State of the City 2017

Last updated: Mar. 09, 2017 at 8:38 PM

Delivered March 9, 2017

Mayor Stuart Houston Good evening everyone and thank you for joining me to hear my annual State of the City address. On behalf of my colleagues on City Council, it’s truly my pleasure to be here to highlight our accomplishments from last year, as well as share some of the plans and initiatives on the horizon.

As a municipality, we spend a great deal of time managing the day-to-day tasks of running a city, but we have always made a conscious effort to plan for tomorrow. This pro-active approach has allowed us to realize great success and, in today’s current economy, I believe setting our sights on the future is more important than ever before.

A cooling economy can present challenges, but it’s also much easier to navigate when you have a solid foundation with long-term plans in place to help ensure ongoing investment, development and growth in your community.

In fact, when you look at the overall Capital Region, Spruce Grove has fared very well. According to Brad Ferguson from the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, we continue to outperform many of our neighbouring municipalities in economic development, demonstrating that we are still attracting new residents and business to our city.

Not only that, but last year Alberta Venture External magazine highlighted Spruce Grove as one of Alberta's best communities for business and online Canadian business magazine Profit Guide External included us in their list of the top 25 places in the country to do business. Profit Guide also identified us as the third most lucrative market across Canada for business owners.

According to last year’s municipal census, we grew by five per cent in 2016, bringing our official population count to 33,640 people. This increase is consistent for Spruce Grove, which has had an average growth rate of 5.1 per cent each year since 2011, and at that rate we expect to welcome our 35,000th resident in the spring of 2017.

The neighbourhoods with the largest population growth were three of our newest – Kenton, Greenbury and Prescott on the city’s northeast side – which indicates that people are not only relocating here, but they are also buying new homes.

Numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation show we had 380 overall housing starts last year. In the Capital Region, outside of Edmonton, we were the second highest in single detached starts at 156 and highest in both semi-detached and row house starts at 146 and 78 respectively.

The building permit value for single detached residential structures was $47 million last year, while semi-detached residential structures came in at $33 million.

On the commercial side, this was the sixth year in a row we surpassed $10 million in building permit value, coming in a $10.6 million in 2016. The value of our industrial development permits also remains high, with an average of approximately $500,000 per permit, indicating we are seeing high quality structures going up in the city.

Overall, we issued 812 building permits with a value of $114 million, 783 development permits and 2,878 safety code permits in 2016, which shows ongoing construction in the community that I fully anticipate will continue this year.

Our major municipal infrastructure, institutional and private construction figures for 2016, combined with construction projects that are planned for 2017, mean a whopping $165.5 million in development! I will highlight a number of these projects that are not only building our future, but also creating significant employment opportunities in our community that add to our economic sustainability.

Work continues on the new $25 million integrated RCMP facility. This co-location of municipal policing services for Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, as well as other provincial policing resources, will not only result in more efficient service to our regional residents, but also allow us to realize construction and maintenance cost savings.

Adjacent to this development, we lived up to our partnership commitment by widening the intersection of Jennifer Heil Way and Highway 16A, which has improved traffic flow in the area and will provide quick and easy access to the new RCMP facility. It’s interesting to note that we anticipated this project would cost $4 million, but because of the shift in the economy, we were actually able to complete this work for $2 million, which is a significant savings for the City.

Furthermore, we will be renovating and expanding the City’s existing Protective Services building in a phased approach that will include an expansion on land east of the current facility, providing room for new administrative offices, equipment bays, dorms and training space. Work on the estimated $21 million project will begin this year, starting with site work and servicing. Construction on the expansion, which will add another 3,300 square metres of space to the building, will get underway next spring.

Last year we welcomed the new $22 million Prescott Learning Centre to the city’s east side and this year, I know many families are anxiously awaiting the still-to-be-named $22 million K-9 school that will be constructed on our west side in the new Copperhaven neighbourhood, which will also be home to a new bus transfer facility.

The Prescott Learning Centre will be enhanced this year with the addition of the adjacent $3.5 million Beaverbrook Wellness Centre, which will provide child care and support services to local families through the YMCA Beaverbrook Child Care Centre. This facility demonstrates a successful and collaborative partnership between the City, the Province of Alberta, Parkland School Division, Beaverbrook and the YMCA of Northern Alberta that will have a positive impact in our community.

On the other end of the spectrum, we certainly understand the importance of helping our residents have supportive options to help them age in place in our community. I’m pleased to say we have a few proposals coming forward for assisted living facilities in Spruce Grove and I’m hopeful we will be able to move ahead with them this year, as this addresses a gap in the accommodations currently available in the city. For those of you in the development industry, we have more than 4,500 residents over the age of 65 in Spruce Grove, which is creating a huge demand for independent and assisted living options, as well as long-term care.

We also had our first post-secondary campus open in Spruce Grove last year. NAIT’s new $17 million Spruce Grove Campus PDF is now home to the school’s popular crane and hoisting equipment operator program. The doors to this 133-acre campus opened in September and I look forward to further developing our partnership with NAIT for potential expansion down the road.

The City’s new Border Paving Athletic Centre opened to the public last year, providing not only a new space for City’s Recreation Services department, but also offering space to non-profit and community groups to gather, collaborate and learn. With rental and lease opportunities, computer and Internet access for the public and groups, and extended operating hours, it’s an ideal spot to host a meeting, have a workshop or just connect with friends. Plus, it is home to the Aerials Gymnastics Club, who run their programs, playschool and administrative office in the centre.

Located near the Border Paving Athletic Centre in the Tri Leisure Village development is a new $16 million medical building that is also scheduled to open this year. This will be the final component of this $75 million development that has brought a hotel, new restaurants and businesses to the area.

This spring we will be completing an update to the City’s Economic Development Strategy to identify our priorities and initiatives for the next five years. This is a key component in attracting new and exciting developments and driving investment interest to our community. We will also be completing an assessment of our broadband requirements as an urban centre, as we realize this is a critical requirement to both businesses and residents, and is necessary to remain competitive.

A big factor in our Economic Development Strategy is event tourism where the sky is the limit! As a tri-municipal region we are poised to take advantage of Alberta’s 4.5 billion tourism industry. During the last week of February alone, we had the 40th annual Sweetheart Ringette Tournament, the Spruce Moose Gymnastics Tournament and the Winter Fest Street Hockey Tournament bring more than 1,500 athletic participants to our region. Add in their parents and other family members, and an estimated 4,500 visitors came to our region in just one week for events that were all run by our grassroots organizations. Wow! This has an incredibly positive impact on our facility rentals and also supports our hospitality industry.

Commercial construction has also started at the Westwind Centre. Two office buildings are already under construction, with secured tenants ready to take occupancy, and as this area develops, it will include grocery, gas, and other retail and service options for both residents and visitors to our community. Westwind Centre has the potential to become the largest commercial development in the history of Spruce Grove and we anticipate it will drive important new investment into our community.

I am extremely pleased with the work the Spruce Grove City Centre Business Association has been doing to reinvigorate, develop and grow this important part of our city. Last summer the association had great success in drawing people to the city centre with events including the Taste of Spruce Grove, Cruise Nights and monthly public markets. Most recently, the Winter Fest event brought residents together for a fun day that included a hockey tournament, ugly toque contest, wagon rides and food venues, attracting an estimated 1,200 people to our city centre.

Through events like this, we are drawing residents to the city centre and reminding them of the many great shops, restaurants and amenities in this part of the community. To assist in this ongoing initiative, the City has committed funding to prepare an area redevelopment plan for the city centre and there will be opportunities for our residents and the business community to participate in that process.

Part of being a great community is providing your residents with a range of amenities they can use and enjoy. I’m very excited that this year we will be opening the City’s new spray park in Jubilee Park. Residents have been asking for a spray park for years, and I am confident that what we have planned will exceed their expectations! At 1,100 square metres in size, it will be a multi-use, multi-age, multi-activity space for people of all ages to play, enjoy and connect with nature.

This new spray park is expected to be open to the public on July 1 as part of our Canada Day Celebration in Jubilee Park. We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of confederation and I know our team at the City is working hard to put on an amazing event this year, so I’d encourage you all to plan to attend. The fireworks show at the end of the night is going to be incredible and will be the largest in the history of the city!

Additional capital projects on the books for this year include finishing the new $14 million new growth water reservoir and completing and $8 million upgrade to Pioneer Road between Grove Drive and Highway 16A that will become an important link to residents on the east side of Century Road and a major component of the City’s Transportation Master Plan. Again, we were able to realize cost savings in the neighbourhood of 30 per cent on these two projects, as construction costs came in under budget.

Work will also begin this year on a $2.5 million extension of Grove Drive west from Harvest Ridge to the new K-9 school that will be constructed, and we are not stopping there as the City has committed funds in our 2017 Capital Plan to complete the engineering and functional design study for the long awaited connection of Grove Drive west to Boundary Road and the Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

While enhancing some of our infrastructure to help people get around our city, we’ve also made a significant investment in our commuter transit service. Thanks to $7.3 million in GreenTRIP funding from the Province of Alberta, we were able to purchase six new transit buses last year, which allowed us to expand our service with a new route that started running in February. Route 562 travels around Spruce Grove with service to West Edmonton Mall, the South Campus/Fort Edmonton Park LRT station and the Acheson Industrial Area south.

Future plans for our transit service include adding more routes, and more trips per day to existing routes, developing a $3.4 million park and ride facility and building a bus storage facility by 2020. We currently partner with Parkland County to provide service to the Acheson Industrial Area and we look forward to continue working with both the County and the Town of Stony Plain on future transit enhancements and opportunities. It’s also interesting to note that for the second year in a row, we were ranked as the safest city to drive in Canada based on the findings from Allstate Insurance Company of Canada’s Safe Driving Study. Of the 86 communities included in last year’s study, we were the safest with a collision frequency rate of just 3.6 per cent.

Collaboration is such an important part of our success as a city. We are a strong advocate for regional cooperation within the Tri-Municipal Region and at the Capital Region Board. We recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding as part of the Metro Mayors Alliance, which is a group of municipalities in the Edmonton region, including Spruce Grove, who have a desire to act as one metro region on regionally significant issues. The priority areas we will be starting with are transit, infrastructure and land use planning, and economic development.

Closer to home, we are part of the Inter-municipal Collaboration Committee with both Parkland County and the Town of Stony Plain. Together we also signed a Memorandum of Understanding and look for ways to negotiate and manage challenges, while identifying projects and opportunities that can lead to benefits for residents of the entire Tri-Municipal Region. I believe we are a region without borders.

A recent resident satisfaction survey, completed in the fall of 2016, showed that overall, residents are proud of this community and have a high level of satisfaction with the City’s programs, services and facilities. In fact, 94 per cent of those surveyed said they would recommend Spruce Grove as a place to live. This backs up the findings from MoneySense magazine that ranked Spruce Grove as one of the best places to live in Canada in 2016 and previously recognized us as one of the country’s top 10 places to raise a family in 2015.

We accomplished a great deal in 2016 and I am excited and optimistic about what’s ahead for us this year and even further down the road. There will certainly be challenges, but I am confident that by setting our sights on the future, City Council and Administration will be able to ensure that Spruce Grove remains the best place to live, work and play.

I’d like to thank and acknowledge City staff for their creativity, dedication and expertise. You are all an invaluable part of making Spruce Grove a successful, vibrant and welcoming city. Thank you to my fellow council members for your ongoing commitment and support of this community that we are all so proud to serve. Thank you as well to our regional partners – the Town of Stony Plain, Parkland County, Parkland School Division and Evergreen School Division – for your dedication and vision. And thank you to the builders and development community for your continued confidence and investment in Spruce Grove.

And a huge thank you to the Spruce Grove and District Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event every year. We certainly appreciate your ongoing work to promote our great city and support the businesses who call Spruce Grove home.

And with that, I'd like to end with a community video that I believe perfectly sums up why Spruce Grove is a place where people choose to live, raise a family and grow a business. Thank you to everyone for your time this evening and I look forward to working with all of you as we celebrate our city, embrace the present, build our future!

Thank you.
Mayor Stuart Houston