St. Albert is at risk of losing some of its larger industrial businesses because it doesn’t have large parcels of land available, says a commercial realtor who’s active in the market.
“We’re aware of at least three significant players in St. Albert that need to do something, need to expand and we don’t see any alternatives [in St. Albert],” said Mike Keating of Colliers International.
“Their first choice would be to stay in St. Albert but it’s not going to happen.”
Keating also said he’s also working with a company that wants to build a 75,000-sq.-ft. distribution centre, likely in northwest Edmonton.
“They’ve indicated they like smaller communities that are adjacent to the big city,” he said. “If we had some land that we could deal on that scale, I know they would be very interested in St. Albert.”
St. Albert has some light industrial land available in the Campbell and Riel areas but these are small parcels that can’t accommodate large warehouse or distribution operations, he said.
Rob Iwaschuk, principal, with real estate firm Avison Young, thinks the undeveloped areas that lie between Edmonton and St. Albert will fill in before St. Albert becomes a major player in the industrial land game.
Most of the demand he sees is centred on Edmonton, Nisku-Leduc, Strathcona or Acheson in Parkland County.
“St. Albert always seems to be on the fringe,” Iwaschuk said, “But the interest has grown significantly and I think it’s going to become a competitor.”
He thinks St. Albert is poised to do well because it’s a community with many amenities, good labour supply and improving transportation systems, with Anthony Henday Drive scheduled for completion in 2011.
“The question is, will the demand stretch that far and will St. Albert be ready to take advantage of it?” he said.
The chamber of commerce wants to see the city bring on 700 acres of industrial land either in the northwest or elsewhere, said chair Mike Howes.
“We need several hundred acres so we can have some large parcels of land,” Howes said. “I don’t know who to blame but it pisses me off that we don’t have it.”
If the city did lose one or more large industrial players, it would erode the commercial tax base and put more pressure on residential taxes, he said.
Earlier this year city council decided against designating industrial parks in the northeast and northwest. Council has asked administration to come back with an amended recommendation, which could come in the fall, when a new council will be elected.
Coun. Lorie Garritty still thinks the northwest area is prime for industrial, given its proximity to Ray Gibbon Drive.
“I absolutely think it’s something that we need,” Garritty said. “Where is it going to go? I don’t know.”
To be “in the game,” St. Albert needs land that is zoned and serviced so businesses can be operating in six months, said business and tourism director Larry Horncastle, who said any new land is at least two years away from coming on stream.
“We’re not really in the game when it comes to the larger projects,” Horncastle said.
The city has to encourage landowners, developers and tenants that industrial in St. Albert is viable, he said.
“Big, big challenge.”