Danny the developer

Dave Bartlett
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Former premier confirms he’s behind major west end development

Danny Williams — File photo

Former premier Danny Williams has confirmed for The Telegram that he is the developer behind a major project which has a value of between $4 billion and $5 billion in the west end of St. John’s.

The Telegram broke the story last month when St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe told the paper a proposed development between Southlands and Cochrane Pond would be about the size of the Town of Gander.

“It’s preliminary, but it’s imminent,” Williams said Tuesday. “Because of the growth here in the city, and because the city basically has nowhere else to grow, there’s a lot of pent-up demand for this area, for all the various uses.”

“It’s something that I have been putting together for a good 15-plus years,” he added.

Williams said he bought the land — about 1,400 acres —in the late 1990s, largely from the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp., but put the project on hold while he was in public office.

He said his blind trust did acquire some land while he was in office from two private developers as well as some other small parcels of land

“But for me, from my perspective, I had no involvement whatsoever in that,” Williams said. “The project was on hold until I finished politics.”

When Williams bought the land, it was on the outskirts of the capital city.

“Since then, of course the city has moved to it. Donovans (industrial park) has been built up completely and right now that’s the only area of expansion for the city,” he said.

“Over the life of (the development it) will create as many person-years of employment as the (Lower) Churchill would,” Williams continued. “It’s a very good project for the province because, quite frankly, it’s labour intensive.”

The vision for the overall development, which could take between 10 and 20 years to complete, would mirror the Stavanger Drive area.

“There’s significant interest in the retail side and there’s significant interest in the industrial side,” said Williams. “If there’s a demand for industrial, then we would move on the industrial right away.”

For the multi-use development to proceed, the province would have to change legislation to allow development above the 190 contour — an elevation which is currently protected from development because water would have to be pumped up into the area.

But Williams said there are already a couple of examples of development above the 190 — one in Mount Pearl and another in Paradise — so he doesn’t anticipate any problems.

Once that is done, infrastructure has to be put in place first, from roads and sewer lines to water towers and pumping stations.

While the city has yet to receive a formal proposal from Williams, if all works out, the former premier hopes to begin construction on the site sometime next year.

He said the basic engineering work is being done now and he’s anxious to move ahead with the project.


Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Housing

Geographic location: Southlands, Gander, Mount Pearl Paradise

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Recent comments

  • Jerry
    January 28, 2012 - 04:53

    The Government should look at Detroit today to learn some lessons. The provincial economy has been booming on the back of strong demand and prices in the commodities markets, but the Government needs to consider carefully the sustainability of this position before it allows great swathes of our beautiful province to be built over.

  • Locke
    December 16, 2011 - 11:01

    There are many things that concern me regarding this new development but I will only comment on one at this time - WATER. This huge development as far as I understand will be sharing the already stretched limits to our existing water supply. Maybe there should be some thought to a new water supply before jumping ahead with a development of this size.

  • Turry from town
    December 15, 2011 - 08:10

    Hey Kelly!!! You have it all wrong.What keeps the city going are it's residents and business who pay their taxes.Not people like you who live on it's borders and pay nothing so you can be close to all emenities.I doubt very much if you baymen drive past your own neighbourhood stores to spend money in St.John"s.But if you have to come to town to buy something because you can't get it in your own village,then that is a benifit for you,being so close.Big stores and business locate in cities where the largest populations are,people from outside spending money is gravy for them.St.John's doubles in population everyday by brownbaggers from bedroom communities who come here to got to work.Paying nothing toward road repair or infastructure upkeep that has to operate at overload capacity because of you people.It is long overdue for the gov of this province to say,enough is enough,you are all one city,now your amalgamated.But the problem is the gov,too many baymen in there,with typical baymen mentality,always looking for a free ride or someoneelse to pay the way.

    • Brett
      December 15, 2011 - 21:30

      What do you want a toll on the highway? I do understand what you're saying Turry, but unless the province forced amalgamation it's not like a suburbian will want to amalgamate. Why would someone from Paradise or Mount Pearl want to amalgamate, what is the benefit to them? They already get benefits with little cost. The benefit of a suburb liver buying $10,000 worth of stuff at costco is like a profit of like $5000 to the store (assume an extremely generous 100% markup on goods, but no expenses for operating the business). Some of which goes to pay for a salaries/building expenses/profit. If the person working in the city lives outside the city then that money doesn't go to any infrastructure even though the city is supplying the opportunity for work.

  • Richie rich
    December 14, 2011 - 21:05

    Danny pulled a fast one. When everyone one thinks hes god he was wheeling and dealing. He paid 200 a hectare and going to sell it for over 100,000 each for the size of gander. Haha, hello billionaire! Got to be shady to be rich... All the best Danny.

  • William Hillier
    December 14, 2011 - 18:04

    Some drink from the fountain of knowledge while others only gargle.

  • Don II
    December 14, 2011 - 16:19

    The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation (NLHC) Act is a very interesting piece of legislation which contains sections that can easily be manipulated in ways to allow developers to "legally" obtain land from the NLHC at rock bottom prices. The NLHC is empowered to sell "surplus" land. If the land was not needed by the NLHC why does the NLHC have control of Crown or Private land in the first place? I note that section 41 of the NLHC Act prevents the Public Utilities Board from having any jurisdiction over the NLHC. Why is that? Would it be to allow the NLHC to expropriate private lands with no recourse for the private land owner to have the expropriation reviewed by the PUB? Section 42 permits the Cabinet to transfer Grants of Crown land to the NLHC which in turn can sell or otherwise divest the Crown land to private developers. It appears that this section may allow the NLHC to get around the rules which prevent or regulate the number of acres and size of tracts of Crown land that can be "legally" sold or transferred to private developers. It appears that some legal beagle has figured out a way to use the NLHC Act to create land assembly schemes that are difficult to identify or to stop. It appears that Slick developers and bureaucrats know how to manipulate legislation and the system in order to create land assemblies that can be divested to private developers for less cost than if the private developers had to purchase the Crown or Private land themselves for development. Why is the Government of Newfoundland doing this? Who benefits financially? It appears that land which should have been used by the NLHC for public housing is being sold to private developers for high end housing developments. This cozy situation needs to be investigated and the details of the land assembly schemes revealed in the public interest.

  • Eli
    December 14, 2011 - 15:35

    Soon as I saw the headline I wondered where the water is coming from for this venture. We just had a budget with a water-tax increase, so there are already problems. I'd say Danny left enought owe-me favours before he ran out on the job to get the water approval.

  • David
    December 14, 2011 - 14:48

    It's all about public service folks...a calling to give back, yes indeed...what a sacrifice.

    • Reality Check
      December 14, 2011 - 15:17

      Newsflash, he's no longer in politics. It's all about business, what jeolousy.

    • David
      December 14, 2011 - 18:25

      Oh, I had no idea. Then it;s all peachy ducky then that he was in the highest office in the province while quielty making deals with landowners and developers, assembling an enormous landholding during a wild west like development boom, all with, at the very least, the cold optics of blatant, egregious conflict of interest and impropriety. Yeah, I guess I'm a "jelaous" guy that way...surrounded by people like you who should take clueless as a compliment.

    December 14, 2011 - 14:34

    I'm excited about the amount of jobs that this will create for NLers. Danny is a business man, and look at where our province is today, because of his smart business decisions. There are always improvements to be made, but he has lined us up pretty well and we are definitely on the right track. I think that instead of always trying to dig deeper and deeper, we take a moment and think about how well we doing as a province right now, and who had a hand in getting us here. The reality of this world is that politics is greasy...and so is business. So why always focus on the greasiness when something has the potential benefit many? This project alone will give some NLers a better career opportunity, a chance to move home, more money, and a chance to enjoy life a little more. Newfoundland and Labrador has been protected, defended, and set up to blossom with help from Danny. A lot of his power and money goes into what he is passionate about; turning NL into a progressive province by creating more job opportunities, and thus giving us a provincial economy to be proud of. I laugh sometimes, because I read peoples negative comments about our former premier and I wonder if they are just ignorant. Can they not see outside of themselves, see our province as a whole, and say, "We may not be perfect, but we're not doing bad."? Our old ways of surviving are dying, let's face it. As a province, we are changing and developing as a whole. There is always a little fear that comes with the unknown. But changes are going to happen regardless of how comfortable we are with how it is now.

    • Yah
      December 14, 2011 - 23:47

      It will primarily benefit Danny, who will become Danny Billions as a result of this "greasiness". Are you for real? Oil made things happen here, and last I knew, Williams didn't have the superhuman ability to put the oil in the ground. This stinks to high heavens. For you to give all the credit for our economy and for our "progress" to Danny Williams alone is incredibly short-sighted and ridiculous. He was the Premier when the oil boom happened, so naturally he gets the credit, but it was not he alone responsible for where we are today. Ignorance like yours gets us nowhere, and only makes people like Williams richer and their egos bigger. I had pride in this place long before a mega wealthy slick suit came along. Too bad you didn't and needed that to validate your worth.

  • NLBookMom
    December 14, 2011 - 13:50

    Yikes, east end forlife does not speak for all east enders...

    • Taylor
      December 14, 2011 - 14:14

      Thanks, NLBOOKMOM. Nice to see there are people free of discrimination. Luckily, I am not one of the "Tar with the same brush" type people, and know there are decent people out there, who don't assume all eastenders are bigoted!

  • jerome
    December 14, 2011 - 10:14

    the telegram should look at who Danny bought the land off. If it was the provincial goverment , how much did he pay. $50 per acres??? Looks like crown land to me.

  • Don II
    December 14, 2011 - 10:13

    The CBC is reporting that Williams has acquired 2400 acres of land not the 1400 acres that The Telegram reported. Which is it, 1400 or 2400 acres of land? How was this land assembly put together without the media reporting on it much earlier? Was this Crown land that was sold? There are legislated restrictions on the sale of Crown land in Newfoundland and Labrador. Normally, only small amounts of Crown land is made available for development and then it is usually in the form of a long term lease. Did Newfoundland Housing Corp. place the land for sale on the market by public tender? Was this land assembly done by bending or removing legislative restrictions on ownership of large tracts of Crown land in Newfoundland? It is my understanding that the sale of large tracts of Crown land requires Cabinet approval. When did the Cabinet approve this land sale? Which Cabinet in which Government administration approved this huge land sale? Does the media plan to investigate all the details of this land assembly and provide the information to us in the public interest? The activities of all current or former politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador requires continuous scrutiny.

    • Graham
      December 14, 2011 - 12:59

      Don II well said my friend...this whole thing stinks of insider back bench deals.Can any of you now see why perhaps Danny left so quickly and why he pushed for the Miskrat Falls deal? I too hope that all the media dig into this whole deal and show us the truth and not just the Danny Williams version. We all should know that anyty=hing from Danny wont be worth the paper its written on.

    • Chris
      December 14, 2011 - 17:23

      "Which Cabinet in which Government administration approved this huge land sale?" A simple search of WIKI shows that from 1989 up till 2003. It would have been a Liberal cabinet that approved this sale. I some how doubt a "blue blood" could force a "red coat" to un freeze the land. So the conspiracy theory being spewn on the websites by Liberal and NDP supporters about something dirty being done 20 years ago when Mr. Williams bought the land so far are just that theories.

    • Chris Too
      December 15, 2011 - 19:01

      Let's get some facts straight Chris: He got a good portion of this land before he was a blue coat when Brian Tobin was premier! enough said? Now for the next big question: Who's cabinet released a large portion of this land not to many years ago which was frozen land that was frozen for years and years. I beleive NLHC was going to use it for a swap with some agriculture land that was unfrozen also. Then within a month or so a numbered Nfld company purchased it. I wonder who was the director of the company that purchased the land so quickly? As for the rezoning of the land it was rezoned in Andy's day wasn't it?

  • Mark
    December 14, 2011 - 09:55

    Let me get this straight - with unprecedented growth in the forecast for St. John's going back more than a decade, the government decided to turn over land that was reserved for its poorest residents over to its richest. Sounds like progress to me.

  • East End ForLife
    December 14, 2011 - 07:14

    I hope they put a new COSTCO out there so then all the baymen will stay away from the one in the East End. The line ups are not fit down there now!

    • Kelly
      December 14, 2011 - 10:47

      Suck it up....take the baymen out of the city and you wouldn't be left with much....there are a lot of baymen that contribute alot to this city, shopping, groceries, etc....take a trip out over the overpass sometime and see what's left in the bays, not much....they have all either moved west or to the city.

    • Taylor
      December 14, 2011 - 12:52

      So you have to be from a particular area to avail of shoppings centers? What an inane comment-EAST END FORLIFE. Feel free to stay out of Costco!

    • wrenchor
      January 12, 2012 - 18:46

      Looks like we are going to be evicted from my trailer at Cochrane Pond Park, shouldn't I have been alerted that this is my last summer there? Thanks Danny....