'We're running out of land,' councillor warns, as scarce industrial plot goes up for sale
Offer of property near St. Boniface Industrial Park places spotlight on Winnipeg's dearth of employment lands
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.
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.
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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."
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."
"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.