Morinville business community in for a boost

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Downtown Morinville is getting a makeover one building at a time, with the newest proposed development speaking to the heart of the town.

The two-storey development, dubbed the Morinville Marketplace and Professional Centre, will house 7,500 square feet of leasable office and commercial space and features off-street parking at the rear of the building, as well as a front courtyard.

Developer Rick Dozois owns three properties on the corner of 100 Avenue and 100 Street.

He has been approached about selling the lots in the past, but was hesitant about piecing out the section.

“I think it was in the best interest in development and the best return on investment to keep the lots as a package or sell it as a package,” he said.

Located at the heart of downtown and on the busiest intersection, it’s a “pretty special piece in Morinville,” he said.

The properties are zoned mixed-use. Dozois is targeting the professional sector – doctors, dentists, lawyers – with plans for some retail, such as a coffee shop on the main floor.

Currently, the building is in the design phase. Artist renderings have been made available on the developer’s website, as well as Facebook to gauge the level of interest in the centre.

Dozois already has one interested tenant, who is looking to lease up to 2,500 square feet. He is waiting to have 60 to 70 per cent occupancy before beginning construction.

“I think the building will add to what’s already starting. I think it’s been a long time coming.”

A resident of 15 years, Dozois has seen residential growth increase since the mid-2000s, while commercial investment lagged behind until recently.

“It’s time for the commercial to take a bit of foothold and bring the community up in terms of the goods and services that you would expect in any other community, which I think we’re lacking a little bit,” said Dozois.

Last year, the town saw $9.5 million in commercial and industrial-related permits.

This significant shift in commercial and industrial investment is in part due to the release of the Alberta Transportation’s Functional Planning Study for Highway 642 (100 Avenue) completed in 2013, said Shaun Goodeve, economic development co-ordinator for Morinville.

Prior to the release of the document all developments along the town’s main street had to be rubber stamped by the province, which owns the highway.

There was also potential for road widening, which made businesses reluctant to invest in new development or beautification projects, said Goodeve.

“(The document) gives them that confidence. They know what the expectations are. I think that because we’ve had those planning documents in place it has led to and triggered these new commercial, retail and mixed-use developments,” he said about the recent developments such as the new Remax building located on the same intersection as the proposed development.

He expects this trend will continue as Morinville markets its rapidly growing population – the town is on the cusp of reaching a population of 10,000 – and lower than average non-residential property tax rate.

Simon Boersma, chair of the Morinville Chamber of Commerce, was impressed with the look and size of the building. He hopes that buildings such as this one will spur more development along the main street.

“There’s a lot of stuff happening in Morinville,” said Boersma. “I’m quite impressed with the investors coming to our community to look at it and dig in.”

The building currently housing Pro Level Looks is known as the Hepler Home. Built in the 1920s, the house was owned by Joseph Charles Hepler, a notary public and involved and well-liked citizen.

The historical Society is currently looking into options on how to best preserve the heritage building, including reclaiming the bricks for use in the new building and moving the home to a different location if it is deemed structurally sound.

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Michelle Ferguson