Queens Park must change tax policy to save cultural hubs: Editorial

No one will thank the Wynne government if it doesn’t come up with a way to adjust the provincial tax policy to save downtown havens for artists, authors, and arts organizations from demolition. For that surely is the fate of the city’s creative hubs, such as 401 Richmond St., if Queen’s Park doesn’t act soon to change a system that evaluates commercial buildings for tax purposes based solely on the “highest and best use.” That means city-centred sanctuaries for artists, non-profits and anti-poverty organizations, for example, are taxed not on their current use but on what they would be worth if they were torn down and replaced with condos or office towers. That is not acceptable for many reasons. First, as urban scholars from Jane Jacobs to Richard Florida have argued, a city’s vitality depends in large part on the strength of its arts and culture sectors. Those must be protected.Article Continued BelowSecond, the tax policy does nothing to help preserve historic architecture and neighbourhoods. Instead, it encourages owners to tear down their properties and replace them with cookie-cutter highrises. Third, it discourages the growth of new neighbourhoods, such as the Distillery District, which can spring up around arts and heritage buildings. In other words, the tax policy could create a downtown core bereft of heritage, heart and soul.