CentrePort gaining steam: Lots of infrastructure in place, more exciting 'above-ground stuff' coming

Diane Gray calls this the tipping point for CentrePort Canada.

The CEO of the massive, 20,000-acre inland-port development region says enough infrastructure -- both hard and soft -- is now in place for the impact of CentrePort to start to be felt in a broader sense.

Conceived as a decades-long development, it is designed to concentrate industrial development attracted by unique access to tri-modal transportation, including three Class I railways, a 24/7 global air-cargo airport and an international trucking hub.

Since it was formed, there have been significant upgrades that support the trade-corridor function of the inland port such as the construction of CentrePort Canada Way -- and plans for a Headingley bypass -- upgrades to the Perimeter Highway, flood-proofing Highway 75 to the Emerson border and the recently announced St. Norbert bypass.

"All this speaks to the broader vision our entire community is starting to share," Gray said. "One of a city of one million-plus in a defined period of time starting to take the necessary steps to plan the infrastructure that will support not just what we need today but what we will need 10 to 20 years from now."

At CentrePort itself, much of what has happened to date is not the headline-grabbing stuff.

A new water-treatment plant and water servicing from Headingley are now in place. A special planning authority, including all the landowners within the CentrePort footprint, is trying to come up with a uniform planning scheme for land that falls both within Winnipeg and the RM of Rosser.

A 600-acre residential section with Saskatchewan Avenue as its southern border is being developed and could be before city council for zoning in 2016.

Perhaps what's most exciting and what will soon become most obvious to the casual observer are the plans to start construction in 2016 on the 700-acre common-use rail facility (see sidebar).

And in the meantime, two business parks have sold out, and 42 businesses have built or are building on 220 acres of land.

Most recently, new tenants in CentrePort include the likes of FedEx Freight, with a 44-dock development on 13 acres. Cassidy Manufacturing and Canada Cartage have also recently completed new facilities.

And landowners and real estate marketing professionals believe momentum is building.

Two new industrial parks are in the process of being formed, adding close to 200 more acres of fully serviced industrial land.

Earlier this month, 400 acres of development proposals within CentrePort were before the Rosser council. Much of that is very preliminary, but it is an unprecedented volume.

"It tells you people are ready to take advantage of everything that has been built," Gray said.

Power and telecom utilities have committed to capital expenditure even before there are any customers, and landowners within CentrePort are coming together to fund an updated statutory plan that speaks to the market potential for development

"All the servicing, all the zoning, and all the planning issues are the foundation. It's not very sexy," said Riva Harrison, CentrePort's vice-president of marketing and communications. "Now we will start to see above-ground stuff that will be exciting for people."

Martin McGarry would dispute that characterization to some extent because he's already been part of plenty of bricks-and-mortar development.

The real estate executive with Cushman & Wakefield in Winnipeg has spearheaded the marketing of 160 acres of industrial land since 2006 in Brookside Industrial Park, located south of Inkster Boulevard and west off Brookside Boulevard.

The last 55 acres were sold off in a year-and-a-half.

Demand for development in that part of the city is strong, and he believes with the planning and marketing support from CentrePort -- as well as full city sewer and water servicing for the first time in the region -- will make phase III of Brookside Industrial Park an even hotter commodity.

"We're waiting with bated breath," McGarry said. "We've been out of the lot-sale business for two years, and we have been anxiously waiting for the new bylaw and servicing and all those right planning processes to be finalized."

Brookside Industrial Park's phase III subdivision application is in, and McGarry hopes to be able to officially start marketing the new lots this spring.

Another 80-acre park north of the almost sold-out Brookside Business Park, north of Inkster, is also in the process of a development plan.

"I've got a lot of years invested in CentrePort, so it's good to see everything coming together," he said. "Everything is lining up for 2016-17 to be pretty big news for CentrePort."

Read More (Winnipeg Free Press)