District to push commercial over condos

Old incentives for residential buildings expire Dec. 31

More than $100 million in condo construction has taken place in Maple Ridge in the last three years.

Maple Ridge’s downtown condo-building incentive plan worked so well it kickstarted $100 million of construction in the downtown and cost the district only $1 million.

Now, Maple Ridge wants to see if the same trick will bring in more business and industry.

Council voted on a one-year extension of the commercial part of the town centre investment incentive program Tuesday, in an attempt to get every possible penny focused on commercial growth.

Under the three-year residential incentive plan, which expires Dec. 31, developers who built in the downtown got priority processing for their applications, fee reductions, tax exemptions and cash grants to put up their projects.

With that now ending, the commercial incentives only will be extended another year, ending in December 2014 – providing council approved the plan on Tuesday.

Under the new incentives, the minimum construction value of a commercial renovation project must be $100,000, in order to qualify for a property tax exemption.

As well, new commercial construction must be at least worth a million dollars, before it can get a three-year holiday on property taxes and a further three years if it’s a green building.

In addition, building permit fees can be discounted by 50 per cent, while grants are available for projects built in brownfield sites.

Speedier processing and relaxed parking requirements could also be part of the attractions.

According to staff, the previous downtown residential incentive program cost Maple Ridge about a million dollars in upfront incentives.

In addition, the district also gave up just under $3 million in tax and fee revenues.

However, once the tax exemptions expire, usually after three years, money would start flowing into district coffers from the new projects, which includes 7,500 sq. metres of new commercial space.

In all, more than 800 new condos have been built in the last three years in the downtown.

But extending the incentives to the commercial sector for another year will cost the district less, says Laura Benson, manager of sustainability and corporate planning.

Council was to vote on whether to give third reading to the new package of incentives at its Tuesday meeting.

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