The success of $1.7 million in tax breaks: U-Haul invests in blighted site

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Windsor Star/Craig Pearson

In a city dotted with abandoned factories U-Haul stands as a success story, thanks to hard work — and almost $1.7 million in tax breaks.

The international truck-rental company will transform the old Windsor Bumper/Wickes Manufacturing plant — which has sat abandoned and blighted for 25 years — into a 130,000-square-foot modern self-storage centre.

It comes with the help of the city, which will give U-Haul a $25,000 brownfield redevelopment grant.

Yet the real incentive is almost $1.7 million in tax breaks, including from the province for education tax, over the next 10 years. Since U-Haul will make $5.8-million in improvements to the site over six years, the property assessment will rise and thus so will taxes.

The city agreed to forego a decade of increased taxes to finally spark investment in a property that had attracted little more than weeds since Wickes closed in 1990. Ten years from now, though, increased taxes will kick in — assuming City Council approves the plan.

“It’s a win-win-win,” said Coun. Bill Marra, chair of the planning, heritage and economic development standing committee which on Monday recommended the tax break. “Cleaned-up property, 11 acres redeveloped, a huge corporate citizen investing in this community.”

Marra, who represents Ward 8 where the new U-Haul is located, hopes the story might encourage other companies to take advantage of the city’s redevelopment program, given there are 137 brownfield sites in the city.

“We should be proud of the policies we created,” Marra said. “This is a very good example of where the role of municipal government truly lies, when it comes to economic development and investment.

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