By COLLIN GALLANT on April 27, 2023.
A pot of nearly $2.3 million in city construction incentives that was not awarded last year will up for grabs in 2023 while the city updates its economic development plan and leadership, a committee heard Tuesday.
The economic, land and development and strategic planning committee was told the funds – set aside to offset costs for inner city construction projects – will be reallocated in a new program on the authority of city manager Ann Mitchell.
City Hall is currently hiring a managing director of the Invest Medicine Hat office, and that person will evaluate and potentially overhaul it for 2024.
“The full amount of incentives haven’t been allocated and we’d like to reopen the program under existing rules – it’s a reallocation,” said Rochelle Pancoast, head of the strategic management office, who has been in charge of Invest matters for the past year.
“Our intention is to revisit the issue in the future, but we’re looking forward to bringing on economic development directed at (accomplishing) council priorities of infill redevelopment.”
The largest portion of the unspent funds is $1.5 million dedicated for residential unit development in the city’s centre, known as the “Waterfront District.”
About $650,000 of that will be moved to other areas for the coming year, as any unspent funds in 2023 would be folded into the budget for program in 2024, according to a briefing note. Applications could open May 15, said officials.
That operates on a “first come, first reserved” basis in which money is set aside for applicants who then must meet deadlines to complete the work, according to Mitchell.
She said the incoming manager of economic development services will be expected to update the program.
“It’s a first effort of the city toward the 2024 program,” said Mitchell. “We’ve chosen to leverage the existing program because it has been working, and as a cost-benefit perspective, we thought it would be important to get that out there again as soon as possible.
“The big shift in opportunities comes in 2024.”
Currently, the unallocated amount includes $190,000 in “waterfront vibrancy” grants aimed at improving downtown area commercial properties over both years. It would pay up to half the costs, to a maximum of $50,000, of private sector upgrades.
As well, $125,000 remains from the 2022 pot of money for infill projects.
A per-lot builder incentive offered $10,000 to any new home foundation completed in 2020 and 2021. It was billed as a stabilizing force during the height of the early pandemic, but was discontinued in late 2021.