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Development proposed for South Riel

Landowner eyes commercial-industrial warehouses near Henday and Ray Gibbon

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Saturday, Feb 15, 2014 06:00 am

SOUTH RIEL – Commercial-industrial warehouses could begin to pop up in South Riel if a proposed plan gets city approval.
SOUTH RIEL – Commercial-industrial warehouses could begin to pop up in South Riel if a proposed plan gets city approval.
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Development could start happening in South Riel as early as this year, pending approval of a proposed area structure plan amendment.

The landowner is looking to change the layout of the site in South Riel but not its uses. The site is expected to one day be home to light-industrial warehouses as well as some neighbourhood-commercial development. The company proposed its plans at a public meeting Tuesday.

“You have a very diversified base here of population that requires food and consumer goods,” said Paul Derksen, land and development consultant with GWL Realty, which is managing the development.

“And you also have the oilsands which require all kinds of little widgets and gadgets.”

The British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC) is one of Canada's largest institutional investors, owning and developing real estate across North America. The Victoria-based company bought the land in South Riel in 2012 and hired GWL Realty Advisors as its development manager.

For now, the company has named the development Henday Common but that could change.

The site is located in the southwest of St. Albert, south of LeClair Way and east of Riel Drive. It extends south to the municipal border between St. Albert and Edmonton, and east to the CN railway line.

The site consists of 54 hectares, with 1.4 million square feet proposed for industrial warehouse use, and 280,000 square feet proposed for commercial use.

Derksen said the warehouses would be designed to high standards, with lots of glass, high ceilings and double row parking. They would provide everything from storage for retailers, as well as office and manufacturing space for smaller companies, he said.

“They are made for a very long term. The mindset here is 50 years,” he said. “They are designed to be flexible for all types of tenants, single tenant or multiple tenant.”

Potential retail going into the commercial part of the site could include restaurants, soup-and-sandwich type shops, a small grocer, as well as destination shopping, such as specialized clothing or hardware stores, he said.

BcIMC is also contemplating using part of its commercial site for a hotel, he added.

“But there needs to be a lot more analysis done in that regard and we are really not sure about that right now,” he said. “However, (bcIMC) does own a large hotel chain.”

Derksen said demand for storage and warehouse space in the northwest of Edmonton is high. Most of the land in the area has already sold.

The site is a prime location for this type of development because of its connection to Anthony Henday Drive and Ray Gibbon Drive, which will eventually become a bypass for Highway 2, he said.

“It’s got an awesome location for that and your throughways have been a game changer for how development occurs (in the area),” he said.

Pending approval of the ASP amendment, GWL hopes to start development on the site as soon as possible, he said. That could be as early as this spring. A complete buildout would be expected by 2020.

Proposed ASP amendment

The proposed area structure plan amendment would change the location and size of commercial and industrial development, but GWL is not proposing any changes to the land use, said Sarah Herring, a consultant hired for the project.

The land is currently designated for commercial and light industrial uses plus a stormwater management facility.

Herring said GWL is looking to locate commercial development in the northern portion of the land, adjacent to LeClair Way, rather than the western portion, as originally proposed.

GWL also plans to reduce the amount of the commercial development from 28 hectares to seven hectares.

The light industrial portion would move from the eastern portion of the site to the south, she said. That site would increase from 19 hectares to 36 hectares.

“That will actually put it even further from the existing and planned residential uses,” said Herring. “So there will be more of a buffer between the industrial and the residential.”

A stormwater pond in the northwestern corner of the site has been found to not provide sufficient drainage. The proposed ASP amendment suggests increasing that site from 1.6 hectares to 4.2 hectares.

Site assessments

Herring said a number of assessments have been performed on the land.

A natural area assessment identified a rare moss species growing on the site, she said. In January, GWL collected 20 samples of the moss from different locations on the site and sent them for identification. Herring said the company was cleared to transplant the moss to a similar habitat.

“The moss has been preserved and it will be growing somewhere nearby in the spring,” she said.

The site is also considered a wetland area, she said. But neither the provincial government nor the city has claimed it under the provincial lands act or as an environmental reserve. The wetland will be removed once development occurs on the land.

GWL will provide compensation to either the Big Lake Environmental Support Society (BLESS) or Ducks Unlimited to reclaim three acres of wetland somewhere else for every acre that’s removed from the Henday site, she said.

Other assessments of the site showed that, following development, noise and vibration levels are expected to be below the maximum threshold and there are no historical sites on the land, she said. There is one abandoned well site located on the land but it has been reclaimed.


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