Action on Nova Centre welcomed

ROGER TAYLOR BUSINESS COLUMNIST   r @CH-RogerTaylor

Stuck in the conceptual phase for an extended period, the massive Nova Centre project in downtown Halifax is starting to have a signi­ficant effect on the local economy.

At the same time, people are starting to see the project move from architect’s drawings to real­ity.

There are about 300 people working on the Nova Centre, but that number will more than double once constru ction hits its peak next year, says Joe Ramia, CEO of Halifax development firm Rank Inc ., parent of Argyle Developments Inc. , which is the company building the Nova Centre.

There are only a small number of electrical, mechanical and plumbing workers on site, Ramia says, but those job numbers will rise significantly as construction proceeds.

“We’re just building up. The more you go up, the more trades will come,” Ramia told me Friday.

Nova Centre is probably best known for including the contro­versial new Halifax Convention Centre, but the project includes a number of buildings.

A total of one million square feet of space will be created with the construction of the convention centre, a luxury hotel, two office towers designated as financial centres, some residential space, retail outlets and restaurants.

Once complete, the Nova Centre complex is expected to be a catalyst for the transformation of the downtown.

Ramia says the steel that has been lifted in place the last three weeks by a special crane capable of handling massive weights is a key part of the construction.

The steel girders will support the ceiling over the convention centre’s multifunction room, which is a column-less space, he says. Besides spanning a large area, they must be strong enough to support the construction over it, including Grafton Street, once it is reinstalled.

To be specific, Steve Ross, general manager of Cherubini Metal Works Ltd., says the trapezoidal steel box girders, commonly known as tub girders, are so heavy they have to be in­stalled in three sections. Each girder, commonly used in bridge construction, weighs about 150 tonnes, says Ross.

In total, five girders are being installed by the Dartmouth metal fabricator.

Ross says the weight is so great even the special crane cannot extend all the way across the space. The girders are being lowered into the construction area and slid into place with the help of bearings.

A lot of the construction tech­niques for the Nova Centre haven’t been used in the Mari­times, he says. At the same time as the girders are being installed, concrete con­tinues to be poured. The de­veloper acquired a special pump with two towers.

“We believe (the pump) is the first of its kind in this region,” Ramia says.

It allows cement to be moved where it is needed very quickly even as the storeys are added, making construction more effi­cient .

Work will be carrying on through the winter, but Ramia says the amount of work com­pleted will largely depend on the weather.

He’s hopeful it will be milder than last winter.

“It’s nice to see it coming to­gether. I mean, there’s a lot of work going on down there.”

It won’t be long before the buildings start to take shape. Installation of the exterior glass covering system is slated to begin in March, he says, adding that it is the same system used on the new Freedom Tower in New York City.

The efficient constru ction is good to see, but downtown mer­chants, more than anyone, are eager to see the project completed — the sooner, the better.



The Nova Centre construction site is seen on Wednesday in downtown Halifax.

RYAN TAPLIN Staff