Lots are available and the first homes for Galway Living are expected to begin going up in April, with show homes from select builders — ERCO Homes, Gavin Homes, Hann Construction, MacIntyre Homes, New Victorian Homes and York Developments — due for a September “grand opening.”
An information centre is also being built on the first of the new residential streets, Galway Boulevard.
In promoting the project to the St. John’s Board of Trade on Thursday, Williams did not take questions, but said he has spent $75 million of his own money on Galway to date.
“We’ve employed more than 200 service companies, creating over 7,000 weeks of work for hundreds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” he said, while pushing economic optimism — the kind that might also help in sales.
At the Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, executive director Jim Organ said Williams is right to say Galway is a significant project for contractors, given the earthworks, water, sewer and roadwork involved. There’s also the timing.
The development is proceeding as construction megaprojects in the natural resources sector wind down — Vale’s processing plant at Long Harbour, the Hebron offshore oil platform and, eventually, the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
The real estate development is no replacement, Organ said, but has helped buffer a sharp drop in the sector’s cash flow and employment numbers.
“A project such as Galway certainly helps to fill the gaps, and without projects such as this, the situation would go from the wind down of these major megaprojects to nothing,” he said.
“A lot of money has gone into it, a lot of employment has gone into it and it would be great if we had two or three more like it.”
Victoria Belbin, CEO of the Canadian Homebuilders Association — Newfoundland and Labrador, said the planned-community development is unprecedented in this province, given its size and the private planning and execution.
“It’s not unusual. It’s unusual for us,” she said, citing large-scale residential developments in Alberta.
The Galway master plan is expected to take decades to realize, but the first step on the residential construction of Galway Living is covering 16 acres on a planned 114-acre “first phase.”
“In real estate, it’s all about the long-term,” said Jim Burton of ReMax Infinity Realty, whose company is involved in sales, working with builders Hann Construction and New Victorian Homes.
Burton said there is interest in Galway sales now, despite discussion around the province’s challenged economy, and there will be future economic booms to help in its planned growth.
“Newfoundland and Labrador, we may be in a bit of a lull, we may be in a bit of a valley, a low point for our economy, but there’s a lot of very positive things ahead for our province,” he said, pointing generally to offshore oil and gas, mining potential, the fishery and tourism as potential drivers.
Adjacent to Galway, Royal LePage realtor Shawn Rowe is selling homes built by ERCO as part of a development called River’s Edge.
“I think there’s one person moved in there now, so this will be the year for that where we really kind of get it going,” he said, adding he does not see the smaller development in direct competition with Galway.
Rowe said many people have been making the drive to River’s Edge, located off Great Southern Drive, to ask about the development there, looking to buy a first home or downsize. He is involved with a development in Paradise seeing similar interest.
“They want to know a price. Pricing is everything. So they want to know what they can get for their dollar,” Rowe said.
The first lots on the market for Galway are priced at $138,000 to $153,000, before taxes.
That said, the first-stage plans include a street of attached bungalows, targeting a 55-plus demographic, The Telegram was told. The plans also include three-level townhouses. The different types of housing are mixed with green space and some commercial properties.
It’s just the start and, as homes go up, work continues on the Glencrest business park and the Shoppes at Galway (the latter being 700,000 square feet of commercial space set for opening in 2018).
Whether or not Williams calls Galway a legacy project (and when he spoke to The Telegram about it in 2015, he explicitly said he did not use the term “legacy piece”), people working in the development, real estate and construction business are calling the massive project just that.
“I commend the vision of Danny Williams in looking at this and thinking about a legacy that he can leave behind for future generations,” Burton said.
(NOTE: This story was edited to correct the agency noted for Shawn Rowe, who is with Royal LePage.)