Mayor's inner circle unanimously approves True North Square grant

Mayor Brian Bowman's inner circle has approved a new package of property-tax rebates to help True North Development build a public plaza at True North Square.

The province, however, has yet to sign on.

Council's executive policy committee voted Wednesday to approve tax-increment financing of up to $3.2 million to complete the plaza now under construction south of Graham Avenue as part of the first phase of True North Square, a $400-million development. There was no discussion before the unanimous vote.

"This is an important development for downtown. We're seeing record investments in our downtown that we haven't seen in my lifetime," Bowman said after the meeting. "The skyline of downtown is changing before my eyes, so it's something I'm pleased to see move forward."

The rebates would flow back to True North from the city after the first phase of the project is complete in June 2018. They also require council approval next week as well as a complementary provincial agreement to provide $5.7-million worth of tax rebates of their own.

The Pallister government said earlier this is week it is considering the request. 

The city and province have already approved $25 million worth of tax-increment financing to improve infrastructure in downtown Winnipeg's sports, hospitality and entertainment district, an 11-block area that encompasses the MTS Centre and the RBC Convention Centre.

To date, $7.4 million of these tax rebates have paid for streetscaping in the area. Another $17.6 million will pay for intersection improvements around True North Square as well as skywalks connecting the development to Cityplace mall and the RBC Convention Centre.

Tax-increment financing allows new property tax revenue that results from improvements to a piece of land — in this case, a former surface parking lot — to either be returned to the property owner or spent on public amenities in the immediate area. 

True North says the property where phase one of True North Square is under construction generated about $100,000 a year in property taxes as a surface parking lot. Once it's fully developed, it will generate about $4.2 million a year in property taxes, the developer says.