Buildings are needed infrastructure, too

Interesting article in the G&M today about an historic building in Summerside, PEI that was redeveloped into a softwar

One of Summerside’s oldest structures, the former Holman’s department store, has been gutted and is being retrofitted to serve as a high-tech centre, aiming for businesses such as Carestream that need the wiring, open office concepts and improved heating and ventilation. The 100,000-square-foot building comprises two brick structures built for merchant R.T. Holman.

Summerside Regional Development bought the building in 2007 and began a three-year project to create a home for high-tech and IT tenants in particular. The budget for the purchase and renovation is $7.2-million. ACOA has put a million into the project.

I’m all for this type of project. High tech companies need office space and 95% of them don’t want to own it – they want to lease. Yet, in many cases, the ‘market’ hasn’t stepped up to develop the office space needed to support the attraction of industry. So why not do this type of deal? It is likely the SRD will charge a reasonable rent for the facility but even if they don’t – so what? If they attract 500-600 high tech workers paying upwards of $1-2 million or more in local property tax and $3-5 million per year in provincial income tax – isn’t the ROI there?

Back when there were old, heritage buildings in Moncton a developer picked them up for virtually nothing (Marvins, Eatons, etc.) – in many cases from the province for a buck. The developer redeveloped them and then landed the call centres brought in by the province.

Fast forward to today. If a community isn’t ‘lucky’ enough to have a bunch of old buildings laying around, what can be done?

My point is that buildings are needed infrastructure too.