Downtown was a prime focus at Monday’s Battleford town council meeting, with council considering downtown incentives as well as potential funding opportunities.
Downtown revitalization was the first item that came up. Council voted to authorize administration to make a grant application to the Canada Community Revitalization Fund for a revitalization project. The federal program is a two-year $500-million program to revitalize outdoor spaces, green spaces, and green infrastructure in communities.
The downtown project is estimated at $650,000. If successful, the federal grant would cover $487,500, with the town contribution being $162,500.
Town Chief Administrative Officer Ash Alam said the funding will help with revitalization goals. The town is looking to add trees and improve sidewalks and storefronts in the downtown core.
Alam said the project is “good for our economy, will increase our jobs and the beautification of downtown.”
The goal is to attract more visitors to the downtown. Mayor Ames Leslie used the phrase “if you build it, they will come” to describe what they were looking to accomplish.
“It would be nice to see improvements in the downtown,” said Leslie, who pointed to some long-term tourism plans discussed by council at strategic planning. “I think this is the right step.”
Council was enthusiastic about the prospect of federal funds for downtown, and voted in favour of making the application.
In other downtown news, council also improved a new business tax incentive program for the downtown area, for new and existing businesses.
Community Planner Paige Reynolds-Hundt explained their current incentive program provides a three-year tax incentive based on expenses for renovations. This latest proposal reboots that program, based on two-year increments.
“This is just a reward to local businesses to help the town stay a little bit competitive,” said Reynolds-Hundt. “It’s just a good way to stay competitive, bring in more businesses.”
After much discussion and tweaking Monday, council settled on the terms for the incentive. Under what was approved Monday, businesses with a investment of $50,000 to $99,999 would receive a two-year municipal tax abatement. Projects in the $100,000 to $199,999 would receive a four -year municipal abatement. Abatement for $200,000 to $499,999 would be for six years and an investment of $500,000 or more would earn an eight-year reprieve. The incentive would cover 22nd Street from Central Avenue to the Highway 4 intersection.