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City looking for ways to fill empty commercial buildings and property

An undated image of downtown Windsor. (CTV News file photo) An undated image of downtown Windsor. (CTV News file photo)
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Downtown BIA chair Chris MacLeod believes the recipe for success in the city’s core is an easy one.

“I keep harping on this, that more people, more businesses. More businesses, more people,” he told CTV News.

The city announced the Vacant Home Tax Program Tuesday to encourage residential owners to either sell or rent their properties.

Should the city introduce a similar program for commercial properties? Janice Guthrie, chief financial officer and treasurer for the city, says maybe in the future.

“At this point in time, there is not a program that we're allowed to tap into,” she said during Q&A’s Tuesday. “We are working with the ministry, so, hopefully there may be some action.”

There is a new burden for commercial business owners. The city's Strengthen the Core plan will force all businesses, whether they are occupied or not, to have heat and electricity.

Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino feels this could get the attention of owners.

“Let's do something so that we're not paying these bills, we're not being forced to pay these bills. So that's kind of what we put in there. What we inserted there as an immediate step forward to try and get things changed in downtown,” Agostino said.

The city plans to revisit the Community Improvement Plan (CIP), and Agostino would like to tackle the issue from two different angles.

“Is there any ways we can approach it with more of a carrot than with a stick? So these are the things we're having discussions about right now,” said Agostino.

MacLeod said there are examples in the downtown core of investors who have purchased a piece of property, applied for the CIP, brought the property up to standard and then put it back on the market for much more than they originally paid for.

“You have landowners that, you know, they have the wherewithal to buy the property and whether it has a tenant in it or not doesn't maybe matter to them, though it really does matter to us as a downtown,” said MacLeod.

As chair of the Downtown BIA, MacLeod would like his office to have a seat at the table when the CIP is updated.

“One of the things that I think we'll look to suggest is maybe like a concierge program where you have somebody at the city that when you come in with a development idea, you meet with them, they basically hold your hand and they walk you through the process,” he said.

  

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