State of the City 2016

Delivered March 8, 2016

Mayor Stuart Houston

Good evening everyone, and thank you for coming out tonight to hear my annual State of the City address. On behalf of my colleagues on city council, it's my privilege to be here this evening to share our accomplishments from the past year and provide a snapshot of what we are working on in the coming year.

It's certainly no secret that we, as well as the rest of the province and the country, are in a different position than the last time I gave this address. The reality is that our economy has slowed down and we find ourselves in a slight cooling off period. However, even with these challenges, I'm proud to be able to report that we continue to have significant, and even record breaking, development and investment in our city.

We are moving forward with implementing the vision outlined in the City's Strategic Plan to ensure Spruce Grove is a place where people choose to live, raise a family and grow a business and I will show you proof of that tonight. I am fortunate to work with a forward-thinking council and dedicated City administration team who are committed to advancing these goals. And as we navigate our way through the current economic landscape, I am confident we can also find ways to up our game in the future to make Spruce Grove a resilient, welcoming and prosperous community.

I mentioned we had some record breaking growth in Spruce Grove last year and that begins with our census findings, which showed an all-time high one-year population gain of 8.5 per cent, which is up significantly from our average annual growth rate of 5.9 per cent.

At the time the census was completed, Spruce Grove was home to 12,025 households and 32,036 residents, which is slightly more than double what our population was in 2001 - that's pretty tremendous growth over just 14 years! It also confirmed that Spruce Grove is a family-oriented community, as our largest population groups are ages 30-34, 35-39 and then children ages 0-9.

In fact, last year MoneySense magazine named Spruce Grove one of the 10 best places in Canada to raise a family and one of the top 100 best places to live in Canada! We already know that Spruce Grove is a fantastic place to call home, but it's also great validation to have it independently confirmed, and publicized, by a respected third-party source.

We will be conducting our annual census again this year to ensure we have the most up-to-date demographic information for our community, as this is invaluable when we are planning for the wants and needs of our residents both today and in the future.

With such tremendous population growth, we also saw healthy numbers in our residential development with $133.7 million in building permit value in 2015, which, given the cooling economy, was more robust than expected. Approximately 92 per cent of the total building permits we issued last year was for residential construction, which is consistent with previous years.

We had 572 housing starts in Spruce Grove last year that were evenly split between multifamily, semi-detached and single detached homes. As a municipality we had the second highest number of housing starts, outside of Edmonton, in the Capital Region according to data released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

On the commercial side, building permits for new commercial structures doubled in 2015 to 10 buildings at a value of $22.8 million, which is the highest activity level we've had since 2010. We also had 64 permits for commercial improvements last year with a value of $7.8 million, which is a new record for the City, bringing our total commercial building permit value to $30.6 million.

This supports the findings from a 2015 report done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that listed the Greater Edmonton region, including Spruce Grove, as one of the top 10 places in Canada to start and grow a business.

In addition to this commercial development, we also welcomed five new industrial buildings to Spruce Grove last year with $6.2 million in building permit value and I'm pleased to say the average value of both new commercial and industrial buildings has been generally increasing, which reflects the development of larger, high quality structures going up in the city.

When you look at the overall picture, we issued 1,295 building permits in 2015, which is down slightly from last year, but is still more than 16 per cent higher than activity levels in 2013 and with a total permit value of $189 million we're seeing the third best year in the City's history!

We will certainly be watching our development numbers closely in the coming year as we wait for the economy to strengthen, but I'm pleased to say we already have some very exciting - and large - projects on the books for 2016, particularly in the area of institutional development.

As we announced last year, we are thrilled to be welcoming our first post-secondary campus to Spruce Grove with the new $17 million NAIT building. Scheduled to open in June, this 133-acre campus is allowing NAIT to expand its popular crane and hoisting equipment operator program by as much as 80 per cent of its current enrollment. It will be quite a sight with six cranes at the location and the largest having an extension capability equivalent to a 16-storey building! I am confident both the instructors and the students will feel at home in our city as we look for ways to further develop our partnership with the potential for expansion in the future.

Work also continues on the new $25 million integrated RCMP facility, which will be home to RCMP officers from both Spruce Grove and Stony Plain. The co-location of policing services will result in more efficient service to all residents in the region and building one facility will also result in construction and maintenance cost savings.

We are also seeing the completion of the Tri Leisure Village development with the addition of a new $16 million medical building this year. This development has been a great success in the community, bringing a new hotel, as well as several restaurants and businesses to the area. It's located beside our new Border Paving Athletic Centre, which I'll talk about in more detail in a few minutes.

There has been redevelopment in the Westland Market Mall area with several new businesses opening including Pet Valu and Sally Beauty Supply. This year we are seeing additional work inside the mall with the addition of a large Value Village location.

We are also excited that a steering committee made up of members from our chamber and local business community will be implementing a City Centre Revitalization Strategy to attract new development and investment along McLeod Avenue. We are very appreciative of the work this committee will be doing and I am looking forward to hearing their ideas on how we can breathe some new life into our downtown core.

Work continues in the WestWind Centre lands on the northeast corner of the city. This is truly a prime piece of real estate in Spruce Grove and we are expecting development to get started this year as we attract new retailers and tenants to the community.

I am extremely proud of the work our City administration is doing to bring commercial and industrial investment to Spruce Grove. Large organizations and companies are coming here because they recognize the benefits and the value of being part of our community.

Earlier I mentioned that Spruce Grove is a very family-oriented community, which was illustrated in our census findings from last year. With so many young families in the city, it's important we have the necessary programs, amenities and infrastructure in place to support them and help them thrive.

I am thrilled that this year we will see the opening of the first of two new kindergarten to Grade 9 schools in Spruce Grove. Located in the city's east end, the $22 million Prescott Learning Centre will open its doors in September for the new school year. There will also be a $3.5 million Wellness Centre adjacent to the school that will provide, among other things, before and after school child care. This centre is a partnership with the Province of Alberta, Parkland School Division, the development community and the City. On the west side, a $22 million still-to-be named school will be opening to students in 2017.

Access to nearby, quality education is key to having a healthy and engaged community and we worked extremely hard with Parkland School Division and the Province of Alberta to address the need for additional schools in Spruce Grove. We are thankful they also recognized the need, as these new schools are critical to serving our residents. We also look forward to working with Evergreen Catholic Schools in the future as they identify their needs for additional schools in the community.

In addition to having access to educational opportunities, we also believe in the importance of providing our residents with a safe, welcoming place to call home. While construction begins on the new RCMP facility, we have already added new RCMP, Enforcement Services and Fire Services staff both last year and for this current year.

We were also recognized last year in Allstate's 2015 Safe Driving Study as the safest community to drive in Canada! Nationally, motor vehicle collisions increased by 7.3 per cent, while collisions in Spruce Grove decreased by 19 per cent.

Implementation of the new Jubilee Park Master Plan, which includes several short- and long-term enhancements, will also begin this year. This park is one of our community's largest gems and we want to harness its potential to serve as a year-round destination for recreation and leisure.

Near Jubilee Park is our Greenbury neighbourhood, which earlier this year was named one of Canada's top 100 neighbourhoods by Canadian Real Estate Wealth magazine. In total 12 neighbourhoods across Alberta were included after being evaluated on factors including average price, vacancy rate and population growth. Greenbury was the first "green" neighbourhood in Spruce Grove and aligns with our goal of being a sustainable community.

To further achieve that goal, we were pleased to receive up to $7.3 million in GreenTRIP funding last year. This will allow us to make enhancements to our transit service, including the addition of six full-size buses by 2017 and four smaller buses by 2020, as well as the development of a $3.4 million park and ride facility and a bus storage facility by 2020.

Additional projects that will enhance the quality of life in Spruce Grove include a $20 million new growth water reservoir, which will service the city to a population of 75,000, $10 million in further development of Pioneer Road and a $2.4 million Campsite Road upgrade.

As we plan for our future, we also recognized an important part of our past last year by renaming a portion of Westgrove Drive to Nelson Drive, after the Nelson family who were pioneers in our community.

We also welcomed several large events to Spruce Grove last year, including hosting the Stage 5 Finish of the Tour of Alberta. With the support and involvement of our neighbours from the Town of Stony Plain and Parkland County, we welcomed cyclists and spectators from across the world to our community for a travelling festival and race that was broadcast in more than 100 countries.

While their own facility was undergoing renovations, the Edmonton Eskimos held their training camp at Fuhr Sports Park last spring. I had a tremendous feeling of pride as I watched them win the Grey Cup last year and, of course, I believe the work they did in Spruce Grove started them on the road to their eventual victory! I'll always remember the council meeting that included a visit from team president Len Rhodes who shared his praise for our city and gave us an opportunity to get an up close look at the coveted trophy.

Last year was also a big year for many of our City facilities. We celebrated the grand opening of our new Public Works Facility, which will meet the needs of the community for the next 25 years and allow us to maintain the high service levels residents enjoy in Spruce Grove. This year we will be developing a Public Works satellite facility in the Spruce Ridge area to store equipment and reduce on-road travel time to work sites on the west end of Spruce Grove, allowing staff to work more efficiently.

The City's office space was expanded into the King Street Plaza facility to accommodate our Planning and Development and Engineering departments. This will facilitate continued collaboration between these departments as they work on overseeing the growth of the community, while also enhancing customer service.

And, of course, we completed work on the new Border Paving Athletic Centre, which is also the new home of the City's Recreation staff and the Aerials Gymnastics Club. An important part of the facility is a new Community Resource Centre, or "Rec Hub", that will provide an environment for sports, recreation and not-for-profit organizations to access resource information and connect to other organizations in the community. There are also great rental opportunities at the centre, from meeting rooms to storage space, which will be a huge help to many of our community groups.

This centre was truly a labour of love for many of those involved and it fills me with a great deal of pride when I see how this facility is meeting the needs of so many in our community - and in particular the Aerials who worked and fundraised for years to achieve the dream of a new location for their members. An official grand opening event will be happening later this year, so stay tuned!

There are many components of our municipality that focus on providing day-to-day core services to our residents, from waste collection and road maintenance to bill payments and utility inquiries. These core services are essential, as they meet the most immediate needs and expectations of our residents. However, we must also take care to plan for the needs and expectations that will be coming several months, years and even decades from now.

Spruce Grove has always been a community with a strong focus on its future. We understand the value of not only dealing with the needs of today, but planning for the needs of tomorrow. To accomplish this, we are conducting a growth study that will look at necessary land requirements for the city for the next 50 years. We are also developing a long-term capital plan that will look at requirements for the city for the next 25 years, which is a pro-active approach to identifying and determining our needs.

The development of a cultural master plan is underway to identify ways we can profile our cultural resources and promote them to both our residents and visitors.

Work is also nearly complete on a social sustainability plan, which will look at the connections between the economy, the environment and society and how they can work together to achieve long-term prosperity and continued quality of life for present and future residents. We know Spruce Grove is a growing community and while we welcome that growth, we also need to take proactive measures to ensure Spruce Grove continues to be a great place to live, work and play. Creating a social sustainability plan will ensure the necessary policies and strategies are in place to anticipate and respond to changing social needs in a rapidly growing community.

We certainly had a busy and productive year in 2015 and it would appear this coming year will be more of the same! We recognize there will be challenges as we proceed in today's somewhat uncertain economic climate and we must be diligent as we find creative and cost-saving solutions to weather this storm, while still maintaining high service levels for our residents. I have absolute confidence in the ability of city council and administration to meet these challenges and come out the other side in a stronger position than before.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge the staff at the City of Spruce Grove for their dedication and expertise. I'd also like to thank my fellow council members for their commitment and passion for our city, as well as our partners, school divisions, community groups, and the business and development community, who play a huge role in our ongoing success. I must also thank the Spruce Grove and District Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event and for their ongoing work in promoting our city and welcoming and supporting the many great businesses in the community.

And thanks to each of you for your time this evening and for the many contributions you make to our city. We are truly fortunate to be part of such a strong and vibrant community. The table is set for success in Spruce Grove and by working together and capitalizing on the opportunities that are in front of us, I know we will achieve great things.

Thank you.
Mayor Stuart Houston