Brookside project starts to take off

by Martin Cash 

Sewer and water pipes are being installed and roads built in the first new, fully serviced industrial park constructed inside the Perimeter Highway in many years. 

And it helps that the 89-acre Brookside Industrial Park Phase III already has an anchor tenant conditionally locked up.

"We received several offers as soon as we started accepting offers," said Heidi Spletzer of Crystal Properties, the project developer. 

In fact, Crystal received a significant offer even before marketing began. The National Research Council (NRC) has been doing its due diligence on the property since last summer. The NRC expects to close the purchase of three lots totalling almost 10 acres before the end of the year. It is investing $60 million for its Factory of the Future development. 

The interest from the NRC convinced Crystal to invest several million dollars in up-front costs to do the sewer and water work, and the early marketing success is making it look like the right decision. 

Stephen Sherlock, associate vice-president with Cushman & Wakefield, the brokers for the project, said response to marketing has been solid, with a good portion of the project conditionally sold only two weeks into the property’s official sales campaign. 

A few weeks ago, a development agreement was finalized with the Rural Municipality of Rosser, where the property is located. (The project fronts onto the south side of CentrePort Canada Way, just west of Brookside Boulevard.) That agreement means the developer will pay up-front costs to extend the main waterline into the property with the understanding that the rural municipality will reimburse Crystal on a negotiated schedule. 

"The developer did not want to enter into any other agreements (with potential land buyers) until the development agreement with the RM of Rosser was finalized," Sherlock said. "The last few weeks, those who were waiting in the wings have moved fast and furious on the frontage lots (facing CentrePort Canada Way), and we’ve had some decent talks on some of the larger interior lots as well." 

Sherlock didn’t disclose the identity of the other conditional buyers other than the NRC, but he believes the level of pent-up demand is a result of the fact there has been a dearth of serviced industrial land in the city for a long time. 

"Properties (that may come on the market) are older stock — we are an older city. Some of them are functionally obsolete, with lower ceilings and smaller loading areas," Sherlock said. "With new land coming on-stream, it means there is the potential for more modern industrial inventory for Winnipeg and the surrounding area." 

The NRC development has likely helped trigger the development that has been in the planning stages for several years. A few years ago, Crystal developed the previous stage of the industrial park south of the one now under construction. Although land prices in phase II were a lot less than the $350,000-$395,000 per acre of phase III, that development was not serviced and property owners are responsible for taking care of their own sewer and water needs. 

The establishment of a servicing agreement with the RM of Rosser — with the RM presenting an even broader land-improvement proposal before the municipal board in the next few weeks — is encouraging for future developments on the CentrePort footprint. 

"With about 30 per cent conditionally sold after only two weeks on the market shows the fantastic demand that exists," CentrePort CEO Diane Gray said. "It is an incredible absorption rate for a new project coming to market." 

While Gray agrees the NRC commitment allowed Crystal to give the green light and negotiate the development agreement with Rosser, she believes the existence of the special planning area at CentrePort will help expedite the eventual developments that will take place. That special planning-area designation means there is a dedicated planner in the department of municipal affairs responsible for CentrePort. 

Under the auspices of the Inland Port Special Planning Area Act — passed a few years ago and operated by an authority chaired by the RM of Rosser with representation from the City of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Airports Authority and CentrePort — it has responsibility for the land-use planning and zoning within CentrePort. 

"The role of the dedicated planner is not just to support the authority, but to work with developers and companies coming in, so they have the benefit of someone working with them to actually make the development happen," Gray said. "So, it means if they hit a roadblock they will know who to call." 

The authority makes recommendations to the minister of municipal affairs with a mind to how the development affects the greater economic prosperity of the province and how individual projects fit within that. "It is able to ensure that the bigger picture continues to be front and centre," Gray said.

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