Heritage Trust v Joe Ramia and the Be-Bolders

So Joe Ramia, developer of Halifax’s new, significantly publicly financed $500-million convention-centre-hotel-office-residential-retail behemoth, is suing Heritage Trust and its 27 volunteer directors for what could be tens of millions of dollars for their “persistent efforts to quash downtown development” — especially his.

Last week, 300 of Halifax’s self-anointed finest—“just rattle your bracelets,” as John Lennon said—cheered Ramia in a full-page Chronicle Herald “It-Pays-to-be-Bold” advertisement, patronizingly ordering Heritage Trust to “focus on their own mandate and leave the business of economic development to those who step up to advance our city.”

Perhaps the Be-Bold Brigade should read recent city history to glimpse the days of future past they’re so eager to re-create.

If developers and their Be-Bold sycophants had had their way back in the 1960s, a six-lane scar of an expressway would now slash through the middle of downtown on its way to… well, who cares? Paving equaled progress.

Thanks to earlier, equally derided preservationists, who refused their betters’ instructions to get lost, we now have Historic Properties, stunning views of the harbour and a lively waterfront—all of which today’s Be-Bold convention and cruise ship promoters use to attract the visitors to make downtown commercially viable.

But it’s different today, they say.

Maybe. But ask yourself what side today’s Be-Bold Brigade would have taken in that 60s debate? And what if they’d won?

Their bullyboy piling on becomes worse when you realize the facts don’t even support their mean-spirited attack.

The Be-Bolders should be asked a few questions.

How many downtown developments has Heritage Trust challenged? Out of how many? Over how many years? How many successfully?

In its request for a judicial review of Halifax City Council’s decision to bend its own rules for Ramia’s Nova Centre, did Heritage Trust seek an injunction to delay construction?

Was heritage obstructionism—or the lousy economy—the reason so many approved developments went un-built in the first decade of this century?

And, given the Be-Bolders self-declared economics pedigrees, why was it the preservationists who asked the right questions about the lack-0f business case for investing $400 million in public money over the next 25 years for a convention centre?

One question we don’t need to ask: who’ll be first to complain when their taxes go up to pay for the convention centre?

Just rattle your bracelets.

**

Want to explode a few myths about the need for and viability of the convention centre. Check out this report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Answers to my questions (most courtesy of my friend Tim Bousquet’s new Halifax Examiner):

How many downtown developments has Heritage Trust challenged?

Nine.

Out of how many?

Roughly 17o.

Over how many years?

Twenty years.

How many successfully?

Two.

In its request for a judicial review of Halifax City Council’s decision to bend its own rules for Ramia’s Nova Centre, did Heritage Trust seek an injunction to delay construction?

No. Hard to understand how asking for a judicial determination of whether the city violated its own rules will slow down the project…

Was heritage obstructionism—or the lousy economy—the reason so many approved developments went un-built in the first decade of this century?

Since the projects were approved and not built, I’d suggest the economy was the larger problem.

And, given the Be-Bolders self-declared economics pedigrees, why was it the preservationists who asked the right questions about the lack-0f business case for investing $400 million in public money over the next 25 years for a convention centre?

Perhaps because, unlike some of the development cheerleaders, the preservationists actually care as much about the future of our city as they do the past.

 

  1. Not to mention another developer is suing the city for bending the rules to accommodate this project while they have had to play ball and their project is still just drawings. And awful ones at that! The “Nova Center” is Scotia Square phase 2. An ugly, obsolete, dreadful mistake of the 1960s that drove people out of the downtown and after fifty years now, is just dead.
    As Nova Center will be on completion. No sweat for the property owner, because WE are the ones paying for it, not him! Same old, same old in the vile little place that Nova Scotia is!

    Reply

  2. Developers… Heritage Trust… City Councillors… Bicycle activists representing 2% of commuters… People getting run over at crosswalks… No light rail or public transit long-term strategy that I know of… Does Halifax have any city planners? Why aren’t they in charge of city planning? Why are all these other people interfering? Is there a vacuum?

    Halifax is one of the oldest cities in North America, I don’t understand.

    Reply

  3. Wake the dead with the news when Halifax’s wealthiest pony up their own money for a private enterprise privately paid for convention centre.

    On second thoughts, don’t bother – the shock of that happening would just kill the dead all over again.

    Reply

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