Winnipeg city councillors will decide this week whether or not to give the company behind a proposed redevelopment of Portage Place mall an extra three months to secure funding from the federal government.
In July, 2020, the city approved an economic incentives package — including a grant of incremental property taxes — for Starlight Investments on the condition that it secure financing within one year and begin construction within 24 months.
The deadline for financing is Friday and Starlight has since said it won’t be able to meet the target as it continues to reach a deal with the federal government.
Starlight declined to provide comment until after council votes on Thursday, but in a letter to Winnipeg’s CAO from June, the company’s VP of development and construction, Josh Kaufman, said the delay is due to various changes to the scope of the project, such as an increase in required affordable housing from 10 per cent to 30 per cent.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to this project and what we believe will be a significant transformation in Winnipeg’s downtown,” Kaufman wrote.
“While we have been working through various financing hurdles, we have commenced our work with the City of Winnipeg to establish a clear path to commence the project quickly once the negotiations are concluded.”
Because of the changes, the fed hasn’t yet begun a “fulsome” review of Starlight’s application, Kaufman wrote.
He goes on to say Starlight has been working with city departments and Manitoba Hydro to confirm design and development plans.
“Typically we would not engage in detailed design or development approval discussions at this stage but we are looking to maintain the momentum of this project while we finalize our partnership arrangements,” Kaufman writes.
Winnipeg’s Public Service says it supports the extension, even though it’s not “ideal.”
“The Public Service believes Starlight has articulated a sufficient reason for its request, and there is no discernible prejudice to the City’s interests in allowing Starlight more time to finalize the terms of its federal support,” the motion’s authors write.
They add that Starlight has previously indicated the project would be “jeopardized” if City support were withdrawn.
Plans for the $400 million redevelopment include two 20-storey towers of residential units and affordable housing, along with office and retail space, a glass skywalk, and a 24-hour community safe space.