With new truck dealership plans, Centreport's new development nearly sold out

by Martin Cash 

For some time now, planners, real estate professionals and officials from various industries have often repeated the line that there is a serious lack of serviced industrial land in the city.

That’s why people were very interested to see what would happen when Crystal Properties decided to invest millions of dollars to lay sewer and water and telecommunications lines to service an 89-acre parcel of land off Brookside Boulevard and charge south-end prices for northwest Winnipeg industrial land. 

It’s turned into a hit. 

Thursday, Freightliner announced a multimillion-dollar project to build a massive new truck dealership and service centre, doubling the size of its current Logan Avenue location. Edmonton-based Canada West Limited has bought 26 acres in the park, with plans to invest $60 million to build up to 350,000 square feet of high-end, multi-tenant industrial space in several phases. 

"We’re very happy that what we interpreted as the market demand really is the market demand," said Stephen Sherlock, vice-president of Cushman & Wakefield Winnipeg, which has been marketing Brookside Industrial Park Phase III. 

After only officially starting to sell the land in the spring, it is close to 90 per cent sold out. (Granted, it did get a boost when the National Research Council committed to the purchase of three lots totalling almost 10 acres late last year for its $60-million Factory of the Future development.)

Ken Talbot, president and owner of Freightliner Manitoba, said he communicated with the industrial park developer even before the signs went up.

"We seriously outgrew our old facility, which was designed to do about 25 per cent of what we are demanding of it today," he said. 

"We are selling more trucks than we possibly can out of this facility." 

Talbot said he could not get enough land to build a new dealership and moved fast when the land went on the market. 

Freightliner Manitoba, which sells between 800 and 1,000 units every year, will build a 78,000-square-foot showroom and 35-bay service centre on 13½ acres. 

Depending on the success of his plans, Dale Klein, president of Canada West Limited, could become the bellwether for further development at CentrePort. 

His plan is to build high-end, high-ceilinged, multi-tenant buildings with stylish fit and finish that are just not available in Winnipeg, especially in northwest Winnipeg. And he is building on spec.

The former Manitoban from the Dauphin area has been active across the country investing in and developing real estate through a couple of companies.

He has long subscribed to the narrative that there was a dearth of quality industrial land and buildings in Winnipeg. 

"I think the market in Winnipeg is starved for new product," he said. 

"When I travel to other markets and see industrial markets that are in other cities and compare to that to Winnipeg, in terms of quality of product, Winnipeg is way behind the rest of the country, in my opinion." 

His plan is to start construction on a 50,000-square-foot building very soon with only 10,000 square feet spoken for and get a second 52,000-square-foot building started very soon after. He believes he will be fully built up within 24 months. 

"I think it’s great for the city and about time," Klein said in an interview. 

"There’s lots of buildings in the industrial space in Winnipeg that are functionally obsolete and should be knocked down."

Diane Gray, president and CEO of CentrePort Canada Inc., could not be happier with the illustration of pent-up demand exhibited by the quick pace at which the land was sold.

"We are thrilled that Freightliner and Canada West have both found a home for their new facilities at CentrePort," Gray said. "They’re investing in the continued success of their individual businesses, but they will also contribute the overall growth of Manitoba’s economy. 

"That’s ultimately what CentrePort is all about." 

CentrePort was never going to magically allow Winnipeg to reclaim bragging rights as the distribution hub of the country, but it definitely can increase the concentration of development in its 20,000-acre footprint. 

Sherlock said CentrePort has been an excellent aid in marketing the land. 

"CentrePort has been an absolute pleasure to work with," Sherlock said. 

"We have the same end goals. They want to see CentrePort get developed. I want to sell the land. We both help each other the best we can. The best deals are the ones where everyone walks away happy, and that’s what’s going on here."

View story at the Winnipeg Free Press

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