We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Summerside is in a good place these days.
The north Granville Street area has seen a mini-boom in development, the Prince Alex Resort (old Dynasty Spa) is supposedly going to restart construction again soon, the Summerside Port Corporation is dreaming up some interesting ideas and so on. But there’s still one area of the city that continues to stagnate and, frankly, has no really big promising prospects of its own beyond its proximity to the waterfront.
The Downtown core – Summerside’s mainstreet (Water Street between Queen Street on the west and Heather Moyse Drive to the east). The historic heart of the city.
Within the past year the downtown has lost two of the city’s oldest businesses and its prospects for new ventures to replace them appear few and far between.
So how are we going to turn this increasingly sinking ship around?
One obvious answer is to make the area more attractive to investors by reducing taxes in the district.
Many cities have gone this route to varying degrees.
A quick Internet search for “downtown tax decreases” brings up a plethora of news articles, bylaws from cities and towns across North America and all the commentary that goes with it.
The top Google search along these lines directs readers to the website of the British Columbia city of Campbell River and its Downtown Improvement Area and Special Improvement Area.
Anyone who builds in either of these two areas gets a tax break.
That community offers 100 per cent property tax exemption for five years on any new multi-family residential, commercial or mixed-use building in the Downtown Improvement area.
In the Special Improvement Area, they offer the same deal, but add any new expansion of an existing building to the options.
Any building that meets certain environmentally friendly standards is given a further exemption, bringing their total to seven years of not having to pay municipal property taxes.
This is just one example from one city of what Summerside could be doing to attract new construction and business downtown.
For clarity, Summerside already has some programs working to improve the downtown and has done a lot to improve the look and feel of the area, but it has not been enough. Without some kind of serious incentive to get business to move here, they’re fighting an uphill battle.