City Receives Top International Honours for Heritage Tax Incentive Program

On Monday, October 7, the City of Victoria was recognized with two awards from the International Downtown Association: a Pinnacle Award for its Heritage Tax Incentive Program and a Merit Award for its Heavenly Lights project in Chinatown. The awards were presented by the International Downtown Association (IDA) at an award ceremony in New York.

Victoria received top honours winning a Pinnacle Award for its Heritage Tax Incentive program; a tax exemption designed to offsets seismic upgrading costs for heritage buildings that convert empty or underused upper floors into residential units.

Available to owners of heritage-designated properties in the downtown core, the program provides an exemption of property taxes for up to 10 years to offset the costs of seismic upgrades when residential units are added to vacant or underused upper floors. The program improves the chances of historic buildings surviving an earthquake and benefits City revenues over the long term through increased property values.

Since the program's inception in 1998, 34 heritage buildings have been completely rehabilitated and seismically upgraded and 600 new residential units have been created downtown. A total of $225 million in new private funding has been invested into revitalizing Victoria's historic centre.

Examples of recent projects include the restoration of the derelict 1921 Hudson Bay building and several projects in Old Town including the 1884 Morley's Soda Water Factory, the Oriental Hotel, the Leiser building, and the Renaissance lofts building. Council has also extended the tax exemption to non-residential projects, such as the Rialto Hotel. View photos

The length of tax exemption is determined based on the cost of seismic upgrading and annual property tax. Applications for the tax emption are evaluated by City heritage planning staff and the Victoria Civic Heritage Trust, with final approval from City Council.

For more information, visit the Heritage Tax Incentive Program page

The City also received a Merit Award for its Heavenly Lights Project, a partnership with the Downtown Victoria Business Association and Chinatown community. The project includes the recent installation of colourful overhead decorations including two festive dragons, lanterns, and new lighting as part of an effort to further strengthen the presence of Victoria's Chinatown as a downtown focal point for residents and visitors. For more information and photos, visit the Heavenly Lights Project page

In 2010, the City of Victoria received a Pinnacle Award from the International Downtown Association for its permanent public urinal downtown. In 2012, the City received a Merit Award for its Downtown Core Area Plan. Pinnacle Awards are considered the highest level of achievement by the International Downtown Association.

The Washington D.C. based International Downtown Association is a champion for vital and livable urban centres and strives to inform, influence, and inspire downtown leaders and advocates.