Representatives from Fort McKay First Nation, St. Albert city council and local developer Landrex ceremoniously broke ground on a long-planned multi-use development in Erin Ridge last week.
The development, which Landrex estimates to be worth more than $170 million once complete, will bring three new apartment buildings with 183 individual units and about 100,000 square feet of commercial space to St. Albert's north end within five years.
The project was announced in March 2022, and is now called the East Village.
For Fort McKay First Nation and newly elected Chief Raymond Powder, the development project and partnership with Landrex is a continuation of the Nation's efforts to diversify its investments and methods of generating revenue.
“This is an added opportunity for us to continue growing,” Powder said during a speech at the June 22 groundbreaking ceremony. “One of the greatest things about this is we want to have more diversification within our Nation, and this is an opportunity where we want to run off with that.”
“It's quite unique, and for me it's not only an opportunity, but when you start diversifying now you're looking beyond what's available around you, and this is one of those opportunities where we are looking way beyond.”
Fort McKay First Nation is located nearly 500 kilometres north of St. Albert.
The St. Albert development isn't the first time the Nation and Landrex have partnered together, as the two are also working on a multi-family residential project in Beaumont, which was announced in 2021.
The Nation's director of strategic portfolio investment, Stuart Randell, told the Gazette the project in Beaumont was initially planned to include a town-home complex with over 40 units for rent and an apartment building with more than 80 units. However, since the Bank of Canada has been steadily increasing interest rates, the development team decided to sell the town homes, rather than rent them.
Randell said construction started on the town homes a few months ago, and the Nation is hoping to have listings available by late summer.
With ground officially broken in St. Albert, Landrex president Sophie Baron says construction will begin soon, with the first phase of work limited to one complete apartment building. Phase 1 is expected to take 18 months.
“We have worked so hard to get here,” Baron said. “It's the beginning of a journey together to create something that I hope everyone can embrace and enjoy.”
Another aspect of the Erin Ridge development is a park space, which Baron said will be open to the general public as well as tenants.
“Some of the key highlights of the development are residential apartments, commercial (space to host) offices, restaurants, coffee shops, grocery, retail, a central Park, rooftop patios — I could sell this site for days,” said Baron.
Coun. Shelley Biermanski, serving as deputy mayor, said the project was exactly what council's strategic plan hopes to support in terms of economic growth in St. Albert.
“One of the council's key priorities is economic prosperity for our community. We want to help create a positive environment for investment, development and business so that people can see St. Albert as an attractive place not only visually but a place to do business,” Biermanski said. “Projects like the East Village create jobs, expand our commercial footprint, and provide amenities to our growing population which we see (expect to reach) 100,000 in a few years.”
"The size of the development in (terms of) infrastructure and what it's contributing to the community is really, really wonderful,” she said.
Morinville-St. Albert MLA and Service Alberta Minister Dale Nally said the development will bring some relief to St. Albert's “tight” rental market.
“There's people that are struggling with housing and the fact that you chose this community to build this project is very encouraging, and it's going to bring some housing relief to many residents of this area,” Nally said.