‘These lots are a constant reminder that we need to do better. And we can. It's time to be creative and realise the full potential for the benefit of all Winnipeggers.' - Robert-Falcon Ouellette
Empty lots and downtown surface parking have become a barrier to growth and safety in our city. Too often, older buildings have been torn down to avoid needed repairs and to lower property tax bills, replaced by grass, gravel or asphalt.
These lots can sit stagnant and underdeveloped for years, costing the city much needed tax revenue, while creating economic dead zones and safety concerns for neighbours.
These lots provide an excellent redevelopment opportunity for the city that is efficient and affordable, since they are already close to, and supplied by, existing city services.
These lots are a constant reminder that we need to do better. And we can. It's time to be creative and realise the full potential for the benefit of all Winnipeggers.
As Mayor, to encourage redevelopment of these lots, I would work with council and the Assessment and Taxation department to implement new assessment guidelines, which would assess these lots as if buildings still stood there.
As an example, an estimated 20% of downtown real estate is devoted to surface parking, comprised of over 150 parking lots.(1)
Downtown surface parking lots are not a small presence and occupy prime locations, which could serve as a principal means to revitalize our downtown, the heart of Winnipeg.
In this case of downtown surface parking, lots would be assessed as if a 4-storey commercial building still stood there.
Downtown surface parking lots account for approximately 172 acres or 7,492,320 sq/ft.(2) If this number were to be assessed as a 4-storey building, that would represent 29,941,401.6sq/f of potential mixed-use space. This number multiplied by current construction costs for commercial units ($250sq/f) (3) at a mill rate of 13.468% times 65% (4), would represent approximately $65,528,254.47 in new revenue. (5)
Along with downtown surface parking lots, new assessment guidelines -- specific to each zoning type -- would be applied to empty residential, commercial and industrial lots throughout the city. This would only apply to lots where there used to be a building.
Not only will this encourage the redevelopment of these lots, which have sat stagnant and under-used for years, it will make speculators rethink before they tear down existing buildings, including our heritage buildings.
Full value of the new assessment guidelines would be phased in over a 4-year period. Upon implementation of the new assessment guidelines, properties with existing buildings that are torn down would be subject to the full value of the new assessment guidelines, unless they are in the process of being redeveloped or rezoned for an alternative use.
As well, this policy would work alongside the current Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) program.
It is important that the new revenue raised is not dropped into the City's big bucket of general tax revenue. Dollars raised will be earmarked and reinvested into important programs like redevelopment incentives that include green building practices, residential developments that include affordable housing, community-based safety initiatives as well as public transportation and active transportation.
(5) 859.2acres x 0.2= 171.84 acres (conversion to sq/f is 7,485,350.4). Assessed as a 4 storey building is 7,485,350.4 x 4 = 29,941,401.6sq/f of potential mixed use space. 29,941,401.6sq/f x $250sq/f (current construction costs for commercial units) = 7,485,350,400 x 13.468/1000 (mill rate) x 0.65 = $65,528,254.47