A major commercial and residential development proposed for Brandon’s southern outskirts may take a significant step forward tonight.
Brandon City Council has drafted a proposal for annexation, which will be submitted to the Manitoba Municipal Board if council’s vote is favourable.
It has been a slow and steady process leading up to this point, with VBJ Developments first proposing the idea nearly six years ago.
"It’s been a long road, but I know it was kind of right in the middle of the city’s development plan, and then they had some growth strategies," said VBJ Developments vice-president Steve McMillan. "So we’ve been waiting patiently for probably the two or three years it took to go through that."
VBJ submitted a request for urban expansion in 2015 for a 170-acre site in the RM of Cornwallis, located southwest of the Patricia Avenue and Highway 10 intersection. The vision for the property is to develop a regional commercial hub, including grocery, restaurants and a mix of retail. The residential component would include a mix of high- and low-density housing, as well as green space.
A lot of work has been done leading up to this point, following a memorandum of understanding signed by VBJ and the city back in 2015 to look at the feasibility of the project. As part of the agreement, the company was required to conduct a variety of studies, such as an environmental assessment, drainage study and geotechnical report.
"Everything looks good to move forward, so we’re hoping council gives approval for that (Tuesday) night, and then we can start the formal process of the annexation," McMillan said.
If the city submits the proposal to the Municipal Board, VBJ would then be able to apply for an amendment to their development plan, to change the land designation from agricultural to commercial — a key piece to attracting tenants.
"No one’s really going to sign on for anything yet until they see that the city wants to move forward with it," McMillan said. "That’s been the tough part, in the last five or six years, we’ve had interest but we can’t confirm timelines until these formal application processes can start."
The first phase would be focused on the commercial portion, which according to the proposal would see 400,000 square feet of commercial floor area at full build-out. It would include multiple phases with completion estimated in five to 10 years based on market demand. The proposed development is anticipated to include one major anchor tenant along with pad sites for restaurants, a gas station and smaller retail spaces.
The residential portion, approximately 1,000 dwelling units, is identified for longer-term growth over 20 years.
City council’s report states the reasons for annexation include a shortage of commercial land and land required for storm management.
"The city is the education, health, entertainment, commercial and retail centre for a growing trading area of over 180,000 people," the report states.
The majority of the city’s commercial designated land (80 per cent) is located in the north end, while the majority of the city’s residential growth (65 per cent to 75 per cent) is occurring in the south growth area.
The site contains a wetland that is an essential part of the city’s storm water management network.
"The wetland/retention pond area, dedicated as a public reserve, will allow the city to operate and maintain the area as part of the overall drainage network," states the report.
The site is located south of Brandon’s Richmond ward. Coun. Ron Brown said he’s received a lot of positive feedback on the proposed development from area residents.
"A lot of the people I’ve talked to are looking forward to seeing something out there," he said.
If all goes well, work on the site could begin next year.
"We’ll be working a little more closely with the city and getting some more details ironed out probably over the next year," McMillan said. "Ideally if everything goes smoothly, I’d hope next summer something’s happening."
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