Oshawa Markets challenging City grant program criteria

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Published March 10, 2022 at 12:34 pm

The Oshawa Markets have challenged the criteria for a grant program aimed at improving the Simcoe Street South community.

Erik Tamm, who moved the Oshawa Markets to the largely vacant former Zellers Plaza at Simcoe St. S and First Avenue last year after nearly 50 years in Pickering, applied to the City for funding from the Simcoe Street Renaissance Community Improvement Area program, which funds 50 per cent of improvements made to building upgrades, assists with financing, as well as providing tax breaks on increased assessment because of the improvements.

Tamm, who owns the weekend-only Oshawa Markets with his family, reached out to Oshawa’s Economic Development department before signing their lease and was assured the City had their back.

A few months of work and nearly a half-million dollars in renovation investment later, The Oshawa Markets opened for business. But Tamm, who he self-described as an “extremely frustrated entrepreneur,” said the City has not been supportive at all. “Since we signed the lease, there has been absolutely zero support from the City. Actually, quite the opposite. Constant red tape, lack of help or accommodation on pretty much anything we ask, and a general disregard for anything business related. All we keep being told is no or handed a bill.”

The kicker for Tamm, though was the response from the City on their Simcoe Street South Renaissance Community Improvement Plan application. The letter he received from Economic Development Director Hailey Wright was not the answer he was looking for.

“Please do note that CIP programs will only fund work to be completed, not work already completed – so you may need to adjust based on that. Let me know if you have any questions.”

Tamm called the decision a “flaw in the process” and said it puts entrepreneurs who don’t have deep pockets at a disadvantage.

“Who is this program aimed at? Large developers who will only do work if given money? Developers who can sit on land for years until they decide to move forward with a program?”

“If we would have waited to start our project until we knew IF we received an undetermined amount of funding, we would have lost around one million dollars in rent. This application process makes it impossible for the people truly ready to invest in your city to get any aid from the City. We put our money where our mouths were – unlike many of the developments that get announced and don’t happen – and created something this City should be proud of.”

Tamm’s letter was before Oshawa’s Development Services Committee March 7 and he is asking the City to consider retroactive approval of the work and investment made to the facility between the last closing date of September 1st, 2021 and the current deadline of March 1st, 2022.

His itemized work completed in that period totals $485,632.44.

The grant program Tamm applied to has four sections and if he was eligible for all four the maximum he could receive would be $80,000, plus a rebate on his increased assessment.

“Basically the (criteria for the) program didn’t make sense. Tamm said. “So we challenged it.”

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