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This article was published 25/6/2010 (3772 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A company owned by the Chipman family is eyeing land north of the MTS Centre as part of an ambitious plan to revitalize a barren stretch of Portage Avenue and convert 11 blocks of downtown Winnipeg into a sports and entertainment district.
Winnipeg's Longboat Development Corporation is working with downtown development agency CentreVenture to convert the former A&B Sound, the Mitchell-Copp Building, the former Wild Planet building and other parcels of land on a block bounded by Portage, Donald, Ellice and Hargrave into a mixed-use centre with a boutique hotel, parkade and possibly office and retail components.
The proposed development is part of a broader CentreVenture effort to have an area encompassing the MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Convention Centre, the Burton Cummings Theatre and the Metropolitan Theatre declared a "SHED," or sports, hospitality and entertainment district -- as well as a tax-increment financing zone, or TIF zone.
Aside from creating confusing acronyms, such a move would see any new tax dollars generated within this zone go toward funding more development in the immediate area for five to 10 years, which would accelerate the pace of redevelopment in what's now the most blighted portion of downtown.
"We're getting to the point where we can be proud of Portage Avenue again," said Mayor Sam Katz, whose executive policy committee plans to consider CentreVenture's proposal on June 30.
The downtown development agency has spent months assembling land for the proposed Longboat development north of Portage Avenue while trying to keep the concept under wraps for fear of inflating property values in the area.
Katz said a boutique hotel is part of the concept, but Longboat president Scott Stephanson said his company has only started contacting potential tenants and has no contracts in place.
"Everything is conceptual and everything is speculative, but we see the potential," Stephanson said. "We're trying to participate in the revitalization of downtown."
Longboat is pursuing the development regardless of whether the city and province declare the sports and entertainment district a TIF zone, which in this case would be structured to allow the tax dollars to flow back to the city to reinvest in the same neighbourhood -- not back to the developers themselves, said Jim Ludlow, chairman of CentreVenture's board.
"This makes a ton of sense. We have the opportunity to create some density," said Ludlow, who's also president and CEO of True North Sports & Entertainment, which owns the MTS Centre. "I happen to be in the heart of the zone, but this is an open opportunity to any developer in the district."
The creation of a TIF zone could ensure no more tax dollars are directed from existing city, provincial or federal budgets into revitalizing this corner of downtown, said Ross McGowan, CentreVenture's president and CEO.
"We're hoping the TIF zone changes the economic game and encourages more investment without having to ask for direct financial support," he said. "Give us the opportunities and we'll make it happen."
TIF zones enjoy broad support on city council, as any property-tax dollars reinvested in a proposed district are new in the sense they would not exist without the incentive zone in the first place.
The province, however, must consult with school boards before agreeing to create a TIF zone that would also see new education-tax revenue reinvested in a specific area, a spokesman for the Selinger government said.
The province did not comment about the possibility of also using TIF zones to bolster the financial position of the MTS Centre to ensure the long-term viability of an NHL team in Winnipeg.
Even though Longboat and True North are owned by the same family, there is no connection between what's planned for downtown Winnipeg and the NHL's potential return to the city, Stephanson and Ludlow said.
Creating more density in Winnipeg's massive downtown is the main goal of both CentreVenture's land-assembly effort and the creation of a sports and entertainment district, said McGowan, who has turned his attention to Portage Avenue after overseeing a flurry of developments on the Main Street strip.
"We have to create the critical mass," said a senior city official who cited the Longboat development as the cornerstone of the entire plan. "This would be the first crane in downtown Winnipeg with solely private support in more than a decade."
Acronyms to the rescue
To revitalize downtown Winnipeg, the city may place a TIF over a SHED. Here's what that actually means:
TIF zone: Tax-increment-financing zones are created to stimulate development in blighted areas. New developments within these zones generate new property and education taxes, which are funnelled into other improvements in the same area instead of flowing into general city or provincial revenues. No such zones currently exist in Winnipeg, even though a similar tax-incentive mechanism has been made available to residential projects anywhere in downtown Winnipeg.
SHED: A sports, hospitality and entertainment district. CentreVenture wants to create one out of an 11-block area of downtown Winnipeg and stimulate more development within the area, using a TIF.
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