in the mall and its surrounding area, including Argyle Fine Art, Lower Deck and Mahone Bay Trading Company.

The mall dates to the 1970s, when it was saved from demolition after a public outcry about a proposed superhighway to lead to the Halterm Container Terminal in the South End.

The food court in the mall, known as Harbourside, an addition built earlier this decade, saw its last remaining two tenants pack up in October, said McCrea, during his final day of testimony before the Nova Scotia Utility & Review Board.

McCrea is appealing a HRM council decision to grant him a development agreement for the Waterside. "Our tenants down there are suffering to the point where in the wintertime now...the retail tenants are not making enough income for four to six months of the year to pay their salaries", said McCrea.

"The retail tenants are going down hill in a hurry ... They all want to close in the wintertime. And, I think it would be a disaster I think for Historic Properties to go dark for four to six months of the
year".

McCrea said that two years ago, the food court tenants closed for a portion of the year, after several went bankrupt.

McCrea told the review board the existing tenants were supportive of the Waterside plan. "Economic viability for the whole of Historic Properties is a very critical issue", he said.

Bernie Schelew, a retailer in the mall, wrote a letter to the DARB as a member of the Historic Properties Merchant's Association urging the regulator to overturn the HRM council decision.

"Since 2000, our sales have declined in excess of 20%", he wrote.
"In order for small retailers and restaurants to survive in the downtown core, we need to attract more Haligonians to our business".

He wrote that the addition of office space to accommodate hundreds of workers would bring customers to the retail shops and to eat and drink at Historic Properties.

"Such an increase of office workers directly across the street will begin to solidify our business to a level which will create and maintain profitability and employment throughout the entire year, not just the summer months", he wrote.

andrew@allnovascotia.com; 431-9970
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  #678  
Old Posted Jan 30, 2009, 5:40 PM
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Ben McCrea
Says No Option For Waterside
By Andrew Macdonald
Page 4 of25
Four heritage buildings on the Halifax waterfront are in such bad shape that no one could move into
them, says developer Ben McCrea.

The head of Armour Group says HRM officials, including planning director Paul Dunphy, told him no occupancy
permits would be granted to anyone wanting to rent the four heritage buildings because of their condition.

"Mr Dunphy, in a meeting ... clearly said ... that nobody is going to occupy those buildings in the
future without a structural certificate of their structural compliance. And he was very emphatic with
that", McCrea told the Nova Scotia Utilities & Review Board yesterday. He wants the board to
overturn a decision by HRM council that rejected his Waterside Centre proposal to redevelop a
portion of Historic Properties.

HRM and the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia are also before the hearing, requesting the regulator
uphold the nine to nine council vote last fall (six councillors did not participate in the October vote).
NSCAD had rented the buildings from 1972 to 2006, when it moved parts of its campus to property
supplied on the waterfront by the Halifax Port Authority.

McCrea said that in order to bring the historic buildings to contemporary building code norms he
would have to shell out $5.7 million to upgrade the properties - if the properties aren't redeveloped at
all.

McCrea had proposed a $ 16-million, nine-storey, 80,000 square foot redevelopment of the properties,
saying this is the only economically viable option for the buildings.

The $5.7 million restoration cost includes $538,500 for fees such as architectural and engineering
services, while legal fees add up to $40,000 on the file, and could climb another $20,000 in the future
(see also allnovascotia 2009-01-08).

He said bringing the buildings to current Building Code standards would produce at best Class B
office space and is not economically feasibly, because it would produce annual rent of $247,120,
leaving a negative return on equity.

In documents, he said rent on upgraded buildings would need to be $43 per square foot - four times
the current rates for Class B office space. McCrea says he is losing $250,000 annually on the
buildings as they now exist, and that includes about $50,000 spent on heat for the buildings which
have no insulation.

If he upgraded the buildings, he would also require a government subsidy of $3.9 million to make the
restoration fmancially feasible.

Over its 30-year lease with Armour, NSCAD paid $3 to $4 per square feet, plus $12 per sf for tenant
improvements which did not provide for extensive ongoing upgrades, said McCrea.

"Accordingly, these buildings have seen virtually no capital upgrades or replacements over the years,
except for those required by necessity", said McCrea.

McCrea says the only viable option is the proposed nine-storey redevelopment known as the
Waterside, in which he will commit to pay $1.6 million to retain the facades of the four buildings on
the block as part of a $16 million budget.

That cost would be amortized over the life of the project, similar to the extra cost he paid out for the
retention of the heritage facade at Founder's Square, a highrise in the city's downtown, which he
erected in the early 1980s.

McCrea yesterday described the nine-storey Waterside proposal's financial details as "a very thin
project" during testimony yesterday.

One of his three lawyers, George MacDonald of McInnes Cooper, asked McCrea why he's even
bothering with the project. "If I don't do something, I am going to have a bunch of boarded-up
buildings down there falling down around my ears", he said.

"It's going to be all downstream from here, because there is no way of economically re-using the
buildings, doing what we're doing (currently), or demolishing them".

McCrea has applied for a demolition permit to raze the four buildings, and that application will take
effect in May.

"Do you want to try to preserve as much of the heritage as you can"? his lawyer asked him.
"I spent a lot of my life time (preserving heritage). If there is any possible way of doing it,
that has even a fairly risky position, I will take it", said McCrea.

"But I will not continue to sit down there and lose a quarter of a million dollars a year and try to
maintain a bunch of derelict buildings - people want to tum them into museum pieces. I will not do
that", said the developer.

The hearing resumes on January 26, when lawyer Ron Pink is expected to cross-examine McCrea.
The three board members hearing the case include chairman Peter Gurnham, Wayne Cochrane and
Roland Deveau.
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  #679  
Old Posted Jan 30, 2009, 5:46 PM
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Provincial Support
For Waterside Development
By Andrew Macdonald
Two big players with the Rodney MacDonald government took the unprecedented step of appearing
before the Nova Scotia Utility & Review Board last night to promote downtown Halifax
development.

Minister Angus "Tando" MacIsaac and Stephen Lund, the ceo of Nova Scotia Business Inc,
appeared to urge board members to favour the Armour Group's effort to overturn the
HRM council decision not to issue a development agreement for the proposed $16 million
redevelopment of Historic Properties.

MacDonald threatened to veto HRM council's rejection of the project last fall, but did not pursue
intervenor status in the hearing, which only involves Armour, HRM, and the Heritage Trust of Nova
Scotia.

"I understand that this is the first occasion, at least in recent memory, that a minister of the Crown
has spoken at an DARB planning appeal hearing", said MacIsaac. "This emphasizes the importance
we place on economic development in downtown Halifax".

In documents filed recently with the regulator, Lund said the government's job-creation entity NSBI
predicts 2,200 jobs will be created within five years in the IT and fmancial services sector in Halifax.
"Combined these employees will create a requirement for 430,000 square feet of office space", said
Lund, a figure which equates to a new 22-storey office tower similar to the Purdy's Complex.

Ten years from now, NSBI predicts an additional 3,800 new skilled positions will be created in
downtown Halifax, requiring 760,000 sf, or the equivalent of two new 22-storey office towers.

The NSBI figures were re-adjusted in November to take into account the uncertain economic times,
and the forecasts were sliced by 20%, he said.

NSBI has had successes in recent years attracting offshore financial firms and IT companies, most of
whom have located to downtown Halifax.

"When it comes to finance and IT, that place (where they want to be) is downtown", said Lund in his
submission.

"Growth in these industries has lowered the vacancy rate of Class A office space in the downtown core
from 18.5% in 2002, to just 3.2% today".

In his speech, he invoked the heritage vs development scenario which has pitted those groups at polar
ends, coming at a time when Halifax can capitalize on its future growth.

"But how can we possibly do that if we continue to spend our time and energy arguing about brick or
glass, five storeys or eight, heritage or new development?" he said last night.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: Show me a city that's not growing and I'll show you a city that's dying.
It's time to move the debate beyond heritage vs development and take a look at the big picture.
And we can't afford to miss an opportunity".

He said Halifax will be in a position to lead the recovery affecting global economies when their
respective economies recover, but said it can only be done via people and space.

"Many companies like Admiral or RIM or General Dynamics prefer to be situated away from the
downtown core", he said.

"But for others, it's crucial that they be downtown in the heart of the city, but they can't get the space
they're after", he said, noting financial services firms like to be clustered, as they are in New York,
Toronto, and London.

"We don't tell companies where to locate, just like we don't tell them who to hire. If they want to be
downtown and we don't have anywhere to put them, they will go elsewhere. If it's not downtown
Halifax, it's downtown Toronto, Singapore or Mumbai", he said.

He also tackled critics of the Armour proposal who have suggested there is tourism value with keeping
Historic Properties the way it is.

"We need to build a city for people who live here. Not for people to visit. Tourism is important,
but is it more important than creating jobs for young people?"

Lund urged the board members to do what is right for the province and the city.

"A building like this is a start, and we must start now", he said.

"We must demonstrate that we are open for business. We need to encourage smart development to
accommodate the kind of businesses and opportunities that are right for our city and our province".

MacIsaac said that council was faced with a balance between development and heritage forces when it
voted against the Waterside proposal.

"This decision does not do justice for either side of the equation. With this decision there will be no
new economic development and possibly no heritage buildings either", said MacIsaac, who added
downtown Halifax economic development is key to the viability of the entire province.

He cited previous governments' roles in building the Metro Centre, World Trade & Convention
Centre, and the establishment of the Waterfront Development Corp, which has extensive land
holdings in the downtown.

"The province believes that the Waterside Centre is no different than the initiatives I just mentioned.
We must remember how vital it is to build a prosperous downtown especially during this uncertain
economic climate", said the minister.

MacIsaac, like Lund, said that Class A office space is the type that is "sought after by many
businesses and corporations from around the world".

"This is an opportunity we must seize".
andrew@allnovascotia.com; 431-9970
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  #680  
Old Posted Jan 30, 2009, 6:07 PM
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kph06 kph06 is offline
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A friend of mine worked at the Harbour Side Market last summer and she said then that all the current tenants were leaving, but did hear Subway was on the way in.
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