Grafton Street is incorporated into the Nova Centre complex now under construction. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Grafton Street is incorporated into the Nova Centre complex now under construction. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The city sold a one-block section of Grafton Street to Nova Centre developer Joe Ramia for $1.9 million, the Examiner has learned.

The block of Grafton Street between Prince and Sackville Streets is incorporated into Ramia’s Nova Centre complex now under construction. Sale of the street contradicts city policies against creating “superblocks” downtown and breaking the downtown street grid.

Halifax council approved the sale and the asking price at an in camera section of its June 6 meeting. The staff report outlining the conditions and price of the sale was kept secret until the sale was finalized. The municipal clerk’s office released the report to the Examiner this afternoon, but the sale has not yet been recorded with the province; presumably it will be recorded in the next few days.

The sale is conditioned on the city maintaining an easement on what used to be the street, for what is referred to as a “vehicular and pedestrian passageway.” That passageway will be narrower than the existing street, with a minimum width of 13.6 metres and a floor-to-celing height of 7.6 metres.

The staff report left open the possibility that Ramia would not agree to the sale price, and that staff would have to come back to council with a new recommendation. But as the issue has not been further discussed at council, it appears Ramia agreed to the price.

See the Grafton Street sale staff report.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. My understanding is that the Condominium Act won’t allow strata title for the project unless the condominium owns the land, hence the need to purchase the street. $367 per SF would be similar to what developers are paying premiums sites downtown and in some cases just on/off Spring Garden Road; this was not a give away. As to the $3.67 per foot for 100 years, this forgets about the time value of money. Finally, although I haven’t read the sales contract, if public traffic is still allowed through this street, then they didn’t buy 100% of the asset – a private street can be closed for good (i.e., the asset is compromised due to this easement, and hence has reduced value).

    Overall I was not a big fan of closing anymore streets downtown (our easy to negotiate grid is getting fragmented and that’s not good for visitors who don’t know the area), however I think we have to get over this whole thing and move on.

    So what’s next Tim? How about pounding HRM Council to reduce property taxes downtown so that investments downtown are as competitive in the core as they are in Bedford West/South, etc. Shouldn’t the rates downtown be lower to compensate for the density and how easy all the buildings are to service? Why does a $300,000 condominium pay the same property taxes as a $300,000 single family home? the cost of servicing the 80 unit condo building is way cheaper than an 80 home subdivision. Sidewalk closure fees are a $75,000 to $100,000 tax on new development downtown that they don’t pay in the burbs (Gardenstone Place opposite the Hydrostone paid $90,000 too rent the sidewalk for a year, and then built HRM a new one when they were done. Parking metres? Perhaps we need smart meters that notify you 15 minutes before your meter expires (this technology exists and is in use elsewhere in N. America), and how about reinvesting parking revenue and fines into downtown infrastructure and amenities instead of just dumping it into General Funds. Finally, how about riding council on its commitment to redevelop the Cogswell Interchange, which will be a catalyst for the continued revitalization of downtown.
    There is so much to do, and yet too many people are re-hashing and old battle where they didn’t like the outcome. Come on Tim, lets move on to some new issues.

    1. We just disagree about property taxes, Ross. I don’t oppose council setting different rates for geographic areas, although I doubt it will have the effect you envision. The same for reducing condo rates—people simply don’t locate their homes or businesses based on tax decisions. They just don’t. Or if it plays into it, it’s way, way down the list.

      I like the property tax. It’s the one tax we have that somewhat gets into taxing wealth as opposed to income. That serves an important social function.

      Moreover, I don’t think we should be viewing taxation as a one-to-one payment for services. That atomizes us, reducing us to simple consumers of government services as opposed to participating citizens. The idea that we are merely consumers, and not citizens, is what has poisoned much of our public discourse over the last few decades. We pay taxes not just because we get stuff in return; we pay taxes because we are citizens in a democracy, paying for the common good, for civilization, from which we all benefit.

  2. I’m no AACI but I suspect that appraisals of this type don’t use a straight pro-rata formula with comparables like the downtown building lots. The utility and/or revenue potential of a street is vastly different than that of a potential office tower lot. That being said it’s a heck of a value to Ramia to now own it. I wonder why the city didn’t go the other way by retaining ownership and granting Ramie an easement, or even a 50 year license or something. Selling the fee simple means Ramia will be able to exercise control over what should have remained public. He’ll effectively control it with time. Eventually they’ll be closing it on a regular basis for private functions and to control the public’s access.

  3. This is like what, 480 square meters or so? That’d make it roughly $3958 per square meter or $367.74 per square foot. I think there are some records at my workplace (made for the Planning and Design Centre) which talk about the general pricing of real estate downtown, and I’ll see how this compares (I imagine unfavourably of course).

    1. You actually would have to do that financial comparison over many years because it’s not gone for one year. It is gone. So over the next 100 years $3.67 per foot.

  4. Maybe my expectations were low, but they actually got more for it than I thought they would. Still a poor decision.

  5. Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu! Déja vu!

    We got rid of Peter-in-camera-Kelly only to elect yet another IN-CAMERA bunch of «we’ll do what pleases our masters» troughing ninnies. HRM voters DEMAND to know who voted which way on this back-room-engineered egregious expansion of «The City-State of Joe Ramia»! It seems there is going to be no end to this sorry mess.

    Meanwhile, worthy and desperately-needed projects which just happen to be inconveniences to the developers’ «in-camera» plans get stalled for years forcing the financially-pressed proponents to give up. (NO in-camera, back-room deals for those who «don’t matter»!) Then the the developers march in, grab the land at fire-sale prices and get virtually instant approval to construct ugly hi-rise «erections» double or more the size proposed by the losers and with expiry dates just months beyond write-off, leaving the lowly taxpayer, down the road, to deal with a bunch of crumbling, written-off hi-rise shacks! It’s apparently the way «good business» is done in HRM.

  6. Things that cost 1.9 million?

    HRM’s Ferry revenue for a year.
    HRM’s Janitorial services for a year.
    HRM’s (municipal vehicles) gas for a year.

    Or a public street.

    HRM isn’t really making a significant amount of money on this sale.