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Airdrie council introduces 'community revitalization levy' for downtown development

“The City of Airdrie is doing ‘Downtown Differently’ by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of our core area and proposing municipal actions and incentives to accelerate redevelopment and revitalization,” read the City press release. 

Airdrie entrepreneurs may have good reason for setting up shop downtown, with the announcement of the City’s official downtown revitalization plan, and proposed incentives that could be coming down the pipeline for new business owners in the city centre.  

During its regular meeting on Dec. 19, Council endorsed the City's economic development team's continuing efforts to work alongside the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) on the development of the city’s downtown business district with a series of incentives to encourage commercial tenancy in downtown Airdrie.

Thereafter, the City issued a press release on Dec. 20, announcing to the public the municipality's official downtown revitalization plan, that is aimed at encouraging private investment and revitalizing the heart of the city. 

“The City of Airdrie is doing ‘Downtown Differently’ by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of our core area and proposing municipal actions and incentives to accelerate redevelopment and revitalization,” read the City press release. 

According to Sara Chamberlain, team leader of economic development, administration first presented council with seven proposed incentives to encourage investment in the City’s downtown back on June 6.

In September, council endorsed the seven initiatives as proposed, and then in October, approved $2 million in reserve funding for those initiatives.  

At the June 6 meeting, ACOC came forward in support of the plan but requested more incentives to be directed specifically towards the business community. Administration was directed to research financial or in-kind support to encourage new tenants to downtown and report back by the end of the year.  

“Staff are working with a consulting company for the application process for those seven incentives,” Chamberlain said. “Two of the seven [existing] incentives include supports for businesses.” 

Administration has engaged the chamber and researched other municipalities across the province and country to determine what supports are available for business owners, she added, ranging from grants to loans, to City-led programming.  

“They can be incentives that directly give cash back to a business or they can be indirect financial supports by reducing or waiving a fee,” she stated.  

There are also many in-kind supports the city can offer its residents where there is no financial transaction but encourages the business owner to be successful.  

“It’s important to remember the City has the ability to shape an incentive in a way that will work best for both the City and for the business, so this could include incentivizing a specific business or industry type,” she said. “Or maybe creating a grant where a business contributes matching funds to the program.” 

City staff have identified four viable categories for incentives, including financial supports, marketing supports, business supports, and place activation and other supports that draw customers to the downtown area.  

Additionally, Airdrie could have a new tool to help fund downtown revitalization with a Community Revitalization Levy (CRL). 

The CRL was developed by the province to allow municipalities to build whatever public infrastructure or actions are necessary to spur on private investment by using the provincial portion of tax revenues from assessment increases in that same area.  

“We are excited to share that we are proposing another tool to help fund that revitalization,” teased the same press release.  

The CRL is not an additional property tax, according to the release. Instead, when there are increases to assessed property values, the municipal revenue and the provincial education portion of the property tax collected on the increased value is spent on public improvement projects in the CRL area. 

“The funding mechanism means Airdrie property owners could pay less for the public improvement projects that will make our downtown the place that people love,” read the press release.  

Those interested in learning more about the CRL, can do so on the Alberta Government’s website. A comprehensive list of how the CRL funds would be used towards the downtown revitalization project can be found on the City’s press release. 

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