News / Winnipeg

Downtown SkyCity tower close to securing $6.5 million in taxpayer dollars

Nine months ago the developer, Fortress, wasn't fond of the funding mechanism proposed. That has since changed.

SkyCity Centre towers over downtown in this rendering.

Supplied

SkyCity Centre towers over downtown in this rendering.

A towering downtown infill property that will one day be Winnipeg’s tallest building is close to securing $6.5 million in support from the city after changing its tune on retroactive financing.

John Kiernan, the city’s director of planning, property and development, said Fortress, the developer of the 44-storey Graham Avenue project dubbed "SkyCity Centre," didn’t originally agree with the way the city planned to help finance the project.

Rather than offering money up front, as would be done through a downtown-housing incentive program previously on the table, the city offered a grant that would pay out $6.5 million over 10 years by way of property taxes.

“They had some concerns originally about nine months ago related to (funding) falling outside and not being a lump-sum,” Kiernan said.

He explained he doesn’t know “what changed their mind,” but the net result is the city will be honouring its commitment “once they’re built, occupied, and on our tax roll.”

That is, if council approves the grant.

On Wednesday council’s executive policy committee voted 6-1 in favour of approving doing so, with Coun. Brian Mayes being the lone, symbolic dissenter.

Mayes explained he’s not concerned with this particular development, but is concerned with messaging from the planning department that he said seems to “demonize the suburbs.”

“’We should only have infill and typically there aren’t costs associated,’ is the wording they’ve come forward with,” he said. “My point is no, there is a cost and a benefit. We need to be clear about the costs associated when we’re forgoing tax revenue, let’s be clear with the public about that.”

Kiernan said the grant is really meant “to close the gap on land in the downtown, is what it boils down to.”

Mayor Brian Bowman said that’s something the city wants to do, in order to “have more residents in downtown,” adding that the financing being offered “has demonstrated it can act as an incentive to have development that wouldn’t otherwise occur.”

He plans to meet with Mayes to “better understand his concerns” before the grant goes to council as a whole for final approval. 

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