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North Bay experiencing building boom not seen in 20 years
By IAN ROSS
Retail development in North Bay is catching up with its robust home building boom.
The arrival of Home Depot two years ago has kick-started the arrival of new power shopping centres on McKeown Avenue and the Highway 11/17 bypass.
McKeown Avenue is hot property for new and expanding retail in North Bay. MTO is examining the city’s future retail and traffic growth with a proposed new expressway at the Highway 11/17 interchange. The city is experiencing a building boom not seen in 20 years.
“McKeown is hot property,” says City of North Bay planning manager Ian Kilgour. “Northgate Square plaza likely has future expansion plans, and the corner of Seymour and the highway bypass will continue to grow.”
Canadian Tire’s 30,000-square-foot addition is underway and rumours persist of Loblaw’s opening a Big Box grocery outlet between the highway and McKeown.
A new pharmacy centre is being proposed nearby and North Bay businessman John Hopper has two-and-a-half acres of commercial property on the street that is slated for commercial development. On the east end of McKeown, on the way to the airport, Bradwick Property is building a strip mall.
On the highway, half of the current North Bay Chamber of Commerce property will be annexed for a 120-room Marriott hotel next door to the Home Depot. An adjacent nine acres of vacant city-owned land, once a City Public Works yard, is being designated for commercial purposes.
A Chrysler dealership is relocating from Lakeshore to the Highway 11/17 corridor with a Hyundai dealership relocating on Trout Lake Road.
Kilgour credits the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development for identifying gaps in a retail market study and actively recruiting new retailers to come to North Bay.
Institutionally, construction of the North Bay Regional Hospital mega-project on Highway 17 is expected to begin by year’s end.
Across town, a $45-million water treatment plant is underway to replace a 75-year-old pumping station with a modern water filtering system.
In June, groundbreaking began on the new Ecole Publique Elementaire, a new $11-million French elementary school on Connaught Avenue, which will be open September 2007.
North Bay’s vibrant home building market continues unabated well into 2006.
Dalron’s $25-million Marina Point seniors’ development is progressing on North Bay’s waterfront and the Watersun Condominium project on Lakeshore Drive was being framed in early August.
Figures released in July by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) indicates North Bay leads the four major cities in northeastern Ontario in housing starts.
“So much for plateauing,” says Warren Philp, CMHC’s Northern Ontario market analyst, who predicted home starts would slacken off in 2006 from the historic highs of the previous two years.
Since 2000, single detached starts in North Bay have risen from to 70, 89, 105, 123, 139 and up to 163 in 2005, with the city on track to better that mark.
Philp says North Bay and its neighbouring townships recorded 72 home starts until the end of July, up 9.1 per cent from 66 during last year’s first seven months.
Total starts — including single and multi-family units — were recorded at 115, up from 66 during the same period.
The resale market has also been remarkable, says Philp.
As of June 30, sales recorded were 779 semi-detached units, up from 698 last year, a healthy 11.9 per cent increase in sales. Home prices on average were in the $161,773 range, “clearly the strongest resale market from a price standpoint in Northern Ontario,” says Philp.
With all types of residential units sold through the multiple listing service of the North Bay Real Estate Board, price figures were up 10.1 per cent from last year.
Philp says as more land has been made available, potential homeowners have the choice to buy or build new. “There’s been some pent-up demand that’s been satisfied in the last few years.”
Based on his conversations with local real estate agents, homebuyers are a combination of retirees and people who have done well in the community and starting to take advantage of wealth and move up in the market. “I’ve been surprised by the number of people who are empty nesters and still wanting that bigger house or new house with everything they want.”
The cottage market continues to boom with appraisers in North Bay talking about the effect of twinning Highway 11 North and how cottage prices were moving in tandem with the road-widening project.
Kilgour confirms new subdivisions are coming on line with 30 mid-priced lots planned for the Kingsway subdivision near the future North Bay expressway and 40 lots are planned for the Thelma subdivision in West Ferris.
Forty, more upscale, lots are in the works for the Stone Manor project next to Kenwood Hills Drive.
To handle the surge of building applications, the City of North Bay recently instituted a DART (Development Application Review Team) program designed to fast-track planning applications.
Meeting twice monthly, the 10-member team includes all the city departments plus a conservation authority member.
The idea being to ease applications more efficiently through the planning process, says Kilgour.
“We changed it from a paper process to more of a consulting process and it allows us to speak with one voice.”