Nfld. & Labrador

Danny Williams backs $5B land plan in St. John's

Former premier Danny Williams is moving quickly on a plan that would dramatically change the face of his home city.

Former premier pushing ambitious real estate plan

Danny Williams plans to develop a large tract of undeveloped land near a golf course he already owns, in the west end of St. John's. (Google Earth )

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams is moving full-steam ahead on one of his key retirement plans: a development scheme that will dramatically change the face of his home city.

"I've been working on that for probably close to 20 years," Williams said Tuesday in an interview recorded for an upcoming episode of On Point With David Cochrane.

Danny Williams hopes to break ground next year on the first phase of an ambitious plan in the western boundary of St. John's. (CBC)

Williams plans to develop a vast area of undeveloped land in the west end of the St. John's boundary, near the Glendenning golf course he owns and running from the new Southlands subdivision to Cochrane Pond.

Williams said the potential of the land development is enormous, and will incorporate residential neighbourhoods, shopping districts and industrial areas.

"The prospects for that if it gets fully developed over a 10-to-20-year period that would create quite frankly as many person-years of employment as the Lower Churchill would right across Canada," Williams said.

"The city is very, very keen on it."

The land in question involves about 2,400 acres or almost 1,000 hectares.

Williams, who made a fortune before entering politics as the principal behind Cable Atlantic, has long been involved in other businesses, including land development and companies working in the offshore.

His personal wealth earned him the nickname "Danny Millions" during his decade in political life, which ended in December 2010 when he resigned after seven years in the premier's chair.

Since retiring from public life, he has been the driving force behind The St. John's IceCaps, returning AHL hockey to the city.

Mayor impressed with scope of proposal

The project would take years to complete and requires regulatory approval.

However, St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said the development could be worth $5 billion, making it potentially one of the largest in the history of the city, which has been on a roll thanks to development in the offshore oil industry.

"Well, it literally is a development that is the size of the town of Gander," said O'Keefe, referring to one of the largest towns in central Newfoundland.

The development will require approval of the provincial government to amend the city's municipal plan.

O'Keefe said that he does not think that will be a problem.

Williams, meanwhile, said the launch of the development could be just a few months away.

"We'd love to get shovels in the ground next year," he said.