Breakfast highlights economic growth
Event showcases major developments moving forward in St. Albert
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 06:00 am
St. Albert is bracing for major economic growth in the coming years.
Guy Boston, executive director of economic planning, shared news on major developments moving forward in 2014 with business owners and developers at the annual Economic Development Business Breakfast Tuesday morning.
“We are certainly on a lot of folks minds,” he said. “We’ve got a lot going on and a lot is going to happen.”
Developments across the city
St. Albert has a number of large developments in the works for 2014, some of them already moving out of the planning and into the construction phase, he said.
Moving ahead this year are developments in Campbell Business Park, most notably with a new office building in Campbell South by Hermanos Holdings.
In South Riel, Averton Homes is looking to build 700 units of housing, while Great West Life Realty Advisors will soon be bringing their plans for a mixed commercial and light industrial site before city council, he said.
The city is also looking forward to hearing about “ambitious plans” in the Elysian Fields, where Avenir wants to create a high-tech residential, commercial and industrial development, he said.
In the city’s north, Melcor Developments is moving forward on its Jensen Lakes development, he said. The site is located north and west of Walmart and will consist of both commercial and residential buildings.
“Melcor is getting ready to move on the Jensen Lakes and we are very pleased about that,” he said.
In Erin Ridge North, Landrex is now developing new residential buildings in the area, he said.
Projects now under construction in the city are Botanica, a housing development on the former Hole’s location at Boudreau Road, and the shopping complex at 525 St. Albert Trail.
East of the city, Genstar has also opened up the first show homes for Riverside, a housing development near the Sturgeon Valley Golf and Country Club.
In the downtown area, Amacon is anticipated to come forward with some new plans for the redevelopment of Grandin mall, he said. The site has previously been speculated to house a number of condominium towers one day.
“We are anticipating that there should be some action on the site this year,” he said.
The city is looking to free new development sites with the realignment of St. Anne Street as part of the downtown area redevelopment plan (DARP), he added. Other initiatives for bringing more shoppers to downtown businesses include testing out angular parking spaces by cutting four lanes down to two lanes in certain areas.
Development throughout the city will not only create a market for new businesses but also expansion room for existing ones, said Boston. In return, business development will create greater employment opportunities, he said.
That may come just in time as the city’s population is now expected to grow faster, from 60,000 to 100,000 residents in the next 10 to 15 years. With only 25 per cent of residents working in St. Albert, the expected population growth highlights the need for housing, said Mayor Nolan Crouse.
Crouse said Alberta continues to experience a strong, upward trend for residential sales. The need for multi-family and apartment units has increased and thanks to low vacancy rates new developments are moving in across the city, he said.
“We are a mirror of what is happening in the capital region,” he said. “The vacancy rate is down therefore people are starting to build.”
Crouse further used the breakfast to highlight city council’s willingness to bring new developments to St. Albert by making red tape easier to navigate and reviewing applications in a timely manner. The city also wants to aid existing business owners by encouraging residents to shop local, he said.
He added that St. Albert city council will continue to work with other municipalities through initiatives such as the regional export alliance, the capital region board and Sturgeon County.
Smart city initiative
The city also hopes to use technology and new innovations to enhance operations throughout St. Albert and attract new businesses, said city manager Patrick Draper.
Draper said the city is now working on further implementing its smart city initiative. Work on the concept started early in 2013 and initiatives range from using sensors to monitor traffic, to real-time transit notifications and a city crime map.
Future opportunities could include an online tax calculator and a centralized response system, which would allow people to have all their questions directed to one place, he said.
The city is also contemplating expanding its broadband Internet service, which has been identified as lacking in local business parks, he said.
“The amount of (optical) fibre that is available for businesses is really not where it should be,” he said, adding that a faster Internet connection could one day provide local businesses with the opportunity to sell their product online and “take on Amazon.”
As part of the initiative, the city is also proposing to form a smart city alliance with educational leaders and technological institutions in the region, said Draper. Potential partners could include the University of Alberta, the Northern Alberta Business Incubator (NABI) and Cisco Canada.
“The alliance would be formed to help promote the concepts of what is a smart city, to help bring people together, to allow networking and the sharing of information,” he said.
A meeting between the potential partners is expected in early 2014 and council will review the concept shortly, he said.