FROM THE FILES OF THE BRANDON SUN
The Brandon Chamber of Commerce could receive up to $50,000 in property tax relief after becoming the first grant recipient through the city’s updated Municipal Heritage Incentive Program.
The City of Brandon’s planning and buildings department, as well as the municipal heritage advisory committee, made the announcement on Tuesday, following the completion of needed repairs to the chamber’s downtown office building last year.
Coun. Shaun Cameron (University), who serves as co-chair of the heritage advisory committee, said the building is important from an urban design perspective and has historical implications for the city.
He said the hope is that other businesses and residents in Brandon will look to the program as a way to preserve other heritage sites in the city.
“I think it’s important to preserve heritage elements, like the Chamber of Commerce, in our city,” Cameron said. “It’s kind of indicative of our early history, so it’s exciting to see us preserve this history as opposed to allowing it to fall into a state of disrepair.”
The Municipal Heritage Incentive Program offers property tax exemptions for eligible projects in order to encourage property owners to preserve, restore and rehabilitate municipal heritage sites.
The program was updated in 2017 to provide greater tax exemptions for non-residential and mixed-use heritage sites, with upwards of 50 per cent of the costs for a project potentially covered by the program and spread out in the form of tax abatements over 10 years or less.
Residential sites can receive a graduated tax exemption starting at 100 per cent in the first year and dropping by 10 per cent each year after.
Other sites may receive a full exemption for every eligible year. The minimum eligible project cost is set at $5,000.
The Brandon Chamber of Commerce building, known historically as the Merchants Bank Building, was built in 1907 by one of the city’s first financial institutions and is one of 23 municipal heritage sites in the city.
The building received municipal heritage site designation last year and is also a provincial heritage site.
Work to restore the brick and stone facade on the building’s north and east sides, along with waterproofing and building protection, began in August 2018 and finished in December.
Senior city planner Andrew Mok said there can be added costs to maintain heritage sites, from acquiring unique building materials to the use of specialized labour.
Based on the municipal property taxes that have been paid for the site in the last few years, Mok said the city estimates that the chamber could be eligible for up to $50,000 in property tax relief.
He said the city has been in touch with the owners of other municipal heritage sites, as well.
“They have expressed interest and we look forward to continue working with them to make their projects happen as well.”
In a prepared statement issued through the city, Brandon Chamber of Commerce general manager Carolyn Cancade said they are pleased to take a leadership role in preserving and restoring their historic downtown building.
“We are extremely fortunate to have called this building home over the last 30 years, and thanks in part to the Municipal Heritage Incentive Program assisting with some much-needed restoration, our building will continue to stand as an iconic piece of Brandon’s history for many years to come.”
Cameron added that a project such as this would not have been possible without a community partner like the chamber.
“We’re really fortunate that they were willing to work with the city on that and were able to see certain benefits, both to the building and to our historical record in the city,” he said.
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