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Ontario Construction News staff writer
Orillia’s first Tax Increment Grant pilot project was unveiled Sept.21 at 4 King St., a formerly vacant space.
“McLean & Dickey have completely transformed this building from a formerly vacant thrift store to an office of more than 75 industry professionals as part of the city’s Downtown Tomorrow Tier 3 pilot project,” said Clarke. “This redevelopment showcases the potential that the Tier 3 Grant programs, currently in development and pending Council approval, can have on properties in our downtown core. By creating additional tax revenue, retaining jobs, creating new employment opportunities and bringing challenging sites on stream sooner, the Tier 3 program is all about spurring catalytic development.”
In 2019, McLean & Dickey, a locally owned independent insurance broker operating in Orillia since 1922, were approved for a Tax Increment Grant under the pilot project of the City’s Downtown Tomorrow Community Improvement Plan (DTCIP) Tier 3 grant programs to revitalize 4 King St. The grant was awarded for 70 per cent of the new taxes associated with redeveloping the space, valued at up to $250,000, over a five-year period.
“The Tier 3 Grant Programs are designed to incentivize larger projects, much like the McLean & Dickey redevelopment, which have construction values in the millions of dollars,” said Laura Thompson, Senior Manager of Business Development. “These larger projects often require significant funds early in the build and the subsequent tax increase as a result of these improvements can be a deterrent to making these large investments.”
In this case, a Tax Increment Grant was awarded for 70 per cent of the new taxes. This means that the property owner will still be required to pay 100 per cent of their existing taxes, and 30 per cent of the increase in taxes as a result of the improvement; however, the property owner will be granted back 70 per cent of the new taxes for the first five years after tax reassessment.
For the past 10 years, McLean & Dickey had been looking for a permanent home to accommodate their planned expansion. The five-year lease on their former office space at 174 West St. was up in 2021, which added to the pressure to find a suitable property.
“Finding the perfect space was really difficult,” said Danielle Tisi, President of McLean & Dickey. “It took a long time and we even considered looking outside of Orillia. But essentially, we wanted to stay in Orillia, and we really wanted to support the community that has been supporting us for almost 100 years. The City of Orillia was a great support for us. Their Downtown Tomorrow pilot grant allowed us to invest in improving the exterior of the building, improving the entire area and really showcasing the potential of this challenging site.”
The city is currently building a comprehensive plan for the Tier 3 Grant Programs. While the Tier 1 and 2 programs have been running since 2017, Tier 3 include a Tax Increment Grant, Brownfield Tax Assistance Grant, and Development Charge Grant. It is anticipated that the new programs will focus on chronically vacant sites, brownfields and/or otherwise challenging properties to ensure that the grants are used for properties that would not otherwise be revitalized in a timely fashion.
“There a number of properties in Orillia that we get asked about all the time, but these properties often have complexities that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to overcome,” said Thompson. “By incentivizing redevelopment of these properties through an approved Community Improvement Plan, we have the potential to see these sites brought into productivity so that they can accommodate new jobs, housing, and even public spaces.”