Councillors approved the plan for the 417 Industrial Park and Embrun Business Park at a December 7 meeting. Businesses in the two districts would be able to apply for grants or tax rebates to improve their properties as part of the project, which was intended to improve aesthetics and amenities in the areas and boost economic growth.
Improvements encouraged under the plan included the addition of new facades, signs, and parking lots. Renovations, landscaping and accessibility plans were also eligible for the funding, which could include up to 50 percent rebates on building permits for the projects.
Under the plan, blank, boxlike designs would be discouraged, while “visual interest” in buildings, landscaping, vegetation and pedestrian pathways on the street fronts would be encouraged. Grants to introduce solar technology, greenrooms and environmental waste water systems to boost sustainability would be available as well.
A similar program for the commercial corridors and community cores of the villages of Russell and Embrun was approved in late 2015, which led to renovations and improvements of existing businesses. A report presented to the council said numerous businesses in the 417 Industrial Park and Embrun Business Park had since requested a similar program for their areas.
The council approved $50,000 in grant incentive programs for the project in its 2021 budget, providing enough funding to assist two to three businesses per year. The funding amount was based on a range of factors, including the level of interest in the plan, limitations on available capital funds, and spending on similar projects in other nearby communities.
But the report said the allocation was a recommended minimum to ensure the program’s goals were met. Funding levels in future years could be re-evaluated.
“As the private and public sectors increase their investment in the community, with the assistance of the CIP, the overall benefits will be significant,” the report said. “It is not possible to accurately predict the number and scale of applications in advance of implementing the plan.”
The first applications for grants under the community improvement plan are expected to be evaluated in the new year.