The heart of Halifax’s downtown has been under construction for four years, and it will be more than another year before the mega project, the Nova Centre, will be open for business.

The $500-million project was supposed to open its doors in early 2016, but that deadline was pushed back to this fall and now it’s expected to open in December of next year.

Argyle Developments broke ground in 2012. The one million square foot centre spans two city blocks and will be home to business towers, a boutique hotel and the new Halifax convention centre.

The latest delay is being blamed on design changes to one side of the facility. Even with the delay, the developer is still within the terms of the contract with all three levels of government and there is no penalty.

But pushing the opening date back means 22 national and international events have had to be re-scheduled.

“In some cases, they may choose to relocate to the existing World Trade and Convention Centre and in other cases, they would be moved forward to hopefully a future year in the new convention centre,” says Suzanne Fougere of Trade Centre Limited.

Fougere says there's no extra cost to the delay, but Kevin Lacey with the Canadian Tax Payers Federation says Haligonians will still be paying.

“In the short term, it means we will not achieve the economic expectations that we had when the project first got started. The local business around it will be affected,” says Lacey. “In the long term, it will affect our ability and reputation to host large scale conventions.”

Although the cost of the project won't go up, local businesses say they are already paying.

“If they had managed to hit that target date of 2016, I think most of the people in this vicinity, the businesses around here, would have had at least a fighting chance at surviving,” says business owner Mike Campbell. “But if you start looking ahead to 2018, that’s not going to happen for a lot of us.”

Last summer, several businesses– including Campbell’s– took legal action to recover revenue they claimed they'd lost from delays, dirt and lack of parking. Campbell has filed for bankruptcy protection and says he doesn’t think The Carleton Music Bar & Grill will be open by the time the Nova Centre is.

Joe McGuiness, the owner of another nearby business, says construction hasn't hurt his business and says it can only help once it’s done.

“You’re not opening for a specific date. You're opening for 10 or 20 years so I think it’s important to get the project right,” says McGuinness. “If you look around, there’s never been so much development. It’s like Halifax has woken up and come alive.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelly Linehan