One of the most important debates we are going to have as a community this year will centre on condominium development proposals and what these will mean for the future of our downtown skyline. To help get this community conversation going, I’d like your opinion on a proposal by Homestead Land Holdings that is expected to come forward at the February 18 Planning Committee meeting. The Homestead proposal is for two 20-story condo towers along Queen Street.
Here is a drawing of the first proposed condominium tower and office building complex that would be located on Queen Street between Ontario and King Streets (where there is currently a surface parking lot).
Here is a drawing of the second proposed condominium tower that would be located next to the Goodlife Fitness building at the corner of Queen and Wellington Streets (also currently a surface parking lot). Note that the four story red and white brick building, seen on the right hand side of the image below, is a proposed parking garage half of which would be for public parking use in the downtown.
To get an idea of what the developments might look like from the street, here is an image of the street view looking up Queen Street from the intersection of Queen and Ontario Streets.
And finally here is the street view looking down Queen Street towards the water.
I am very pleased to hear the old Empire Theatre property on Princess Street has been sold and that plans are in the works to build a brand new residential development on the site. In my view developments of this kind are critical to the future health and vitality of our downtown. If we have more people living downtown, we create the necessary base of customers for the shops, restaurants and other businesses in the downtown to be successful.
However, because space in the downtown area is limited, building higher buildings will allow more people living and supporting the downtown. But, how high is too high? I want to hear from you! How can we encourage the right kind of development that brings more people into the city core while still preserving the character of our beautiful downtown?
On Monday April 20, City Council will decide the future tax rate increases to our budgets for 2016 through 2018. The tax rate we choose will determine the extent and pace for introducing new city programs and services, and will guide potential changes in our current operations.
Right now the city invests an annual 1% tax increase for future road repairs and other important capital projects. If the cost of providing city programs and services rises by inflation (approx. 2% per year) and we want to maintain the 1% for future infrastructure projects, we would be looking at an annual tax increase of 3 – 3.5%. That 3 – 3.5% doesn’t include if we want to invest in new programs and services.
During the election I heard from countless seniors, families and small business owners who felt squeezed financially – that their incomes and pensions weren’t keeping pace with tax rate increases. As a city it’s critical that we live within our means while keeping our community affordable. But I want to hear from you on how we can find the right balance between investing in our programs and services and keeping taxes low.
To get the tax rate lower, we need to look at how we deliver our programs and services, explore new revenue streams, and be open to how we can reduce our costs to save money. The question is, like in any household budget, how do we get there?
At the March 24th council meeting, the city will be presented with a proposal to revitalize and relocate the outer train station from its current location Montreal Street to the southern edge of Doug Fluhrer Park.