si-nb-mel-norton-meeting-220

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton says he would consider adding to the heritage grants to encourage construction. (CBC)

Saint John council may consider restoring heritage development funding in next year's budget, according to the mayor.

The city's heritage development board funding was cut by $110,000 last year — more than half its budget — as council struggled with the pension deficit and construction development was slowing.

Mayor Mel Norton says council is now looking for incentives to spur further development in heritage zones.

"We'd like to find quicker opportunities to incite developers," he said.

"Is bringing [the heritage budget] back up to prior levels, is that enough? Or is there a greater amount? Or is it something different; are there other ways that are non-monetary in nature?"

Norton was responding to a presentation by Uptown Saint John president Matt Alexander during Monday night's council meeting.

Alexander asked council to put money back into the heritage development grant program to help encourage development.

"We have a lot of heritage value in the uptown," he said.

Alexander wants council to provide "additional funding to the heritage development board and expand the heritage grant program to target projects with commercial components."

Heritage advocates have previously argued the grant program is cost-free, with the city's investment repaid in added property tax revenue.

Uptown Saint John is also looking for other ways to spur new construction, said Alexander.

There are 36 acres of available vacant property in the south end peninsula, he said. If homes or businesses were built on that land, it would add $4.8 million annually in additional tax revenue to city coffers, Alexander said.