BANFF – Development activity in the tourist town was at its second highest level last year over the past decade.
The Town of Banff’s planning and development department issued 93 development permits in 2021 compared to 64 development permits in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. Last year’s cumulative construction value was estimated to be almost $71 million.
“If you were to go back 10 years, you’d find it was the second busiest year on record in the last decade,” said Darren Enns, the director of planning and development for the Town of Banff, during his department’s service review presentation on Wednesday (Jan. 12).
In 2020, 64 development permits were issued compared to 91 in 2019, 86 in 2018 and 107 in 2017.
Some of the bigger commercial projects last year included the redevelopment of the former Melissa’s restaurant building on Lynx Street and a change of use and façade renovations at Cascade Shops for an eating and drinking establishment on the second storey.
Enns said he believes the busy year for development last year signals a high level of confidence in economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our commercial sector is using this opportunity to reinvest in commercial properties. You see it in restaurants, you see it in hotels,” he said.
“It is a busy time for development in Banff and that’s a good thing for us that our commercial sector has such confidence in recovery. These significant numbers in development permits and building permits bode well for long-term prospects for our community economically.”
According to the draft 2022 operating budget, the planning and development department predicts $502,000 in revenues this year, which includes development and building permits. Revenue projections jump to $552,000 in 2023 and $573,000 in 2024.
The 93 development permits issued by the planning and development department in 2021 did not include so-called ancillary permits, such as sign permits, tree permits or sidewalk seating permits.
“That’s all excluded from this, so this is what you might consider true development permits,” said Enns.
Banff’s commercial development is federally legislated through a cap.
In 1998, the federal government capped commercial growth at an additional 350,000 square feet on top of what already existed amid concerns that rampant development was ecologically harming Banff National Park.
Since then, development rights have been handed out through a random lottery system. All commercial floor area had been allocated, and as predicted, most went to hotels, with the rest primarily being used for retail and restaurants.
With commercial build-out, Banff continues to see redevelopment and reinvestment.
Mayor Corrie DiManno said redevelopment in Banff is a blessing.
“It’s one of the only mechanisms we have with being capped at our commercial square footage,” she said.
“It enables us to compete with other places around the world in terms of greeting visitors and helps us stay relevant and modern.”
Mayor DiManno thanked the business community for continuing to show confidence by moving forward with redevelopment.
“They didn’t kibosh their plans, they stayed the course, and that to me, also speaks to the confidence they have in our recovery,” she said.
One the bigger commercial developments in recent years continues – Banff Caribou Properties' replacement of the demolished Swiss Village with a new 175-room hotel at the north-east end of Banff Avenue.
In 2019, Banff’s Municipal Planning Commission approved development of the new hotel at 600 Banff Ave. as the second phase of the company’s development plans. Earlier that year, a major facelift of the neighbouring Inns of Banff got the go-ahead.