The city is mulling tax breaks for developers to build commercial office space, similar to incentives already offered for residential builds.
Ten-year tax holidays are currently provided as an incentive to build housing in North Kamloops and downtown.
It works by freezing for a decade the assessed property value prior to construction.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly said Kamloops is among limited communities in the province not providing such incentives for commercial builds and called it a “big void” in the city’s development strategy. He first raised the idea about a year ago during the election campaign.
“This is going to help get developments off the ground in the downtown and North Shore,” O’Reilly told KTW.
“If you take one look around downtown and North Shore, you see multiple residential buildings everywhere. That’s what you see because that’s what the tax exemption applies to. It doesn’t apply to new office buildings and, for new office [space], that means new jobs. That’s what this is about. It’s about getting jobs into our core areas.”
O’Reilly said the last major office building constructed downtown was Kelson Place, built more than two decades ago.
Asked about demand, he cited need for “high-quality” office space to attract out-of-town employers.
He noted a Rogers call centre that bypassed the River City, instead taking hundreds of jobs to Kelowna.
“We didn’t even make the short list,” O’Reilly said, calling it “heartbreaking.”
“They came to town and said, ‘You don’t even have anywhere for us to open, so we’re not going to come to Kamloops.’”
Furthermore, O’Reilly said when the revitalization tax exemption was previously altered to include hotels, the Sandman Signature hotel was built on Lorne Street.
“We know they work,” he said.
“Whatever we apply them to, they work, and we want to see new offices and jobs in our North Shore and downtown core, and that’s the only area that this applies to.”
The city formed an engagement group to look at the issue of revitalization tax exemptions.
In a memo to two city committees, it recommended the bylaw be revised this year to include provisions for commercial developments.
It is unclear when exactly those changes could come into effect.
Further changes to the bylaw will be explored in 2020.