Tuesday, January 24, 2012

City has good reason to boast

THE DAILY GLEANER: Editorial, Jan 2012

There was considerable rejoicing at City Hall last week when the final figures for building construction in 2011 were released.

The statistics revealed a total of $115.6 million in construction, the second highest total since 2009.

It was, moreover, the sixth consecutive year Fredericton has seen more than $100 million in construction. What city the size of Fredericton would not be ecstatic at that news!

It’s news that starts the new year off in a most positive direction. Let’s look at the statistics:

The city had just more than $60 million in residential construction, not far off the record-setting pace of 2009 when $61.4 million was experienced.

There was a strong showing in multi-unit starts which planner Meredith Gilbert says reflects changing demographics occurring countrywide where apartment living is favoured over the traditional single-family housing.

Commercial development came in at $19.6 million while government and institutional construction reached $29.9 million.

Whatever way the figures are looked at, they present a rosy picture especially when the unsteady state of the economy is considered.

People here are caught up in multi-faceted development which augers well for 2012, too.

The city is looking for more commercial development at Corbett Centre, Two Nations Crossing, West Hills mini-mall, and more development on Bishop Drive this year.

An added bonus to the celebrating at city hall is a report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. that shows Fredericton is the only municipality with more than 50,000 population that saw an increase in new housing starts in 2011. Both Moncton and Saint John experienced decreases last year.

That Fredericton has witnessed a sixth straight year by reaching a construction milestone is a singular accomplishment worth boasting about.

We feel this is significant as the city continues to promote and to push its reputation and image to other parts of Canada and points abroad.

It’s not only a feather in the city’s hat during tough economic times, but it also serves as a tool for attracting business and new residents to the city. We must conclude that nothing beats success when it comes to promoting New Brunswick’s capital city.

Since Meredith Gilbert is already expecting “to see activity over the $100-million” again this year, we see no reason why the construction success should end.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Union Street Development gets PAC nod

19 Jan 2012

A 69-unit residential waterfront development on Union Street received rezoning approval from Fredericton planning advisory committee Wednesday night.

But the committee also ordered developer Marx Miles to do a traffic study on the impact of the development to try and put to rest some of the concerns of area residents.

The development, which includes two apartment buildings and nine townhouses, is located at 678, 690, 692 and 700 Union St. and Miles said Wednesday night he hopes to start construction of the project in the spring if the rezoning is approved by city council.

“I’m pleased obviously,” said the developer about the approval.

Miles said he’s prepared to the do the traffic study. “That doesn’t concern me,” he said. “Union Street is a busy street. If we have to put in a left-hand turn we’re fully prepared to do that.”

The first phase will be worth $6 million with each of 30 units costing $200,000, said Miles.

The proposal to rezone the 1.2 hectare property along the riverfront first came before PAC in December. But it was deferred for a month to allow the developer to discuss the project with the neighbourhood.

“Most of the people in the area are happy with it,” said Miles. “We’ve had a few complaints but we’ve had a lot of support too. What we’ve torn down there is an eight unit full of drug dealers and people that weren’t good tenants. We’re going to get some good people in there now.”

There was opposition to the project at the council meeting. Elizabeth Simms of 664 Union St. said she’s worried about the traffic impact the project would have on an already busy street.

Miles is seeking a 3.5-metre setback variance and Simms asked what would happen if Union Street has to be widened in the future.

She also said rezoning the property from R4B to R9 sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of Union Street.

Heather Berry of 716 Union St. also expressed concern about the traffic on Union Street and side streets. She said the development doesn’t fit in the neighbourhood.

A petition opposing the project signed by eight area residents, including the two who spoke at the meeting, was received by the committee. “Allowing a row of nine townhouses, three storeys high and only eight feet from the highway would create a wall along Union Street, undesirable to many,” stated the petition. “Where is the green space/buffer zone?”

There was also a letter of opposition to the project filed with the committee.

The rezoning approval wasn’t unanimous. Coun. Marilyn Kerton and PAC member Alan Rayner opposed the motion, which passed five to two. Kerton questioned if the development fit the area’s secondary plan, which calls for stabilizing the R4B zoning in the neighbourhood. She said the development seems like spot rezoning no matter how PAC sugar-coated it.

But senior planner Tony Dakiv said the section of the Devon secondary plan talks about stabilizing R4B zoning refers to the section north of Union Street, which is primarily single family dwelling. It doesn’t refer to the land south of Union Street.

Miles said he was hoping the approval would be unanimous. “We’re improving the area by quite a bit,” he said. “It needs development and we’re doing it.”

Miles noted a city councillor opposed the rezoning Wednesday night. “That makes me wonder if it will go through (city council) as easily as I thought it would,” he said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

City sees $115 Million in 2011 Development Activity

photo of development statsFredericton (January 17) – The City of Fredericton has announced that the total value of construction in the city for 2011 was 115.6-million. Residential construction recorded its second highest total since 2009.

Construction of new homes and businesses, as well as new industrial and commercial buildings, have helped push the total value over $100-million for the sixth straight year. Despite the worldwide fiscal problems that plagued everyone in 2011, Fredericton did very well.

According to the City’s Annual Building Construction Activity Report, commercial development came in at $19.6 million with major projects including: a commercial office building on Bishop Drive, a commercial building with eight residential units on St. Mary’s Street, an Orthodontist/Dentist building on Prospect Street, the new Public Safety office building on Bishop Drive and the Electrical Association of NB office building on Durelle Street.

Major commercial projects anticipated for 2012 include continued development of the Corbett Centre, commercial development at Two Nations Crossing, West Hills commercial development, a downtown hotel and more commercial development on Bishop Drive.

Government & Institutional construction was worth $ 29.9-million in 2011 and included the start of the new Fredericton North School on Wyngate Drive, upgrades to the City Hall exterior, upgrades and improvements to Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital and the University of New Brunswick, renovations at the NBCC offices on Smyth Street and interior renovations to Soldier’s Barracks, a new outdoor skate park on Johnson Avenue, the new Capital Region Community Tennis Centre and Shannex’s 45-unit lifestyle apartment building with medical offices.

Residential construction was valued at $60.8-million in 2011, the second strongest residential activity on record and just below the $61.4-million record set in 2009. While the number of single detached homes built in 2011 dropped slightly, multiple unit starts, including apartments, townhouses and duplexes had a record year with a total of 366 new units constructed – up from 329 units in 2010.

Major residential projects in 2011 included: the 101 unit apartment building on Boyne Court, a 40 unit apartment building and an eight unit townhouse on Valcour Drive, a 32 unit apartment building on Queen Street, a 30 unit apartment building on Dunn’s Crossing Road, an 18 unit townhouse on Murray Avenue, two 12 unit apartment buildings on Sunny Brea Drive, and a 10 unit townhouse on Huntingdon Circle.

The City has enjoyed several years of record development since 2006. It is expected that development will remain strong in 2012 with overall development activity anticipated to be in the range of $100 million.