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Councillors advocate for vacant storefront tax

Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino has a stern message to commercial property investors, “Either do something or sell it.”

He is frustrated at the number of empty buildings in the downtown area, including the former Boom Boom Room, a business he used to run. Many of the buildings have been vacant for years.

He called the number of the listing agents to no avail. The voice on the other line was a recording.

“Nobody cares. They don't answer my calls. They don't answer the City of Windsor's call [because] we're the ones who did the work out here, who had to put up the plywood here.”

The cost is an expense to the city and, Agostino feels, empty buildings are a detriment to the area.

“This business not being in operation is hurting all the businesses around here,” Agostino said pointing at the former Boom Boom Room.

The same can be said in other parts of the downtown and the city. Agostino asked council a question last week hoping for options from administration to clean up the blight.

Fellow Coun. Angelo Marignani followed up this week after taking notice of the blemishes during open streets.

“Not only I noticed it but everyone else noticed it,” Maragnani said. “What's happened is we have to revitalize these areas.”

Chris MacLeod said selling the downtown can be a challenge, “It's really difficult to attract new investment downtown when some of our main streets, our main corridors, have boarded up buildings.”

Marignani and Agostino would like to see the creation of a vacant storefront tax and they aren't the only ones.

“We are lobbying right now to the province to have also a vacant storefront tax,” said Ottawa Coun. Stephanie Plante. “On Banks Street here which is the street that leads up to Parliament, I would say about every third storefront is blank.”

Plante said the city of Ottawa has collected over $10 million from the residential vacant tax and feels there is no reason to leave a building vacant.

“You can put art in there. You can have non-governmental organizations have a free space. You can have it as a drop in centre,” said Plante.

Plante feels occupying space can help reduce crime and encourage vibrancy in an area, “To leave it vacant to me, completly incomprehensible especially given the times we're living in now.”

Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Andrew Dowie said he would be open to discussing options with Agostino and Maragnani and present their ideas at the provincial level. Top Stories

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