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Mayor ups pressure on province to back downtown development

Though often one to mince words, Mayor Peter Kelly isn’t holding backon pressuring the province to help build a new convention centre inHalifax.

Though often one to mince words, Mayor Peter Kelly isn’t holding back on pressuring the province to help build a new convention centre in Halifax.

Kelly said yesterday it would make no sense to let the centre die for the sake of what he estimates to be $30 million to $50 million.

“This is one that’s a no-brainer,” Kelly said. “We need to not lose focus and make sure the place gets built.”

The province is still deliberating on whether to support the 1.4-million-square-foot facility estimated to cost between $300 million and $350 million.

But Kelly said that figure includes the private company costs of an 18-floor hotel, 14 floors of class A office space, a floor of retail stores and an event plaza. He said the government tab for two floors of convention centre space would be in the $100-million to $130-million range.

Split evenly between the three levels of government, he said the bill would come to $30 million to $50 million each. Nothing to sneeze at, but Kelly said it makes financial sense when you look at increased convention revenue and spinoffs like heightened property value.

“It’s a lot of money to lose as well, if it’s not built,” he said.

“It’s extremely important. We have to make sure we keep our eye on the ball for the future.”

The province will decide April 19 whether to move ahead with the Argyle Street development.

One question mark that remains is the federal stake. Nova Scotia Infrastructure Renewal Minister Bill Estabrooks said last week there has been no federal commitment of cash.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency spokesman David Harrigan said yesterday his agency wouldn’t be involved.

“Just the sheer size of the project would mean it wouldn’t be something we’d be getting involved in,” he said. “It’s just well beyond our programming.”

As a public-private partnership, the centre would likely qualify for funding from Infrastructure Canada, but whether it would be enough to foot one-third of the bill isn’t known.