Winnipeg left in the dust by neighbouring RMs due to shortage of industrial land
Report raps Winnipeg for 'no clear vision' to develop serviced land
Industrial development is booming just outside Winnipeg's borders because the city doesn't have enough serviced land or any strategy to make that land available, according to a stark new report that states the Manitoba capital has "no clear vision" to make it more competitive.
Over the past five years, only a third of new industrial land in the capital region has been developed within Winnipeg's borders, even though the city accounts for 90 per cent of the population growth in this area, according to a 332-page study by Toronto-area consulting firm Watson & Associates.
Winnipeg's competitiveness is lacking because the city doesn't have enough serviced industrial land or a plan to develop more of it, and allows existing industrial land to be converted to other uses, the report says.
It also says neighbouring municipalities have caught up with Winnipeg when it comes to providing services such as roads, water mains and sewers.
"While historically it could be said that industrial development in the capital region [rural municipalities] were low-order and unserviced, that is increasingly not the case," Winnipeg chief planner Braden Smith writes in a summary of the Watson report.
"Employment areas in Rosser, Macdonald, Headingley and Ritchot are now able to offer water and wastewater servicing (and soon West St. Paul) in industrial parks of increasingly high design standards."
He adds development in Rosser has "also been buoyed by the construction of CentrePort Canada Way," the $212-million freeway funded by the province and Ottawa when Gary Doer's NDP was in power in Manitoba.
'Organic growth': reeve
Just southwest of Winnipeg in Macdonald, an industrial development called South Landing is nearly sold out after only three years on the market, said Bob Antymniuk, senior sales and leasing director for Capital Commercial Real Estate.
"There's a shortage of industrial land that's available that's already developed and serviced and ready to go, and I think that's a key thing," Antymniuk said Tuesday in an interview in his Winnipeg office.
South Landing is where a new Western Hockey League arena is slated to go. The broader industrial strip along Highway 3 has developed quickly, notes Macdonald Reeve Brad Erb.
"It's really interesting because it's mainly been an organic growth. It hasn't been something we've actually gone out and pursued. It's kind of just come to us, mainly because of location," Erb said Tuesday in an interview at Oak Bluff.
It's absolutely something that council and the public service need to work at better addressing and that's why I'm pleased this report has come forward.- Mayor Brian Bowman
The city's shortage of land is another driver. According to the Watson report, Winnipeg only made an average of 14 hectares of serviced industrial land available every year over the past five years. For comparison's sake, Edmonton and Calgary made 91 and 72 hectares of industrial land available every year during the same period, while smaller cities such as London and Milton, Ont. made 17 hectares available.
Even worse, the report points out, almost two-thirds of the new industrial lands that came online within the city were the result of expansions by existing Winnipeg businesses, activity that is "unsustainably high."
The report also states the city only has six more years of serviced industrial land available and that has to be addressed, even though it "is not immediately pressing."
23 recommendations from consultants
The consulting firm makes 23 recommendations, including the development of a clear strategy for making more land available for all forms of employment, better planning practices that encourage improved sustainable development, and safeguards to prevent serviced industrial land from being put to other uses.
It also recommends the city discourage the development of large, free-standing retail stores, more commonly known as big-box stores.
Legal battles with developers have also hampered Winnipeg's efforts to develop industrial land.
The city remains embroiled in a lawsuit with industrial developer Terracon, which alleges the city stole its idea to build a new Parmalat dairy plant at the St. Boniface Industrial Park.
The report comes before city council's property and development committee on Feb. 4.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman acknowledged the city has to do a better job of opening up industrial land.
"It's absolutely something that council and the public service need to work at better addressing and that's why I'm pleased this report has come forward," Bowman said.
Antymniuk said the city can only offer incentives to large industrial players if it buys more of its own land.
"They have to just go and buy some land and if they don't, well, then they're not in the game," he said.