Edmonton is upgrading its curb appeal at a lightning pace.
The southern gateway entrance is, after all, the city’s face to the world – and what’s happening there is more than the creation of a facade.
Communities are developing, retail centres are establishing a mighty presence and the infrastructure is in full transformation mode.
Our Canada Geese won’t recognize the entrance to their own city when they fly home in the spring.
Preliminary engineering on the upgrade of the intersection between Ellerslie Road and Calgary Trail (commonly referred to as the Ellerslie Road Interchange) began in 1998. It’s a more than $40-million project designed to eventually accommodate advancement of Anthony Henday Drive.
For the past few years, the restful, country-like nature of the area has been altered to reflect the city’s changing moods. Down came the old, wooden grain elevators, out went the traffic lights. In came the overpass, underpass, subdivisions and South Edmonton Common (SEC).
|Kenton Friesen, Business Edge|
|Carma's Summerside will be Edmonton's first recreational lake community.|
Edmonton’s Cameron Corporation saw the potential of the south early and jumped in to fill the void of quality retail space in the area.
“The initial opportunity to create SEC came about when Cameron Corporation purchased the subject lands from Canadian Pacific Railways,” says Tony Rota, director of Cameron’s marketing. “This coincided with the continued development of new residential communities at Edmonton’s very south edge.”
The 320-acre development will contain some 2.3 million sq. ft. of retail space when completed, bringing gigantic box stores, restaurants and entertainment facilities into hop-skip-and-jump range of the many new subdivisions branching off of Ellerslie Road.
“It’s one of the most desirable areas right now,” says MLC Group Inc.’s development manager Laurie Scott. Transportation routes, he says, are the number one attraction, including the roads and proximity to the airport.
MLC’s original development in Ellerslie was Southbrook (more than 600 lots). It backs onto the Blackmud Creek ravine and offers buyers a wide variety of locale choices. ‘Sold’ signs litter the site, which is more than half developed, and Scott says interest is growing constantly.
Ellerslie Crossing (more than 900 lots) is in its beginning phases with the first showhome ready for viewing within the next week. Single-family housing starts at about $160,000.
By next year, MLC will be hard at work on its subdivision in the area (on the corner of Ellerslie and 111th Street). It will be called MacEwan and will provide another 800-plus lots to the equation.
Carma began development of the 2,500-lot Summerside subdivision in the fall of 2000 and has dubbed it Edmonton’s first recreational lake community. It boasts a 32-acre lake that will soon be complemented with a 10-acre beach club. The facilities will be closed to the public, but available for the enjoyment of Summerside homeowners.
And the list of developments in the area goes on.
There is no doubt the Ellerslie Interchange and the coming of the Anthony Henday Drive have helped local developers create fantastic suburban lifestyle opportunities. But the serious changes in the area have knocked the life out of other businesses.
Try shopping for a motorhome at Gateway RV and Marine or buying a burger at either of the truck-stop restaurants that once graced the Ellerslie business strip. You’ll come up hungry and short six wheels.
These were companies that simply couldn’t survive the transition period forced on them through the construction process.
A plethora of bright orange traffic signs, tons of working machinery and lack of proper access are not conducive to good business.
“It takes eight months to a year-and-a-half for people to realize the road’s different and they will learn to stop there (again),” says Cal Hammer, manager of Ellerslie Gift and Garden.
The way the road was reconstructed is good news for highway traffic flow, but awkward for vehicles trying to access the business strip.
“They’ve lost the chance of 50,000 cars a day stopping at a set of lights and pulling in to them,” says Hammer. “Now the people have to make up their mind before they get there that they have to get gas.”
He believes that once a McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s or grocery store sets up shop on the strip, it will help people to consciously decide to stop in the area.
As for Ellerslie Gift and Garden, the centre had to move west of the highway after having its former property bought out by the city at appraised market value. Hammer now serves customers from temporary portables and says that after 11 years of business, it’s like starting all over again.
What the appraised market value didn’t account for was the substantial loss in revenue during the transition period. Hammer says he took an immediate drop of 80 per cent in sales and staff numbers went from 35 to three. The owner had to sell her farm just to keep the company afloat.
Although business owners in Ellerslie knew that change was coming, they have been shocked at the magnitude of the impact. The garden centre is appealing to the land compensation board for extra money to help cover losses.
What really bugs Hammer is that other companies have been able to capitalize on Alberta’s boisterous economy and recognize huge increases while he is fighting just to reach the levels he was at before the move.
Hammer’s plan is to target people moving into the new subdivisions rather than rely mainly on highway traffic.