Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City drops subsidies for downtown condo buyers

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City hall has given up on its controversial plan to provide $10,000 subsidies to new downtown condominium buyers, but Winnipeg's administration is now proposing to spend the funds on visual and street safety improvements in the Waterfront and Exchange neighbourhoods.

An administrative report to today's downtown development committee proposes taking the $2.43 million council authorized in July for the $10,000 condominium subsidy and using it for streetscaping and safety initiatives.

The condo subsidy program and the streetscaping program are both elements of the $7.8-million Exchange-Waterfront Neighbourhood Development Program, a comprehensive strategy designed to increase residential and retail density in the area.

Council overwhelmingly approved the plan in July but public backlash to the condo subsidy was immediate and harsh and several councillors quickly distanced themselves from the concept. Mayor Sam Katz said in December the subsidy would be killed.

The administration however, says the money still is needed to boost the area's population and achieve the larger plan's objectives. "With the elimination of the (condo incentive), it is critical to reallocate funds to program activities that will bring about residential and retail density," states the administrative report.

The administration wants CentreVenture, the city's downtown economic development agency, to be in charge of administering the $2.43 million for approved streetscaping projects.

Councillors on the committee appear divided on reallocating the funds to the downtown program: Some think the city should simply not spend the money, while others see the streetscaping project as essential.

Also on the downtown development committee agenda is an administrative proposal to give $40,000 to the Festival du Voyageur's River Trail program.

The $40,000 would come from the city's riverbank stabilization fund. An administrative report states the city has contributed $40,000 annually to the River Trail program. Funds provided by the city would be used for marketing purposes.

The Festival had requested $50,000 this year, explaining it lost its key commercial sponsor for the River Trail program this year. The trail is part of the Festival's 10-day programming, featuring warming huts, skating rinks, curling sheets and weekend programming.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2014 A5

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