The City of St. Catharines recently released a new Community Improvement Plan (CIP) for 2015, replacing a previous plan which expired in late 2014. The new plan reflects a re-evaluation of the City and also includes a tailored improvement upon the former programs, as the previous CIP had been in effect for a decade and there has been significant commercial developments and redevelopments in the City within that time. The previous plan was very successful in encouraging private investment and development in City’s downtown core. Stand out developments include the Meridian Centre, Carlisle Street Parking Garage, the Performing Arts Centre, and the Marilyn L. Walkter School of Fine and Performing Arts. Within the downtown area there are now significant opportunities for small to medium sized building redevelopment, reuse, and rehabilitation.
The new CIP incentives
The new CIP has reduced the number of programs previously available. The City now offers three grant programs as well as one tax cancellation program. The reduction in programs allows the City to focus on prioritizing approvals and provides better accountability for project budgets. The CIP involves six priority neighbourhoods and as the cultural and economic hub of St. Catharines, the downtown core remains one of the top priorities.
The City has laid out the following financial incentive programs for property owners that affect downtown St. Catharines real estate specifically.
Tax Increment Finance Program
This program provides a grant to property owners to help offset the cost of commercial redevelopment with regards to an under-utilized lot. The project may receive an annual grant of up to 45% of the increase in property tax assessment as a result of the redevelopment. The grant can be provided up to a maximum of 10 years.
Residential/Office Conversion Program
This program provides incentives for converting, upgrading, or rehabilitating an unoccupied building space for new residential units or office use. Under this program, the applicant is responsible for the cost of the improvements. They will then receive a grant from the City up to 15% of eligible costs. There is a maximum of $2,000 per residential unit.
Facade Improvement Program
This program provides grants for facade improvements and is directed specifically at downtown properties. The applicant is responsible for the cost of the improvements, but can receive a grant of up to 50% of eligible costs. There is a maximum of $10,000 per facade or $20,000 per building.
By providing incentives for commercial real estate in Niagara, the City of St. Catharines looks to meet their density targets for the downtown core as an urban growth centre. To learn more about opportunities in downtown St. Catharines, click here.