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City may buy land it swapped

Parker property traded to developer needed for rapid transit

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Winnipeg may need to buy back part of the Parker Lands it traded to developer Andrew Marquess in order to complete the second phase of the rapid-transit corridor.

On Tuesday, council's public works committee voted to extend the second phase of the rapid-transit corridor through the Parker Lands, despite concerns from councillors the city should further explore a corridor that could run alongside Pembina Highway. If approved by city council, the dogleg route will run west through the Parker Lands, then southeast along a Manitoba Hydro corridor.

The city also examined installing a busway south along the Canadian National rail line west of Pembina -- which is one kilometre shorter -- but determined the Parker route would have less impact on traffic and would allow buses to travel faster because there are fewer road crossings and less expropriations would be needed.

Winnipeg Transit director Dave Wardrop said the cost of the Parker Lands route is cheaper and provides more opportunities for infill development than extending the corridor south near Pembina Highway along the CN Letellier line. He said the route will involve fewer expropriations and better transit links to Linden Woods and the Seasons of Tuxedo development on Kenaston Boulevard.

Wardrop said the cost of acquiring land for the Parker route is lower than the other options.

A city report estimates it will cost Winnipeg $7.9 million to acquire land for station development for the proposed alignment between Jubilee Avenue and Bison Drive. The report said the Gem Equities-owned Parker Lands needed for the proposed route are subject to acquisition or compensation if the land cannot be developed due to the alignment of the transitway.

Wardrop said it is possible the city may need to acquire part of the Parker Lands, but the extent of the requirements will not be known until further study, analysis and design takes place.

In July 2009, city council voted to trade city-owned land north of Parker Avenue to Gem Equities, a company owned by Marquess, to build infill housing. In exchange, Marquess gave the city his land in Fort Rouge, which the city needed to expand a Winnipeg Transit garage.

"Although it has a higher construction cost, the actual expected cost of land acquisition is considerably lower," Wardrop said.

Couns. Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) and John Orlikow (River Heights) questioned the city's rush to approve the corridor's alignment, arguing Winnipeg should take more time to examine the possibilities for a route alongside Pembina Highway.

Swandel urged council's public works committee to consider examining a route that extends down Pembina Highway to McGillivray Boulevard, then moves south down the Manitoba Hydro corridor.

He said that part of Pembina Highway is ripe for redevelopment and the city may be missing out on a great opportunity.

Orlikow said it would be easier for the city to run the corridor through Parker, but that does not make it the best choice: "I think the potential for development, for tax revenue, ridership, Pembina traffic flow are really huge benefits that are not being taken into consideration because of the transit report."

Other residents raised concerns about the impact of development on the Parker Lands.

Public works chairman Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) said the Parker Lands route is the cheapest and will have the least impact on neighbours who live in the area.

He said Winnipeg has done due diligence and a professional analysis on the proposed route. "We need to rush to finish rapid transit, we're 40 years behind," Vandal said.

"Other cities have grown tremendously on the rapid-transit file and we haven't done a lot so we need to rush."

Executive policy committee and city council still need to approve the route.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2013 B1

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Updated on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 3:12 PM CST: adds fact box

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