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Big-box market tapped, developer says

Landrex seeks city council permission to reduce commercial space in Erin Ridge North

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 03, 2014 06:00 am

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The second phase of Erin Ridge North could end up with fewer commercial development and more residential uses than previously expected.

Landrex Developers came before St. Albert city council Monday evening to apply for changes to its development in the north of the city.

Jim Sheasgreen, vice president of operations for Landrex, said the proposed changes are based on a private market analysis that found there are few big-box retailers left to attract to St. Albert.

The company is concerned about slow absorption rates for a larger commercial site and is looking to cater to local demand with smaller stores, he said.

“The studies that we’ve done … recommended a little less land for those services,” he said.

The second phase of Erin Ridge North is expected to include both commercial and multi-family residential development. The site consists of 149.55 hectares (369.5 acres) located north of Costco.

Landrex now wants to reduce the amount of commercial land from 25 hectares (61.77 acres) to 11.4 hectares (28.17 acres). The remaining land would be designated residential.

Coun. Tim Osborne raised concerns about the financial impact that fewer commercial sites would have.

“There is a long-term impact I assume in terms of property taxes,” he said. “So what does it mean for the residents of St. Albert?”

Administration said no comparison had been made to show the financial difference. But on average, the cost to the city for servicing a residential development would be higher, said city manager Patrick Draper.

He added that administration supports the proposal over concerns by the developer that there was no sufficient demand for more commercial development.

Coun. Cathy Heron asked executive director of economic development Guy Boston whether he agrees with Landrex’s market analysis, seeing that the city undertook its own retail market analysis in 2013.

That study found that there is a need for more retail services in the city, she said.

“Can we work with Landrex to fill this commercial space rather than going to residential?” she asked.

Boston replied that, in this specific case, his team agrees with the developer.

He added that reducing the amount of commercial land used doesn’t mean the square footage of potential retail is lost.

“Because you can always go up,” he said.

In its report to council, administration added that a smaller commercial area may bring more immediate returns in tax dollars to the city than a large site. The remaining commercial area will be concentrated in a corridor along St. Albert Trail, administration noted.

In total, the company applied for seven bylaw changes Monday night, including road closures to a portion of Neil Ross Road and a portion of road located south of Everitt Drive North. Landrex also hopes to rezone and change the boundaries on some of its land.

Council passed first reading on the proposed changes. A final decision was adjourned until June 23, following a review by the Capital Region Board.


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