Businesses looking to move downtown now have one less roadblock.
At the regular Monday council meeting, St. John’s councillors unanimously decided to waive development fees for developers in the downtown – bringing the area in line with eight other intensification zones across the city where the fees are already waived.
Mayor Danny Breen said it could save a developer $50,000 to $60,000 on a four- to five-story building.
“It is an encouragement to move ahead with developments that might be just waiting to see,” he said.
“But it’s also a sign that we want to redevelop the downtown – we want to reinvigorate it and revitalize it.”
Breen said he doesn’t think the waiver will “make the final decision on a lot of projects,” but rather is one barrier council identified as something it could remove.
It’s the latest effort by the city to encourage economic activity in the struggling downtown. In February, council waived parking requirements for downtown developers because they were also thought to be prohibitive.
"...we want to redevelop the downtown – we want to reinvigorate it and revitalize it.” — Mayor Danny Breen
According to the development fee decision note in council’s agenda, “some developers and property owners have stated that the costs of redevelopment downtown are high, and that as a result downtown may continue to decline relative to other areas.”
Breen said the downtown “obviously is challenged right now” and council is “hopeful” the fee waiver will help spur development. He said the area has underutilized properties on which council would like to encourage development.
What constitutes “downtown” when waiving development fees is indicated on a map included in the agenda – it begins at LeMarchant Road by Springdale Street, goes as far westward as Patrick Street, as far eastward as Temperance Street and all the way down to the harbourfront.
The decision means development fees are now only charged in areas outside the downtown and outside the eight intensification areas previously identified by the city in its Envision municipal plan. Those are areas where it was deemed population density could be higher, and where redevelopment is encouraged by the city instead of developers building farther on the outskirts, contributing to urban sprawl. It includes areas around Torbay Road, LeMarchant Road, Ropewalk Lane, Topsail Road, Elizabeth Avenue and Macdonald Drive, among others.
Development fees go into an open-space reserve fund that the city uses to build parks, trails and other recreational open spaces where new developments occur.