New Brunswick

Moncton seeks more downtown development as it expands builder incentives

Moncton hopes to see more cranes downtown after expanding a program meant to give property developers a leg up in the core.

Changes offer rebates to builders of 'city changing projects' valued at more than $10M

Construction crews work on FiveFive Queen, a major residential and commercial development in downtown Moncton. It's one of five projects that successfully applied for the city's downtown development incentive program that provides grants once buildings are complete. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Moncton hopes to see more cranes downtown after expanding a program meant to give property developers a leg up in the area.

Council voted 8-1 to approve changes to the city's downtown development financial incentive program after hearing demands to expand it.

The change mainly expands the geographic boundaries and adds eligibility criteria for development projects in the new zone.

Developers of so-called "city changing projects" valued at $10 million or more could receive a rebate over three years in the new zone once the building is complete, according to a presentation to council. 

For instance, a project could get $665,400 over three years, more than the $119,390 in taxes the city would collect from the same property.

Kevin Silliker, Moncton's director of economic development, says the city knows of five projects in the works that could be eligible for the newly expanded program.

"Our objective is to try to bring as many of those projects over the finish line as possible," Silliker said, without discussing specifics of those projects. 

Kevin Silliker, the city's director of economic development, outlines changes to a program meant to entice downtown developers by offering grants for major projects. (Shane Magee/CBC)

He said over the long-term, helping them reach completion will boost city tax revenue. 

Moncton hopes the changes lead to increased density, reduced surface parking and development of vacant land.

Jim Dixon, president of the business group Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc., says he expects the changes will accelerate the pace of development in the city.

Jim Dixon, president of Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc., says the changes could help spur faster development in the city's core. (Shane Magee/CBC News)

"If you get the density, you get nicer restaurants and more restaurants and more attractions and so on," Dixon, an executive with Moncton-based developer Ashford Investments, told reporters after the vote.

"It makes for an overall lifestyle for everyone, even if you live in the suburbs since there's more things to go downtown to do," he said.

New Brunswick is not counting any population growth after 2016 in dividing up federal COVID-19 relief money on a per capita basis, even though Moncton has added 7,619 people since then, requiring multiple new residential developments like FiveFive Queen, shown under construction in 2018. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Five properties have qualified under the original program launched in 2015. They include 14-16 Church St., 803 Main St., 840 Main St., 171 Lutz St., and, once complete, 55 Queen St.

Mayor Dawn Arnold told reporters the city was consistently hearing from developers seeking to have the program's eligibility boundary expanded.

"We've received requests and demand from developers outside the zone," Silliker told council. "Developers are trying to influence the city to be as aggressive as possible and want the city to be as aggressive as possible in regards to this incentive program."

A map shows the various incentive program boundaries. The original program launched in 2015 only applied in the area shaded in bright yellow. The new zone includes the area bounded in red as well as shaded in dark yellow. (City of Moncton)

In the newly added zones, the project's value must exceed $10 million. Once complete and valued for property tax purposes at more than $10 million, the grants are provided for three years. That can be extended to five if the developer also must install new infrastructure such as parks, streets, or sidewalks as part of the project.

Coun. Paul Pellerin voted against the changes. He said when the Avenir Centre was approved by council, they were told its construction would spur new development and weren't told that would require an expanded incentive program. 

The city expected to see about $108 million in new development in the downtown by 2023 due to the opening of the downtown arena. So far, Silliker said the total stands around $50 million with several projects in various stages of development that could help reach the target. 

A rendering of a hotel proposed by Harper Building Inc. along Main Street in downtown Moncton. The developer pushed earlier this year for a tax break for the site, which is now part of the downtown development program boundaries. (Submitted)

One large project now included within the incentive boundaries is a proposed hotel at the corner of Main and Harper streets.

​Silliker​ said Monday the developer would be able to apply for the program.

The city should be ready to take applications for projects eligible for the expanded program starting in January, Silliker said. Successful applicants must still be approved by a council vote before the rebates are provided.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC. He can be reached at shane.magee@cbc.ca.

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