Steel beams will be added to the others that are holding together the 150-year old Customs House building as crews work inside on seismic upgrades.  Once construction is complete, the former federal building will be transformed into luxury condominiums, the most expensive ever sold in Victoria.

Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday said the building will likely sell.

“They are already marketing the condos. You can find them on MLS.  It’s been approved for at least a year.  And so, I think it’s well on its way.  And it probably doesn’t need this tax incentive.”

Loveday’s objection is that Customs House buyers won’t pay any property taxes for ten years. “My concern is that everyday taxpayers in the City of Victoria will be subsidizing a tax holiday for some of the wealthiest residents who will be purchasing these multi-million dollar condos.”

Stan Sipos is the president of Cielo Properties and developer of Customs House.  He said a decade-long tax break for future buyers will pay off in the long run.

“Wonderful architecture, wonderful detail, windows, punched windows. It stands for what Victoria is in old town,” Sipos said.

According to BC Assessment, the current value of the building is $13.8 million, with the city collecting $100,000 annually in property taxes. But after a decade-long tax exemption, the new building could be valued at more than $100 million, with owners paying potentially millions more.

But another city councillor, Geoff Young, supports the tax break.  “The assessed value of the property is increasing very markedly. And so after the ten years, the taxes we’ll be getting, will be much greater,” Young said.

On Thursday night, council approved the tax break, in a vote of 7-2.  Loveday voted against it.

“It wouldn’t sit well with many people that their tax dollars will go to subsidize some of the most wealthy residents,” Sipos said.

“But the reality is that to do the job that is required, and to provide the product that this block deserves, you know, it costs money.”

Mary Griffin