During Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, senior planner Karl Grenke presented a report to council from the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) Evaluation Committee. Ummed Singh, the owner of the property at 21 Main Street East, formerly KFC, applied for funding under Program 2 of the Community Improvement Plan. The funding would be used to bring the restaurant up to code, and then open it as Sagar Indian Cuisine. The CIP Committee recommended that council provide a $25 000 interest-free loan, of which 50% would be repayable.
Councillor McGuire inquired about the 50% repayable loan, as this is different to how CIP funds have been disbursed in the past. “Why do $12,500 as a grant and $12,500 as a loan, instead of $20,000 as a grant and $5000 as a loan?” Senior Planner Grenke pointed out that in the Program 2 funding, applications in excess of $20,000 are typically split 50/50 as grants and loans.
“That doesn’t make sense,” McGuire stated, “There’s a great need at this property to rehabilitate the space. This business asked for $40,000. The only real cost to the municipality is the money we’d lose in interest. I think the right thing tonight would be to give them the full ask, and let’s see the space functional again.”
Senior Planner Grenke noted that it was well within council’s purview to provide more than the CIP Committee recommended.
Councillor Wendy Alford agreed with Councillor McGuire, and pointed out that this application was the first this year for a first-come, first-served program. “The $25,000 could be increased and still leave the [CIP] program some money. I’m in for the full ask.”
Councillor Lorraine Allen was also in enthusiastic support. “I approve this. I like the idea of taking that old building – it’s been a number of things; it’s in bad shape. This small amount of money will really help this business get a new life. He’s a successful restaurateur in another community; I think this is good news for Market St.”
Councillor McKenna and Mayor Pankow also spoke up in support of Sagar Indian Cuisine’s application.
Councillor Niki Dwyer Dwyer offered a quick summary of the Community Improvement Plan. “The program was designed for two reasons: 1, to create a more aesthetically pleasing downtown, which is the purpose of the building facade program.
The second component is to take rundown properties and give the property owners an incentive to do something with them.
To me, this application takes the space and turns it into an eat-in dining experience that comes with the added benefit of taking a vacant, uninhabitable building, turning it into something that is really really usable. I don’t see any reason before us that we would not support the full ask at $40,000.”
Councillor Jay Brennan supported the committee’s original recommendation of a $25,000 loan.