State of the City 2013


Mayor Houston giving State of the City address on February 12, 2013
Mayor Stuart Houston delivered the State of the City address at the Spruce Grove and District Chamber of Commerce meeting on February 12, 2013.

Good evening everyone, and thank you for coming out tonight to hear my annual State of the City address. On behalf of city council, it is my pleasure to be here to share what we accomplished last year and tell you about the exciting things we have planned as we continue to focus on making Spruce Grove a great place to live, work and play.

I’d like to begin by asking you a simple question: when you think about Spruce Grove, what characteristics come to mind? Some people would describe us as a friendly and welcoming community, while others would comment on our exceptional recreational and cultural amenities.

But I’d like to tell you my answer to that question, and it’s a message we are continually sharing with our residents and business owners, visitors, investors and other levels of government. When I think about Spruce Grove, I see a vibrant, innovative and growing community that has an extremely bright future ahead of it.

Spruce Grove has positioned itself as one of the communities to watch in Alberta and, in my opinion, across the country. We are one of the province’s fastest growing communities. Our population has grown by a steady five per cent each year since 2001, and that number increased to six per cent in 2011. The most recent federal census numbers show a 33.9 per cent increase from 2006 to 2011.

The City will be conducting our own census this year, which will provide us with an even clearer, more up-to-date picture of our population and the residents who choose to call Spruce Grove home. This census data will be an incredibly important tool as we plan for the future of our community.

This census will also help us prepare for the growth the city is experiencing. Last year the value of all our building permits was $165 million, which is only $4 million shy of breaking the $169 million record previously set in 2007, and we fully expect strong residential and commercial growth to continue in 2013.

Since 2006, residential housing starts have averaged 544 units per year. This equates to a value of $743 million or an average value of $106 million per year. Last year we had 674 housing starts with a total value of nearly $128 million, so we are seeing this trend continue. It’s also interesting to note that according to the Canadian Home Builders’ Association External, there are approximately 1,350 people who are employed in Spruce Grove in the home building sector.

These housing starts are providing accommodations for people who are filling the more than 1,100 jobs that were created in Spruce Grove last year. They are happening in existing subdivisions, as well as some that are quite new to the community and include a variety of housing options. We understand people have a range of housing-related needs, so we work with developers to provide home buyers with various options to suit their budget and their lifestyle – from condominiums and townhomes to duplexes and single-detached homes.

In fact, last year a record-breaking 340 multi-family units were built in Spruce Grove, which far surpasses our previous record of 233 units in 2003 and shows the demand for diversified housing options in our city.

Several of our newer subdivisions are definitely “out of the box” when we look at what they are offering prospective buyers. The Greenbury development External is certainly our most unique, as it offers a mix of housing styles. Spruce Grove is the first municipality in the Capital Region to introduce this type of development that tastefully integrates single family homes, townhouses and duplexes on the same street in harmony and style. Not only is this development located next to the beautiful Jubilee Park, but it’s pushing the envelope when it comes to green building practices that help preserve the environment.

Two other new neighbourhoods that I’d like to highlight are Kenton and Prescott, which are also in close proximity to Jubilee Park. Kenton External includes over-sized estate properties, single family homes and high value duplexes, while the Prescott External community features a creek and walkway system that is not only beautiful to look at, but also supports a healthy, active lifestyle. Both will see new homes constructed this year.

We are pleased to have some new speciality housing developments in our community, including Qualico’s award winning Windsor Estates, which is entering its second phase of development and caters to the 55-plus market. The Copper Sky Lodge is expected to open by mid-year and will provide 130 supportive living units that merge the concepts of independent living and 24-hour support.

As a City, we also recognized the need to provide affordable housing options. We were able to access provincial grants to fund 26 affordable rental units within the new 99-unit Lake Ridge Apartments building, which opened last year on the City’s east side. West Grove Manor, located on the City’s west end on Jennifer Heil Way near the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre, is also now open and providing 103 affordable and low income apartment units.

There is truly something for everyone in Spruce Grove and this demonstrates we are managing our development with a sustainable, inclusive and long-term approach that will ensure our ongoing success as the City continues to grow.

In addition to giving people options for where they live, we are also continuing to provide more options for where they can work, shop, eat and socialize. Our “open for business” attitude, which we share with the Chamber of Commerce External, is attracting a wide range of commercial development to Spruce Grove.

Since 2006, we have seen non-residential building permits with a total value of $185.5 million, which is an average of $26.5 million each year. In 2011 that number reached $32 million and last year we surpassed that value with $33 million in non-residential building permits.

We have seen this development in every corner of our community and if you combine our residential and non-residential building permits since 2006, we anticipate crossing the $1 billion mark in 2013, which is very exciting. I would now like to talk to you about some of these developments that are planned and others that are already underway.

On the west side of the city, along McLeod Avenue, we have seen development in Westgrove Common and the adjacent McLaughlin area with the opening of a new Mac’s convenience store and the Canadian Brewhouse. Work is also well underway on a new car wash and the Nelson Commercial Centre.

On the east, we continue to see the expansion of Century Crossing. This $75-million development is currently the largest retail area in Spruce Grove, providing a mix of shops and services to visitors and residents.

Last year we were pleased to welcome Winners, Sport Check, Servus Credit Union PetSmart and Save-on-Foods and we have more openings scheduled for this year, including Michael’s, ATB Financial, State and Main and Peavy Mart.

Also on the southeast side of the city is the new Diamond Grove RV Park, which will be opening this summer with 253 fully serviced stalls and a sani-dump facility to accommodate visitors to Spruce Grove. I suspect that even some local residents will take advantage of this beautiful new amenity.

We are also looking at the construction of a new Holiday Inn Express hotel that will be located south of the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre. This hotel will be part of the estimated $36 million Tri Leisure Village development that will eventually include restaurants, shops and a professional building.

On the northeast corner of Spruce Grove, where Century Road meets the Yellowhead Highway, is WestWind Centre, an integrated mix of commercial and residential development on approximately 130 acres. The first phase of residential development, which is the Kenton neighbourhood I previously mentioned, is already underway and will see homes going up this spring. The first phase of commercial development along Century Road will also begin this year with site preparation, servicing and roads, with plans to have the initial tenants in place in 2014.

On the industrial side, we have around 1,600 acres of industrial land in Spruce Grove in existing and new industrial parks. Approximately half of this land is currently developed or fully-serviced, and our six existing industrial parks are home to 257 businesses, which makes Spruce Grove a hub for this type of activity and is drawing interest from a range of investors and businesses. We are working closely with our industrial park developers to attract new investment.

We are excited about the ground breaking on Feb. 20 of the $6 million Premier Garage Condos on Century Road South. The City is well positioned for industrial growth in Spruce Grove Industrial Park External and the new Campsite Business Park External. A number of major companies have recently completed or are undertaking expansions in Spruce Grove including Cargill Value Added Meats, Bee Maid Honey, Entrec Corporation and Thompson Bros. These are all positive signs supporting the growth of our industrial base and I would encourage you to check out Spruce Grove Industrial Park on Golden Spike Road and Campsite Business Park on Campsite Road.

In our economic development strategy, Partnerships for Prosperity PDF, this council has and continues to set objectives to grow our non-residential tax base over the next 10 years to the approved target of 20 per cent.

This is an ambitious target given the rapid growth of our residential sector, but we have already seen an improvement of one per cent last year, putting us at 16 per cent. We are confident we can reach the goal of 20 per cent by working with key industries, developers and our business community to identify and act on opportunities to bring new industrial and commercial development to Spruce Grove, such as the new hotel and many of the businesses in Century Crossing.

Our current retail inventory has a vacancy rate of less than four per cent and we recently completed a retail gap analysis that identifies merchandise categories and retailers that are a compatible fit for Spruce Grove.

This work ensures we are on course to meet that 20 per cent target, and that’s good news for everyone who lives in Spruce Grove. This will help diversify our tax base and create new jobs in the community. Our top 10 employers in Spruce Grove already provide more than 2,400 jobs and by expanding our industrial and commercial base, we will be able to watch that number grow.

Our downtown core is another area we will be focusing on in 2013. We want to investigate ways that we can revitalize this part of our City so we will be developing a vision and plan for downtown redevelopment. As part of this process, we anticipate working closely with the Chamber of Commerce and businesses that are currently operating in our downtown region to gather their ideas and insights.

Together, this creates an environment that enables people to live and work in Spruce Grove, while also being able to do their shopping or find a specific product or service without leaving city limits. We are keeping those dollars in our community and creating an interwoven network of community sustainability and business prosperity.

And while we are excited about the growth we are seeing in Spruce Grove, it’s also one of our biggest challenges. We need to ensure the growth is manageable and sustainable so we can continue to maintain the quality and the level of programs and services that our residents have come to expect from us.

We know these programs and services are the very reason so many people choose to live and work in Spruce Grove. Everything from our road maintenance and our snow removal to our many parks and playgrounds contributes to our quality of life.

One major addition that I was pleased to see officially open to the public last year was Jubilee Park. As the new home of our Canada Day Celebration, this 65-acre park is a space where our residents can come and enjoy the best unstructured recreational opportunities in Spruce Grove. With paved walking and bike trails, picnic areas and a playground that is universally accessible, this park shows our commitment to enhancing open spaces and providing our citizens with the opportunity to have an active and healthy lifestyle. Since 2006, we have invested approximately $18 million in amenities including Jubilee Park, Fuhr Sports Park, Henry Singer Ball Park, the Grant Fuhr and Stu Barnes arenas and the Woodhaven ball diamond.

We have also upgraded existing equipment and built new playgrounds throughout the City, spending more than $2 million over the past seven years on these initiatives. This year we will be modernizing the Brookwood outdoor rink and conducting an assessment of the skate park.

The average age of our residents is 34 years and 28 per cent of our population is under the age of 20. The cool part about that is eight per cent are kids under the age of four, so we know we are home to many young families who enjoy having access to recreational opportunities in their own backyards. But it goes deeper than that. Providing these options is also about creating and maintaining a vibrant community with residents who are proud of where they live and willing to give back. As a City, this has always been one of our top priorities as we look to enhance community development.

Another aspect of that community pride is having a City that is clean and attractive. Each year, we dedicate a significant amount of our budget and staff time to sweeping our streets, maintaining our green spaces and other projects that help beautify our community.

Last year we were fortunate to partner with the Rotary Club of Spruce Grove on an initiative that enabled us to spend $30,000 on ornamental trees. These trees were planted along Grove Drive last fall and this spring we can look forward to seeing them bloom with pink flowers.

This year we are going to be placing temporary planters featuring annual flowers at intersections throughout the community. This is a simple way for us to show that we care about our community in a way that both residents and visitors can enjoy.

Providing both residents and visitors with a safe and healthy community is also a priority for the City. Last year we enhanced our protective services with the addition of four new firefighters and one new RCMP member and we have committed to one additional full-time RCMP member this year. Our budget commitment to our City’s Protective Services, which includes RCMP, Fire Services and Enforcement Services, is more than $10 million each year.

In addition to providing quality recreational opportunities in a beautiful and safe community, Spruce Grove is also well-known for its cultural programs, such as those that come to Horizon Stage. This season marks Horizon Stage’s 30th anniversary and we are truly blessed to have this world-class performing arts centre, which we share and partner together with our great friends from Parkland School Division External and Parkland County External, in our city. To mark this occasion, we will be launching a brand new website for Horizon Stage later this year.

The City also takes a proactive approach when it comes to maintaining our roads and sewer systems. Our 10 year capital plan will see us strategically invest approximately $87 million over the next 10 years on new capital assets such as infrastructure, facilities, parks and trails, with more than $12 million planned for transportation upgrades over the next five years alone. One example of a significant project on the books for this year is road upgrades at the Century Road and Highway 16 interchange. This project will include access lanes leading to and from the interchange, an additional turn lane, bridge improvements and an additional lane into Spruce Grove.

This year work will also commence on our new Public Works Facility. Council approved this project in December and it is the largest capital project in the history of the City. Located on the same street as the Century Off-Leash Park, this new facility will enable staff to work more efficiently and accommodate an estimated 25 years of growth in the community.

As an organization, we are always looking for ways we can improve the way we do things so last year the City went through a comprehensive governance review. This review looked at the senior levels of the organization, including council, the city manager and the strategic leadership team to ensure we are making decisions, communicating with stakeholders and providing leadership based on leading practices.

The results of the review were shared with us last year and I’m both pleased and proud to say the City is meeting common practices and many leading practices in the way we function as an organization. However, there is always room for improvement, and we will now be working to implement the recommendations from this review process to help us in our commitment to move from “Good to Great”.

We also want to hear from our residents and find out how they think we’re doing, so we will be conducting a resident satisfaction survey this year. Our last survey told us that over 94 per cent of our residents noted Spruce Grove was either a good or great place to live and we look forward to receiving this year’s feedback. Like the census, the results from this will be extremely helpful as we plan for the future and prioritize what our residents both want and need from the City.

We’ll be looking at creating and implementing an event hosting strategy and action plan. We’ve already had several large events come to Spruce Grove, including sporting events and tournaments, but we want to investigate how we can attract even more people and events to our community.

And, of course, it’s also an election year, which means residents will be choosing their city council this fall. This election will be slightly different from past elections in that the mayor and aldermen will be elected to a four-year term, rather than a three-year term.

When I look at what we have planned for 2013, I am excited at the direction we are going in. I am also extremely proud of all that we accomplished last year as a council and as a City. It’s a reflection of the many relationships and partnerships that we have with our business and development community, the Chamber of Commerce, our regional partners, our residents, and community groups and organizations. You are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get involved and you should all be very proud of the active role you are taking in the future of our City.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank and acknowledge the staff at the City of Spruce Grove. These individuals are truly the ones who make the City run on a daily basis and they all take exceptional pride in their work and in providing a high level of customer service to our residents. I’d also like to thank my fellow council members for their forward-thinking approach and dedication to serving this community. I have no doubt that we have the right team in place to help Spruce Grove realize its full potential.

Thank you to all of you for the many contributions you have made, and will continue making, to our city. We are a vibrant, innovative and growing city that is filled with energy and enthusiasm and by working together we can achieve and enjoy the bright future that is ahead of us.