South Riel developments halted
Developers selling land earmarked for shopping centres
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 13, 2012 06:00 am
Plans for a regional retail centre in Riel Business Park are up in the air after development company Hopewell Developments Corp. abandoned plans for the site.
The company is selling its 54.1-hectare plot of land in south Riel, which was originally earmarked for a large shopping centre.
“There was obviously an economic downturn and that slowed the development cycle down a bit,” said Ron Holowatuk, chief operating officer.
He said he expects a sale to be finalized by the end of the month, but declined to divulge the purchaser of the land. He said he could not comment on future plans.
Hopewell purchased the land – which is bordered by Ray Gibbon Drive to the west, Sir Winston Churchill Avenue to the east, LeClair Way to the north and 137th Avenue to the south – at the end of 2007.
The company planned to create an environmentally friendly shopping centre with ample vehicle parking as well as easy access for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The South Riel Area Structure Plan was approved in 2007, with the company bringing forward a redistricting application to council in June 2009. This application was met with little public opposition and was accepted unanimously by council.
In 2009, Holowatuk told the Gazette that the company was already in discussions with possible tenants, adding construction would start as soon as possible based on demand.
“The possibilities are obviously led by economics (and) capital constrains in this day and age," he said.
Ivan Mayer, president of the Riel Business Park Association and chair of the St. Albert Economic Development Advisory Committee, said a major hurdle for St. Albert developers is the inflated price tag — land often costs $800,000 plus per acre.
“We can’t compete with anything in Edmonton at that price,” he said. “In today’s day and age, there’s stuff in Edmonton you can buy for $600,000 an acre.”
He said the “cheap” land in the greater Edmonton region is being snapped up quickly and said he expects St. Albert’s pricing to be competitive in a year or two.
Riel development paused
Directly north of Hopewell’s land and immediately south of The Enjoy Centre sits another vacant plot, which is also earmarked for a commercial development.
Royal West Property Corp. President Bruno Mastroprimiano told the Gazette in May that the company intended to move forward with the 5.5-hectare retail development, although no progress has been made to date.
“We are still working in that direction, but so far we haven’t succeeded yet to pin down an end-user to the project,” he said, adding the lack of residential development in the vicinity makes it harder to develop.
Mayer said the population growth in St. Albert has been rather stagnant the last few years, which poses a problem for developers.
According to the municipal census, population increased by 1.4 per cent between 2010 and 2012, preceded by a 2.8 per cent increase between 2008 and 2010.
“Our residential growth has really come to a slow halt, really, compared to everyone around us,” Mayer said, adding if housing growth was seven or eight per cent, developers would be flocking to the area.
Mastroprimiano said his goal is still to find a major end-user to build for and lease to, but added if this is not accomplished, the land could be put up for sale.
Commercial real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield lists the property for sale at a cost of $925,000 per acre, totaling more than $12.5 million for the entire plot. Royal West purchased the land back in 2010 for roughly $4.5 million.
Royal West’s sister company, Abbey Lane Homes, recently applied for a building permit to construct a 172-unit rental complex west of North Ridge. The complex will consist of three buildings with condo-style units and is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.How do you feel about the progress on the land in South Riel?