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Villeneuve region looks at billion-dollar future

Airport area could see 1,766 new jobs in 20 years
0412 VilleneuveMaster vilairportAttachment 1 Presentation sup
FUTURE OF AIRPORT? — This slide from a Nov. 30, 2021, presentation on the Villeneuve Airport Area Master Plan depicts how the area around the airport (which is depicted in the upper left) could look in 20 years. The plan projects that some $1.15 billion in development could happen in this region. EXPLORER SOLUTIONS/Screenshot

The Villeneuve Airport region could see about a billion dollars of development in two decades under a new master plan approved last month by Sturgeon County council.

County council gave the thumbs-up to the new Villeneuve Airport Area Master Plan Nov. 30.

In the works since December 2020, the plan sets out the overall vision for the quarter-section-wide area around Villeneuve Airport.

The airport itself is already a strategic logistics hub and employment centre, and its surrounding lands has huge potential for further economic development, council heard in a presentation. The county is also promoting the region through the Villeneuve Landing Network and recently invested in its water and broadband capabilities.

Four futures

The plan set out four possible visions for the airport’s borderlands, each based around different anchor projects.

One envisions an aviation and aerospace centre anchored by a research complex and an aviation training centre of excellence. The region would specialize in aerospace, space, and drones.

Another envisions a Villeneuve ecoPark that specializes in the green economy, with a research centre and testing grounds for hydrogen technology. Tenants would research renewable energy, extreme weather, and other ways to address climate change.

The Villeneuve Agri-Innovation Hub would emphasize agriculture, with an industrial kitchen, food-processing centre, and innovation centre allowing for experimental farming, new crops, and new finished products. The hub would build off the region’s local producers and fill a need for value-added processing.

The region could also become The Great Northern Logistics Park, using its road, rail, and air links to act as a staging point for goods headed north, east, and south. Such a hub would feature temperature-controlled warehouses, a bulk rail terminal, and an advanced logistics and warehousing demonstration centre.

In an email, county economic development services manager Tyler Westover explained that the finished region would likely be a blend of all four visions, with each one building out as the market allows.

The plan envisions four industrial zones, a commercial area, substantial reserve lands, and an innovation hub used for conferences and exhibitions. Buildings would be encouraged to have green roofs, electric car charge points, and low-energy lighting.

In 20 years, the region is set to be roughly half developed, with some 1,300 acres of land still available. Some 50 new buildings covering about 731,000 square metres (roughly 93 Rexall Places) would be built, creating some 1,766 jobs and about $1 billion in one-time economic impact. The county would reap some $14.2 million in taxes from the area a year, with the federal and provincial governments pocketing some $63 million a year.

This development will not come cheap: some $370 million in infrastructure upgrades are needed to support this growth, including pumps, reservoirs, a connection to the Alberta Capital Region Wastewater Commission network, and a $67-million bulk rail terminal.

Airports have long had the potential to be engines of growth, but it’s only recently that Albertans have started to take notice, said Steve Maybee, vice-president of operations for Edmonton Airports (which runs Villeneuve Airport).

“Airports and transportation systems leverage growth,” he said, adding that the Villeneuve region could easily become home to an aerospace centre of excellence.

This master plan is an exciting first step toward the future of the Villeneuve region, Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said in an email.

“This vision won’t happen overnight, but the long term-reward will include the potential for thousands of new jobs, billions of dollars' worth of investment, and the opportunity to create a vital and strategic hub right here in Sturgeon County.”

The plan recommends the county create incentives to draw investment, such as tax breaks, marketing, and direct co-investment, and also form an advisory committee to promote growth in the airport region.

Administration will now start work on a Villeneuve Airport area structure plan with aim to have it before council by the middle of next year.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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