Winnipeg city councillors will have a chance to vote this week on a far-reaching two-year strategy to boost economic activity and support businesses dealt a blow by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 Economic Response and Recovery Plan Framework includes ways to spur growth through waived fees for businesses, infrastructure spending, advocacy, and streamlined services.
“COVID-19 had a profound impact on the economy and our social constructs,” the public service writes in its report.
“Council has asked the Public Service to provide a framework for economic response and recovery. Response actions have already taken place, as outlined in this report, so the focus now turns to restart and recovery.”
The report specifically highlights ways to increase economic activity in the downtown area, which it says is responsible for 20 per cent of all commercial property tax, 12 per cent of the city’s business tax, and houses over 70 per cent of all office space.
And that’s the case, even though the downtown accounts for less than one per cent of the city’s physical footprint.
The report recommends the city put forward $30 million to support the Downtown Recovery Framework, which among other things proposes investments for renewing Broadway Boulevard, building up the Market Lands, and incentives to attract new businesses.
The report also suggests “Tax Increment Financing” incentives that, over a 25-year period, would raise $50-million for affordable housing across the city, with a minimum $20-million for affordable housing in the downtown.
More broadly, the report recommends continuing the temporary patio program and waiving permit fees for block parties and festivals.
It also suggests the city should get started on long-term infrastructure projects earlier than planned.
This could include developing parks, adding splash pads, and enhancing active transportation pathways.
The framework could also be a boon for community centres, with a recommendation to remove a 50 per cent matching funding requirement on revenue-generating projects.
The public service was first directed to begin working on the strategy in April 2021, and included input from each of the city’s community committees.
It will appear before the executive policy committee on Wednesday.