Downtown Businesses Could Benefit From St. Paul Tax Incentives

The Tax Incentive Program aimed at revitalizing the downtown core of St. Paul took the ugliest block of the town and turned it into the nicest, said Mayor Glenn Andersen to Council at Monday’s meeting. The Mayor and Council discussed the option of bringing back the popular program which saved businesses on main street money in taxes for operating on 50th avenue.

The program was initially passed in 2005 and phased out in 2013, offered tax exemption for the cost of the assessed structure on new developments and in the case of redevelopment, tax exemption was offered on the increased value of the upgrades. With the major renovations coming to the Co-op Mall, General Manager of the Co-op Graham Getz, wrote Council to push for the program to be reinstated, stating in the letter that the business is prepared to undergo a “16.9 million dollar investment and major renovation.” The business anticipates this project will, “create jobs and help boost the local economy, with spin-off business to local businesses, such as hotels, rental properties and restaurants.”

There are some businesses still benefiting from the program, because they started before when the Bylaw was phased out. Intern Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Holly Habiak, says that if the figures stay the same from last year, “it would cost us tax revenue of over $62,000.”

Another issue for Council to consider is how far down main street should the program stretch. Some businesses, like Zarowny Motors, did not benefit from the program last time around because it was too far removed from the downtown core. Councillor Ken Kwiatkowski threw the option of opening up the program to include the whole town out there or a possible industrial area, though that was dismissed quickly by Mayor Andersen arguing the idea of the program is to keep main street vibrant and beautiful.

Co-op intends to take over the entire mall, which will include, “re-sizing of both the Food Store and Home Centre.” This will cause current non-Co-op businesses in the Mall to relocate; possibly to main street. Councillor Dwight Wiebe questioned where these businesses would go and if the incentive program was reinstated there was a higher chance the businesses would stay open and relocate to downtown.

Chamber of Commerce president Kevin Bernhart, wrote Council in support of reinstating the program. In the letter, Bernhart specifically asks the Town to look at the program to benefit, “the development and refitting of properties to be utilized as retail spaces.”

It was a well-done program. We had seen a lot of buildings get face-lifts and a lot of buildings come up. It’s a win-win for us. – Ken Kwaitkowski Councillor Town of St. Paul

It was determined the previous tax structure would have to be reviewed for today’s needs and dollars. The previous incentive structure started on the outside businesses and worked its way to the downtown core, with higher incentives the closer a business was to the core. Council needs to decide is this is still the structure that would benefit the most businesses. Council has directed CAO Habiak to review the previous Bylaw and come back to the table in two weeks with some figures for a decision.