Alberta government officials were in Airdrie last week to promote the City's Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) – a new mechanism that intends to spur private-sector investment in Airdrie's downtown core.
Municipal Affairs Minister Rebecca Schulz and Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt joined Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown, members of council, City staff, and Airdrie Chamber of Commerce representatives at the office of Marr and Company Chartered Professional Accountants on Main Street on Jan. 25, to plug the positive impact the CRL will have on the gradual revitalization of Airdrie's downtown.
“Sometimes planning and financial tools – or levies – may not always make for the most exciting headlines. But I do want to be clear that this tool is very good news for the residents of Airdrie,” Schulz said.
CRLs are a provincial mechanism that allow municipalities to use the provincial portion of tax revenues from assessment increases in a particular area for municipal projects.
Airdrie City council first introduced the CRL at a meeting last month. Council approved the use of the tool during a special meeting on Dec. 28, 2023. It went into effect on Jan. 1.
Shortly before that, council approved the City's long-term downtown development plan at a meeting on Dec. 19.
At last week's event, Mayor Brown spoke about Airdrie's need for a refurbished downtown in the comingg years.
“Over a number of years, residents and property owners have participated in public engagement in the downtown,” he said. “That engagement was used to create a downtown plan. We heard from that engagement.
“People don’t want to see empty lots in our downtown. We need to bring more residents and visitors to downtown. We’ve identified some parking issues…and some opportunities for beautification. We’ve identified barriers to potential development and that can’t continue any longer.”
While the CRL is not new, the tool was updated last year, and the Alberta government reopened applications for it in the summer of 2022. Airdrie's CRL will be the sixth such approval in Alberta. Other communities that have used the tool include Edmonton, Calgary, and Cochrane.
According to the province, as of the end of 2022, more than $415 million in total CRL revenues have been raised and invested in area redevelopment from the first four CRLs created in the province.
“Airdrie has a vision for its downtown core that will encourage private investment and revitalize the heart of this growing city,” Schulz said. “CRLs help communities like Airdrie to grow by dedicating future property tax revenue to help pay for critical infrastructure and spur growth and development in brown-field areas or areas where development is lagging behind.
“In turn, those investments drive even more development. Overtime, the levy will lead to increases in property values, and businesses in the area will benefit from these projects as they attract more people and potential customers.”
The City of Airdrie has stressed that the CRL is not an additional property tax. 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.
According to the City of Airdrie, the ways revenues from the CRL will be used include the following:
- comprehensive environmental site assessments to determine the extent of any soil contamination or other hindrances to redevelopment;
- municipal financial assistance or actions to address contaminated areas;
- space for community and education uses in the new Downtown Multi-Use Facility and Library that strengthen a growing knowledge-based economy;
- construction of municipal parking structures in strategic locations to leverage private redevelopment;
- integration of the environmental amenity of Nose Creek as part of place-making and public gathering efforts within the downtown; and,
- beautification and evaluation of Main Street within the downtown core to achieve the desired combination of economic supports (i.e., on-street parking) and amenity supports (i.e., temporary event closures, plaza spaces).
“The downtown plan outlines what we need to do, but the CRL will hopefully contribute to making sure that happens,” Brown said. “The CRL gives us the ability to attract private investment in under-developed areas, which is key to transforming our downtown. An innovative funding mechanism allows us to fund important projects without additional pressures on taxpayers. Airdrie property owners will pay less for the public improvement projects that will make the downtown a place people want to come to and love.”
The final speaker on Jan. 25 was Airdrie Chamber of Commerce president Chris McNichol. He brought up how the CRL will help create jobs and also help redistribute Airdrie's tax base.
“The investment, not only in our city but our downtown core, is something that’s been on the books and needed for a number of years,” McNichol said. “The chamber looks at this CRL as a great tool to help move this forward without the added burden of tax increases.
“The investment will not only be a boost for businesses and our economy, but also for jobs within our town. We can’t say enough about the program and how it’s mitigating risk for us, not only as a city, but as a province moving forward.”
For more on Airdrie's CRL, visit bit.ly/3HV0p3b
For more on the City of Airdrie's downtown revitalization initiative, visit bit.ly/3HkpMd3