Manitoba

'We're running out of land,' councillor warns, as scarce industrial plot goes up for sale

One of the last parcels of city-owned industrial land is up for sale, raising questions about what Winnipeg will do when it no longer has any land to entice factories and other large employers to set up shop in the Manitoba capital.

Offer of property near St. Boniface Industrial Park places spotlight on Winnipeg's dearth of employment lands

Council property chairman John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) says Winnipeg is running out of industrial land but opposes the idea of purchasing more. (CBC News/Cliff Simpson)

One of the last parcels of city-owned industrial land is up for sale, raising questions about what Winnipeg will do when it no longer has any land to entice factories and other large employers to set up shop in the Manitoba capital.

The city is looking for a private partner to purchase or develop 168 acres of unserviced industrial land near the Winnipeg Aqueduct, south of the St. Boniface Industrial Park and Water Business Park.

One of the last parcels of city-owned industrial land is up for sale, raising questions about what Winnipeg will do when it no longer has any land to entice factories and other large employers to set up shop in the Manitoba capital. 1:50

A decade ago, some of this land was slated for the ill-fated OlyWest pork-processing plant. More recently, the city planned to co-develop it into an industrial park as part of a joint venture with Terracon Developments, which later sued the city over the deal's collapse.

The city sold 16 acres of the land in 2015 to dairy processor Parmalat and is in the process of selling another 13 acres to another, as-yet-unnamed developer. The remaining 168 acres is up for grabs until Jan. 31, when an invitation for purchase or development proposals closes.

"We want to try to find a partner that could use their expertise and work with us," city council property chair John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said Monday in an interview, noting this is among the last parcels of industrial land the city owns within its borders.

"We have a little bit in St. Boniface, but that's about it," Orlikow said. "We're running out of land, in general."

Winnipeg is looking for someone to buy or develop 168 acres of industrial land south of the St. Boniface Industrial Park. It's one of the city's last parcels of vacant industrial land. (Cliff Simpson/CBC News)
Winnipeg's scarcity of industrial land — known as "employment lands" in official city jargon — has been pointed out in city planning documents for nearly a decade. 

Without industrial lands of its own, the city loses its leverage to entice factories and other large employers to set up shop within its borders, said Bob Antymniuk, senior director of sales and leasing for Capital Commercial Real Estate.

He said the city has an advantage over private industrial developers in that it can sell land at slightly below market rates or offer inducements that range from the construction of roads, sewers and water mains to help getting land rezoned.

"When the city owns and controls the land, they can offer incentives a private developer can't," said Antymniuk, an expert in industrial land.

He said it would be advantageous for the city to purchase vacant private land within its borders and convert it into industrial land.

"There's certainly land out there that they can buy," Antymniuk said. "I think the city ought to be doing stuff like that to help out attracting industry into Winnipeg, which is only good for all of us. We all want Winnipeg to do well."

Bob Antymniuk, senior director of sales and leasing at Capital Commercial Real Estate, says Winnipeg ought to purchase more vacant land to help induce industrial development. (Cliff Simpson/CBC News)
At city hall, however, there's little interest in buying and selling private land.

"I would like the market to do that themselves. If they think there's a market out there, they can buy their land," Orlikow said. "I don't think the city should be speculators and we should decide to buy and sell land on the public dime. It's too risky for us."

Orlikow said the city is waiting for development to take place at the industrial portion at CentrePort, the mixed-use lands alongside Richardson International Airport. 

Antymniuk raised concerns about that strategy.

"If the city is relying on CentrePort, then perhaps they've lost out," he said, noting the relatively swift pace of industrial development just outside Winnipeg's borders.

His own firm is selling industrial land just southwest of the city at a development called South Landing, in the RM of Macdonald. Other industrial parks have sprung up just outside city limits in the RMs of Headingley, Rosser and Springfield. 

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

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