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Model community
May 20, 2005

It’s 65 hectares of prime real estate in one of the most popular areas of the city, and it has the potential of becoming a model community.

The abandoned Kapyong Barracks in south Winnipeg has been transferred to Canada Lands Company, the federal arm’s length agency created to handle surplus government-owned land. To complete the transfer of the former military base, CLC will pay the Department of National Defence $8.6 million.

The base became surplus when the Second Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were transferred to CFB Shilo.

CLC has a good track record in converting former Canadian Forces Bases into award-winning communities. The Crown corporation has received numerous glowing comments with the outcome of an abandoned air force base just a seven-minute drive from downtown Calgary. Garrison Woods adheres to the basic principles of New Urbanism — narrow streets, broad sidewalks, original streetscaping and readily accessible public transit.

“Canada Lands stepped in as the developer of Garrison Woods and has done a wonderful job as a residential developer,” said Patrick Hamilton, a member of the Winnipeg Real Estate Board. “they did it by working through the city and holding public meetings.”

“Garrison Woods ... is not only unique in Calgary, but in all of Canada,” said Ken Toews of CLC. “It is a one-of-a-kind urban village in the middle of the big city. It is an integrated community where people live, work, play and are educated.”

CLC will be taking over 43 buildings, including barracks and warehouses. These are buildings the corporation may consider for redevelopment as was the case in Calgary. There are another 375 single dwellings and duplexes used by the former troops that will eventually become part of the deal and be redeveloped.

In anticipation of the abandonment of the base, there were plenty of interested parties wanting a piece of the action because of its prime location. Early interest was expressed by the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, whose reserve is 25 kilometres south of Grand Beach. The chief at the time said Kapyong was within the area identified by Indian Affairs to deal with its Treaty Land Entitlements — the transfer of Crown Land to settle outstanding treaty claims.

But, this outcome hinged on CLC’s eventual decision. And, the corporation has decided it wants to be the prime developer.

That doesn’t mean other groups can’t play a role. Local contractors and developers will be approached to build homes  and help out with renovations to existing structures.

Some of the land may even be transferred over to the city for completion of the long anticipated Kenaston underpass and the widening of Kenaston Boulevard.

The redevelopment of military bases is not just a Canadian phenomenon. The President George W. Bush administration, in an attempt to cut into its massive federal deficit, has proposed the closure of a number of military complexes, including the air base at Grand Forks, North Dakota.

But, while some communities may see only loss, others such as Concord, California, are taking a page from CLC’s redevelopment book and are proposing a change into a residential housing and commercial facilities. Actually, officials from the community are ecstatic that the defense department has decided to close 5,170 acres of the Naval Weapons Station — like Winnipeg, they also have a serviced land shortage. And, like Kapyong, it is considered a prime real estate location. 

“We’re very excited and happy that Concord was listed as a facility to close,” commented Mayor Laura Hoffmeister to  a Fremont, California-based Argus reporter. 

The city wants to build a mixed-use “village” with about 13,500 homes and workplaces to employ 15,000 people.

Recent reports show that Winnipeg is in dire need of serviced lots for new homes. Kapyong will add to the pool of land that will also expand with the advent of Waverley West (13,000 homes) and South St. Boniface (3,000 homes) — but these projects are at least a year or more away from development. 

Officials in California are predicting it will take at least five years for their development to commence. Kapyong will probably take less time before the first shovel hits the ground because CLC has a headstart — the land transfer process has already commenced — but public consultation, rezoning, etc., could take months or even a couple of years. CLC in the past has shown a desire to get all its ducks in a row before it takes on a project. It is projected that, once underway, redevelopment will take place over a 12-year period. Complete development of Waverley West is expected to take 50 years and South St. Boniface is expected to take 25 years.

The “village” concept cited by the Concord mayor is something that CLC has been successful at in Calgary. Because of similar circumstances, CLC should be able to bring this success to Winnipeg.