City council, during its Governance and Priorities Meeting on August 8, discussed on whether administration should bring forward an development incentive program to facilitate development in the downtown to be funded by the Downtown Improvement Reserve.

The discussion comes about following recent announcements made in regards to development downtown, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bellanca Building (being turned into a 72-unit apartment complex by Borealis Development) and the Northern Lites Motel (being updated into an accommodation for workers).

The Downtown Improvement Reserve was established in 2002 and holds a total of $877,000 in funds, with past funds going towards items such as the relocation of the Visitor Centre (a $125,000 endeavour), the Homelessness Employment Program, as well as bike racks and murals.

The Visitor Centre is “anticipated” to open the first week of September.

Furthermore, the Downtown Improvement Reserve is also used to fund a patio incentive program, something which was taken up on by the Hungry Wolf Restaurant recently.

“The purpose of this reserve is really about bringing more activity to the downtown,” said Kerry Thistle, Director of Economic Development and Strategy for the City of Yellowknife.

Regarding how the reserve funds may be used, key opportunities that were looked into included affordable housing, tourism development, reduce vacant land in the downtown, increasing the tax base, and increased community partnerships, among other items.

“We’re not going to do what Toronto does, but we may be able to look at what they’re doing and see if there’s any pieces that they have that we can transplant into the City of Yellowknife,” said Thistle “And that’s really what we’re looking at.”

As far as what next steps will be taken, City administration will focus on bringing forward a team of staff members from both Planning and Development, as well as Economic Development and Strategy, which is set for a September 2022 deadline.

Following this there will be a through review of incentives and “municipal best practices” which will be looked into between September and December of this year.

The incentive options will then be complied sometime in January of 2023 before a Community and Stakeholder Engagement (set for sometime between February to March of 2023).

Finally, a comprehensive plan will be provided to council for approval and implementation, this taking place in May of 2023.

“This is a reasonable expectation…”, said Charlsey White, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Yellowknife.

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