© Daniel MacEachern photo
A new multimillion-dollar industrial park under construction in Conception Bay South began life as a planned site for a beer warehouse.
But when Metcalfe Holdings â the real-estate-focused sister company to Ford Metcalfe Ltd., which distributes Molson-Coors products â bought a couple of acres of land 12 years ago, says Keith Maher â general manager of both companies â C.B.S. town council broached its hope the land, on the south side of Fowlerâs Road, would be an industrial park.
âThey investigated it first, but felt that they shouldnât be in the business of developing and selling land, so they were looking for private firms to take over,â he said.
âNobody was in the driverâs seat, so we ended up just buying a bit more land as it came available. People came to us and said, âWould you like to buy my strip of land?â And we ended up with all this land.â
âAll this landâ is 76 acres by Manuels River, currently being turned into roads and lots, about 10 per cent of which have already been sold, after development began in October.
âAll the infrastructure is done here: pipework and detention ponds are finished,â said Maher, adding that he expects buildings on the sold lots â just over half of the total park, Phase 1, is being sold right now â will start going up in late summer or early fall. Metcalfe is investing about $8 million in Phase 1 â and has put up $600,000 in securities for town council if the project falls through â and about $14 million overall. Phase 2 gets underway next spring, depending on how sales go for the first phase.
On a tour of the site, Maher points out the buffer zone, beyond which lies about a half kilometre of undeveloped land between the future park and the Manuels River. The developer has been working with the Manuels River Natural Heritage Society to ensure access to the river isnât restricted and that development wonât affect it â something thatâs important to the town, he said.
Keith Moore, operations manager with the society, said the town contacted the society so it could go over the development plans.
âWe sat down with the town and the developer and had a look at the plans and reviewed the proposals, and the society got a first chance to look at and comment on what theyâre planning,â he said.
âThey have taken steps to ensure buffer zones between the river and the development, which are going to be forested, and theyâre going to be well back from the river.
âOne of the things that weâre doing in the future is, hopefully, to expand our trail system upriver, which will be going up towards that development, so thereâs actually a buffer zone left in place to allow future trail development and also protection of the river.â
As the steward of the Manuels River system, said Moore, itâs the societyâs responsibility to work with developers, and the town has been instrumental in that process.
âItâs not our goal to stop development. Itâs our goal to make sure development protects the environment around it,â he said.
Stopping developmentâs not an option for Conception Bay South, said Maher â the town is crying out for more industrial land.
âThereâs approximately 27,000 people in C.B.S., and thereâs no commercial light industrial land,â Maher said. âThereâs no places. Weâve got a lot of backyard businesses going on, and weâve got a lot of people that donât want to move out of C.B.S., and thereâs really no place for them to go. Even guys with dump trucks and tractor-trailers, they have no place to park them, and at the town at one point sent a woman around who said, âHey, you canât park here. This is residential,â and they said, âWell, what do you want me to do? Thereâs no commercial place for me to go.ââSo the town is very happy to have it happen, for sure.â
Maherâs not concerned about flooding the market with industrial land even with industrial parks opening or expanding across the island. He is touting C.B.S. as a central destination without the congestion of the city, and still not far from the Long Pond Port, Bay Bulls and Long Harbour.
âWeâre not really worried because we offer something thatâs kind of niche,â he said. âYouâve got a great (view) â not that a view matters in an industrial park, but it is better for people, who see the measurements where weâre located close to some amenities. Itâs not a huge, huge industrial park, but itâs very set away from the traffic. Iâve had people that donât want to go to different industrial parks just because of the traffic, the congestion.â