Councillor calls for more downtown incentives in wake of bank closure announcement
Castlegar city councillor and downtown business owner Florio Vassilakakis is calling for more tax-based incentives to draw businesses to the downtown core, after Kootenay Savings Credit Union announced, this week, plans to close its downtown branch.
“I understand there are business decisions to make, but it’s a disappointment to see another business abandoning the downtown core,” he said. “It creates a snowball effect – there are very few reasons to come downtown anymore.”
He pointed to the bank closure, the closure of the book store and the uncertain future of the post office as just the tip of an iceberg that he’s concerned might have the potential to sink future investment in the neighbourhood.
“We’re trying to do things like Sculpturewalk, and we’re taking one step forward, two steps back. The only thing we’ve really had to be excited about downtown in years has been the awesome new shoe store. Every business that leaves, it gets harder.”
He said there already are tax incentives to develop business in the city, but there need to be more specifically targeted for downtown – suggesting two years free of commercial tax as a starting place.
“You need a vibrant downtown core for the identity of a city – it’s where all the cultural things happen, like parades, Sculpturewalk and other events,” he said, adding Castlegar is lacking a bustling foot-traffic venue like Nelson’s Baker Street. “There’s so much business density and growth in the uptown, and nobody coming downtown. That maybe has to push council to incentivize downtown development and investment.”
He said he’s also hoping the Ponds at Millennium Park, although not strictly-speaking downtown, will help to anchor the area and draw new foot traffic and interest to the city’s core.