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Council moves on south end incentive plan

The community improvement plan for areas of south Oshawa is set to be divided into five sections, all south of Wentworth Street West. (Image courtesy of the City of Oshawa)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

A new plan for Oshawa’s south end aims to draw business and development by offering a series of incentives and grants for those choosing to locate or upgrade their businesses in the area.

The community improvement plan (CIP) for the Cedar/Wentworth Street Corridor took a step forward at Oshawa city council’s latest regular meeting on Nov. 27, and will now enter a public consultation process to offer residents a chance to provide their input on the locations and grants being offered.

The proposed plan comes with a $30,000 budget requirement and offers a trio of different grant and loan opportunities to potential developers and businesses, all of which aim to make development in the area more attractive.

In recent years, a surge in development has seen construction booming in the city’s north end. However, for the most part, development in Oshawa south of Highway 401, has been stagnant.

For Mayor John Henry, it’s important that as development continues, certain areas are not left behind.

“All of Oshawa is an exciting place and there’s changes happening everywhere,” he says. “As we develop our entire city into what it is now becoming and where it is going, it includes developing our entire city.”

The plan includes an increased assessment grant, which gives developers a reduction on their property taxes for a specified period of time. For example, recently approved for the redevelopment of the Genosha Hotel, the owners receive tax breaks for their first 10-years following the project’s completion, the discount offered on a sliding scale as the years progress.

Also offered under the proposed plan are facade and accessibility improvement grants, which can cover up to 50 per cent of the costs, or $10,000, for improving storefronts.

The final portion of the plan is known as an economic stimulus program and could be used to “assist property owners with the financing of leasehold improvements and associated enhancements for non-residential uses,” the staff report reads. Meaning, the program could provide dollars to specific types of businesses that are looking to develop in the south end, such as a clinic or a bank, something people have long-complained is lacking in the south end. There is no financial institution located south of Highway 401.

The proposed area is divided into five blocks, all located south of Wentworth Street. Blocks 1, 2, 3 and 5 are land already developed with commercial uses and would be eligible for the facade improvement grants and the economic stimulus package, while Area 4, includes vacant land at 501 Wentworth Street West and developers could be eligible for the increased assessment grant.

“The proposed incentives would provide an opportunity for the creation of new jobs, improved building facades and the establishment of key uses that would support the community,” the staff report reads.

Moving forward, as part of the motion approved by council, staff will work to set up a joint meeting of city committees in order to set a date for a public meeting.

The $30,000 required to fund the program has been referred to the 2018 budget.