How can we encourage more development downtown?

As Mayor, I’d focus on the policy and bylaw reviews so that we can encourage development. Developing downtown is important for many reasons. Residential in-fill (i.e. building in areas that are already developed) costs tax-payers less vs building in new areas (new areas cost tax payers more because we need to maintain more roads, water, sewer, etc.) and more people living downtown means more people shopping downtown and creates more vibrancy.

The City recently commissioned a report that focused on “Creating Vibrancy in Downtown Yellowknife: 50/50 Site and Beyond.” It provided some high level suggestions that should be pursued by the next Council, and that I will work with them to advance.

  • A policy review to determine what barriers may exist to downtown residential development, and whether incentives could help spur development. Examples include:
    1. Revising our Development Incentive bylaw to increase uptake.
      1. We currently have development incentives for the downtown, but the uptake has been low. We need to work with developers to identify why the incentive program isn’t working, and what changes would increase the uptake.
    2. Expediting the permitting process for downtown projects.
      1. To make development a priority downtown, we need to make the development permits a priority too so work can begin as quickly as possible.
    3. Relaxing the parking requirements for downtown developments.
      1. The one big concern that I hear from developers is that it costs a lot to build to meet Zoning Bylaw requirements when it comes to parking (sometimes they need one lot for the building and one lot for parking). Municipalities across North America are updating their zoning bylaws to reduce or remove parking requirements – regulations that were developed at a time when there was a heavy emphasis on making room for cars and not looking at alternative transportation.
  • Working to remove the caveats currently on the 50/50 lot (such as the current restriction on building a hotel on that lot, having to guarantee the mall can go through the property to access their loading/service doors, etc.) so that it’s more desirable for a future development.

To be clear, I don’t think that the City of Yellowknife should get into the development business. Through bylaws, policies and procedures, the City should work to make conditions right for the private sector to develop in the downtown.