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City needs future business district to overcome financial challenges: mayor

Mayor Cathy Heron delivered her annual State of the City address on Wednesday, saying 2023 has been a year of council “laying the groundwork” for St. Albert's future.

One of the city's biggest challenges in the future will be overcoming financial strain, which is why the city needs to build the Lakeview Business District, said St. Albert's mayor during her annual address to the city. 

St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron delivered her annual State of the City address on Wednesday, saying 2023 has been a year of council “laying the groundwork" for the city, but in the future money might be an issue. 

“Council's halfway through our term, we have laid the foundations for achieving the goals of our strategic plan, and I'm pretty darn proud of what we've achieved,” Heron told the crowd of about 100 who gathered at the Enjoy Centre, including the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver, Mayor of Edmonton Amarjeet Sohi, Mayor of Morinville Simon Boersma, many city staff members, and members of the business community. 

Heron, however, did point to some outstanding issues and problems that council and the city will need to overcome in order achieve the goals set out in council's strategic plan, which was created shortly after the last municipal election in 2021.

“One of the biggest future issues for us to overcome is money,” Heron said. “Which is why our next step is really the Lakeview Business District.

The Lakeview Business District is a future industrial and commercial area that the city has planned for the currently undeveloped area west of Ray Gibbon Drive and north of Meadowview Drive.

The future business park, which will cover roughly 60 acres of land, has been cited by councillors and the mayor many times in recent years as the city's best opportunity to generate more property tax revenue from the non-residential sector. In 2023, 79 per cent of the city's tax levy was collected from residential property, with the remaining 21 per cent being collected from businesses.

Council has previously stated that the city's goal is to have a 70-30 tax split in the years to come.

Before any new businesses are built in the area the city will need to service the land, and while an exact estimate for the cost of servicing hasn't been produced yet, Heron has previously told the Gazette she thought it could be as much as $80 million.

“This much-needed third business park has been long in the making... and it's time to make this a reality,” Heron said on Wednesday. 

“Now we are determined to complete the on-site servicing so we can welcome new businesses in St. Albert to offset tax revenues, and create over 7,000 jobs.”

Another ongoing project that Heron cited in her address as an example of council laying the groundwork for St. Albert's future was the potential development of Millennium Park downtown.

Millennium Park, which refers to the green space separating St. Albert Place and Lion's Park, is another project that has been in development long before this council began their term in 2021.

Council has gone back and forth on Millennium Park this year, including a rather informal workshop council held to make changes to the park's design, which had been approved in 2018.

Although no motions were presented during the workshop, council later passed a motion put forward by Coun. Sheena Hughes this past May that directed city administration to create three new designs for the park at different price points. 

Those three designs have yet to be presented to council.

“(A) big catalyst for downtown of course will be Millennium Park,” Heron said during her address. “This park will represent our personality, who we are as a city.”

“We want to create space that is truly for all residents ... to take advantage of our beautiful river while protecting it at the same time.”

Heron also highlighted some major projects in the city that were either finished or just getting started this year, such as the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive, continued widening and realignment of St. Albert Trail, the groundbreaking of Landrex's East Village residential development in Erin Ridge, and the re-start of Niche Development's net-zero multi-residential building where the Blind Pig pub once stood.

“These ambitious infrastructure projects will enhance connectivity, making it easier for our residents and our businesses to navigate our beautiful city,” Heron said.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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