St. Albert is on the verge of an unprecedented growth spurt that will include the opening in December of a major new discount retail outlet at the city’s north end, a business meeting heard Tuesday.
“We are embarking on the single largest industrial development in the history of St. Albert,” Guy Boston, executive director of economic development told the city’s annual economic development breakfast.
Boston did not reveal the name of the retail outlet, but hinted at its size by saying it will be a store where shoppers can purchase “ketchup by the case.”
The Gazette has identified the new retailer as Costco.
Boston said the retailer would move into a new shopping centre in Erin Ridge with 477,000 square feet of leasable commercial space. There are also plans for a liquor store and a supermarket to move into the same complex.
Boston said this and other pending developments indicate the city is about to explode with growth.
“We moved a lot of administration around and created an environment to make this happen.”
Also on the economic horizon are the new Target store opening in May and a new development on the 140 acres of land in South Riel recently bought by GWL Realty Advisors, designated for commercial and industrial development.
Boston added that Apex was looking to attract a national brand hotel to build on the casino lands in South Campbell.
He also spoke about the possibility for a solar panel farm in the employment lands on the city’s western edge
On the residential side, Boston noted plans by Melcor to build 2500 housing units on the lands west of Walmart in 2014.
Landrex Developers is working on 1500 low-medium and high-density units in Erin Ridge North, including a large number of multi-family rental units.
Another 700 high-density, apartment-type units are planned in South Riel. Boston said the development across from the Enjoy Centre would be the first of its kind in the city.
Boston said the city continues to work on initiatives to attract more homebuilders into the community and to prove that land prices were comparable to those in the Edmonton region.
Mayor Nolan Crouse – who declared Feb. 26 as Economic Development Day – said a recent survey of residents in the community showed that they cared most about economic and community development.
That included everything from residential to industrial and commercial developments, though a major focus of the breakfast was the expansion of commercial and industrial lands.
Crouse said the city was ready to aid existing and coming business owners, developers and landowners in buying, selling and developing lands in the city.
“If you are not a willing landowner, maybe you become a willing seller,” he said.
“If you don’t know who to sell to, let us know. If you have farmland that you would like to see developed … talk to us. We will work with you.”
A special focus at the meeting was set on the Smart City Centre of Excellence master plan.
City manager Patrick Draper said the city was planning to develop a strategy on how residents and businesses can use technology to enhance services in the community, and attract new investment.
Current smart services include checking bus arrivals and location on Google maps, using a video detection system to control signals at traffic intersections, and using technology to monitor a building’s energy use.
Future plans may include the creation of a city database to create apps that help people navigate the city and report problems such as graffiti or potholes.
Development of the plan is expected to finish by 2015.
The breakfast saw a number of guests from the local and regional business community, as well as politicians, developers, realtors and landowners.
David Dalen, vice president for GWL Realty Advisors, said St. Albert had great plans and sounded very supportive of development.
He added that GWL was still studying the type and mix of development they wanted to bring to the city.
“We’re going to try and expedite that process and some of the lands are designated industrial now so (they are) subject to getting some servicing plans put in place,” he said.
“We hope we can start some building construction next year.”
Lynn Carolei, chair of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, said the breakfast showed that the city was moving in the right direction.
“Now that the plan is on the table we can deal with the bits and pieces that make it happen,” she said.
“I am really excited about the collaboration and I agree with Guy Boston and city council that we as a community have to collaborate to make this vision happen.”
Other initiatives mentioned by Boston include a cost-sharing program, allowing businesses to receive 50 per cent back on investments toward signs, bike racks, street furniture and beautification connected to the city’s botanical arts program.
The city is also looking to increase the percentage of small lots allowed in neighbourhoods.
Come 2014, a new signature event will be held to celebrate the culinary aspects of the city. And St. Albert was looking to partner with NABI to engage 50 of its students in an entrepreneur youth program.
Boston also announced that Bruce Randall, manager of business development, would retire this year.