The year we’ve left behind was blazing. Nuts.
The incredible demand for housing, coupled with a balmy year end, pushed construction levels intensely – and never let up.
There is no doubt numerous Edmonton construction and development companies have been tested to their very cores. Some have had the foresight and managerial maturity to capitalize on the best year the city has seen since 1978, and some are, at this very moment, realizing that even good years can be painful if more is bitten off than can be chewed.
December was the 17th month of year-over-year growth in total housing starts across the Capital Region. Not shabby at any time, it’s even more impressive when the 2001 count for housing unit starts was 7,855. 2002? 12,581.
|Kenton Friesen, Business Edge|
|If new construction isn’t taking place in any given Edmonton community, you can bet renovations are going strong.|
That represents an increase of 60.2 per cent (outpacing the 33.8-per-cent increase posted by the combination of all the municipalities in Alberta over 10,000 in population).
Take a business (any business) and increase its growth by 60.2 per cent in a single year and there are going to be all kinds of growing pains amid the laughter. Now extend that to an entire industry.
There are a few builders still around that recall the wild days of the late ’70s and early ’80s, and a few others who went through their growth curves the last few years in Calgary and are simply implementing the high-paced systems already in place.
Though single-family home starts set a new all-time record with 6,860 starts, the real story was the 97.5-per-cent increase in multi-family units, with 5,721 starts.
A year ago, the Greater Edmonton Home Builders’ Association president, Wayne Kinsella, said that 2001 put an end to the absorption of the over-building that occurred in the city 20 years ago.
The increase of condos and apartment complexes since then add an exclamation point.
Though many of the condominium projects target lower to middling price ranges, prices upwards of $400,000 are no longer unheard of. And One River Park, a luxury development in the works for this year, is pushing that number well above the $2-million mark. The physical evidence of growth saturates the Capital Region. Take a drive in any community, and if new construction is not taking place, renovations are.
Nowhere is it more evident than the northwest sector of the city’s core, in the Railtown and Oliver communities.
The gaping holes left by the exodus of the extensive railway system is now barely visible, replaced by extensive housing and retail. Work began on the east side of Grant MacEwan College’s City Centre Campus just before year end.
Development of old warehouses and office buildings into loft-like accommodations was at an all-time high last year, proving that not everything old must make way for the new.
The advent of massive seniors’ housing is a few years in the rear-view mirror, but 2002 entrenched the genre as a serious component in the city’s construction mix – and there’s no end in sight.
Edmontonians who are retired but not yet ready for deluxe assisted-living arrangements must be pleased to note the building boom has not bypassed the golfing industry. Jagare Ridge, Jack Nicklaus’s Northern Bear, RedTail Landing and Blackhawk add premium club-swinging opportunities to the region.
Edmonton City Centre’s $30-million facelift is exactly that – a high-end trimming of the fat. Though still in its final phases of redevelopment, it has become one of the finest shopping experiences around.
Last year also saw the tremendous expansion of South Edmonton Common, establishing the box-store shopping centre into a true powerhouse of merchandising. With new roadway access and much more to come this year, chain stores and the city are putting their approval behind the developer’s vision.
Though construction at West Edmonton Mall was minimal last year, the visionaries were hard at work releasing plans to blow the top off their venue yet again.
The industrial area on the west end of town is hard to recognize. The intense development during 2002 appears to be flowing seamlessly into the new year.
A sector not realizing much attention yet is the high-end office niche. Lease prices have not risen to the level that makes development a possibility. A positive sign is Stantec’s construction on a third tower at its corporate headquarters just west of the downtown core.
The moment Qualico Developments breaks ground north of the CN building to begin its Station Lands project is the moment offices will start realizing some of the demands of the residential sector.
The experts are now catching their breath, trying to anticipate what this year will bring. Stay tuned for next week as we focus our binoculars to catch a glimpse of what’s going to hit the city broadside in 2003.