Alberta town selling downtown lots for $1

The town of Mundare, about 85 kilometres east of Edmonton, is selling land for a loonie to attract new businesses.
Mayor Mike Saric hopes the offer of cheap property and low taxes will entice new businesses to the town. (CBC)

The town of Mundare is selling downtown lots for a loonie to attract new businesses.

"This is absolutely legit," said Mundare mayor Mike Saric.

"We'll be happy to give anyone the lot for free -- well, actually a dollar — if they're willing to come to our community and set up their business."

And that’s not all.

Anyone who takes advantage of the deal will also be given sizable tax incentives, including no property tax during construction and reduced rates for the first three years their business is in operation.

But there is a catch.

Anyone who takes advantage of the deal must start construction on their business within one year of purchasing the lot.

And that business has to meets the town’s needs, said Saric.

He says the town is hoping to add more professional services to its downtown core — a doctor’s office, lawyer’s office or accountant’s office would be particularly welcome.

"We’re hoping that we will be able to attract more families by providing the types of services and the type of community that young families want to be in."

Following the demolition of the town’s wooden grain elevator earlier in the week, this incentive is a sure sign that the once primarily agricultural economy of Mundare is changing.

"As farms get larger and larger and as the population in the community shrinks, it basically takes a lot of the business away from the municipalities where the stores and other services are," said Saric.

He hopes that offering the business lots for cheap will encourage growth in the local community, and adds that town residents are in support of the strategy — even if it means they are almost giving the land away for a dollar.

"Essentially, the land has been sitting vacant for some time. Vacant land does nothing for the community and nothing for our tax base. We would sooner give the land away and see something developed on the land than have it just sit empty."

Mundare resident Jean Claude Croisetiere is in full agreement.

"The town's going to make money with the taxes over years," he said. "And us? We're going to use that facility. It's perfect."

Seven of the twelve available lots have already been purchased. Saric says he is optimistic the remaining lots will go fast.

His only worry is that Mundare’s novel approach may soon have many copycats.

"I'm a little bit concerned that it becomes too popular in every small town, and we start to give away our competitive advantage," said Saric.

"I think we have a very bright future ahead of us."