Mayor Naheed Nenshi told a gathering of Calgary’s business leaders that the problems caused by empty downtown office towers aren’t getting better — in fact they’re “much worse” — but that city council will “have their back” in the months to come.

Nenshi made the comments at a packed luncheon Thursday hosted by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce where he swung between two topics in particular: Calgary’s potential bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics and how the city will tackle the problem of stubbornly high downtown vacancies that are driving up property taxes for businesses outside the core.

“The issue of filling the downtown again is critical to the future success of our city,” he said.

“The challenge is that it’s not getting better. In fact, this year, because of a couple of sales in the downtown core of big skyscrapers at very low prices, it got much worse.”

Calgary has seen property values in the core slide from 32 per cent of the total non-residential assessment base in 2015 to just 19 per cent in 2019, forcing a shift in the tax load away from downtown office towers onto the shoulders of non-residential property owners in the suburbs and industrial parks.

For each of the past two years, the city has spent around $45 million to soften the blow by limiting the increase on non-residential property taxes to five per cent.

But executing the same program in 2019 will cost twice that amount: approximately $89 million.

“I don’t have it,” Nenshi said Thursday. “So it’s important for us to think about what the alternatives are.”

Why is the tax rebate program is so much harder to replicate this year? Nenshi: “Because it’s so much bigger, I don’t have a big enough bandaid” #yyc

— Meghan Potkins (@mpotkins) November 8, 2018

Nenshi told the …read more

Source:: Calgary Herald


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