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 — the real-estate-focused sister company to Ford Metcalfe Ltd., which distributes Molson-Coors products — bought a couple of acres of land 12 years ago, says Keith Maher — general manager of both companies — C.B.S. town council broached its hope the land, on the south side of Fowler’s Road, would be an industrial park.
“They investigated it first, but felt that they shouldn’t be in the business of developing and selling land, so they were looking for private firms to take over,” he said.
“Nobody was in the driver’s seat, so we ended up just buying a bit more land as it came available. People came to us and said, ‘Would you like to buy my strip of land?’ And we ended up with all this land.”
“All this land” 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.
“All the infrastructure is done here: pipework and detention ponds are finished,” said Maher, adding that he expects buildings on the sold lots — just over half of the total park, Phase 1, is being sold right now — will start going up in late summer or early fall. Metcalfe is investing about $8 million in Phase 1 — and has put up $600,000 in securities for town council if the project falls through — 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 isn’t restricted and that development won’t affect it — something that’s 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.
“We 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 they’re planning,” he said.
“They have taken steps to ensure buffer zones between the river and the development, which are going to be forested, and they’re going to be well back from the river.
“One of the things that we’re doing in the future is, hopefully, to expand our trail system upriver, which will be going up towards that development, so there’s actually a buffer zone left in place to allow future trail development and also protection of the river.”
As the steward of the Manuels River system, said Moore, it’s the society’s responsibility to work with developers, and the town has been instrumental in that process.
“It’s not our goal to stop development. It’s our goal to make sure development protects the environment around it,” he said.
Stopping development’s not an option for Conception Bay South, said Maher — the town is crying out for more industrial land.
“There’s approximately 27,000 people in C.B.S., and there’s no commercial light industrial land,” Maher said. “There’s no places. We’ve got a lot of backyard businesses going on, and we’ve got a lot of people that don’t want to move out of C.B.S., and there’s 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, ‘Hey, you can’t park here. This is residential,’ and they said, ‘Well, what do you want me to do? There’s no commercial place for me to go.’ So the town is very happy to have it happen, for sure.”
Maher’s 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.
“We’re not really worried because we offer something that’s kind of niche,” he said. “You’ve got a great (view) — not that a view matters in an industrial park, but it is better for people, who see the measurements where we’re located close to some amenities. It’s not a huge, huge industrial park, but it’s very set away from the traffic. I’ve had people that don’t want to go to different industrial parks just because of the traffic, the congestion.”