A six-kilometre-long slice of land on the south side of Charleswood is poised to become Winnipeg's largest new residential neighbourhood since Waverley West was approved in 2005.
On Tuesday, the City of Winnipeg will take the first formal step toward the development of Ridgewood South, a 325-hectare triangle of partly forested land largely bounded by Wilkes Avenue to the south, the Perimeter Highway to the west and Rannock and Ridgewood avenues to the north.
For decades, this large chunk of Charleswood -- roughly a quarter the size of Waverley West -- has resisted development due to the logistical complexity of extending roads, sewers and water mains into a patchwork of land with at least 30 property owners.
The largest owner is Winnipeg property developer Qualico, which holds roughly 60 per cent of the land. The firm is leading the effort to open up the area to help relieve a shortage of greenfields suitable to build single-family homes. Somewhere between 5,500 and 8,700 people are expected to move into Ridgewood South over the next 15 years.
A precinct plan published Friday calls for the land to be developed in 11 phases, starting in the west, where four large chunks can be serviced relatively easily by extending the city's sewer system.
But other pieces pose massive drainage challenges, not to mention community concerns about transportation headaches and preserving natural areas. The biggest question mark involves who will pay for new regional roads, such as the southern extension of the William R. Clement Parkway, which currently dead-ends at Grant Avenue.
"From what I can see, there are a number of challenges: drainage, traffic and preserving natural habitat," said Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck, who inherited the knotty Ridgewood South file from her late predecessor, Bill Clement. "Not one area (in the precinct) is optimal to satisfy all three conditions."
As recently as 2012, a group of Charleswood residents lobbied Qualico and the city to preserve 25 per cent of the natural areas in Ridgewood South. After a series of consultations, they have since been convinced to accept the preservation of 10 per cent of the land, including the entire corridor along the Harte Trail.
"We're OK with this plan. We just want to make sure it provides tight guidelines for developers," said Victoria Macdonald, chairwoman of Citizens for Charleswood Habitat Preservation.
The land-use plan for Ridgewood South calls for mostly low-density development -- that is, single-family homes -- between Fairmont Road and the Perimeter Highway, with a few nodes of multi-family housing and mixed residential and commercial development around intersections of future roads.
East of Fairmont Road, the Varsity View Sportsplex will remain in place at the foot of the proposed William R. Clement Parkway expansion. More mixed-use development would eventually fill in the eastern tip of Ridgewood South triangle.
According to the city's Transportation Master Plan, extending the William R. Clement Parkway from Grant Avenue to Wilkes Avenue will cost $60 million, in 2011 dollars.
"I don't see who's paying for that, though," quipped Havixbeck. "I don't see it on any budget in the coming years."
Qualico, meanwhile, is expected to foot the bill for smaller roads as well as water and sewer pipes, possibly under deals that will see the smaller developers pay back the larger firm.
"This is going to be challenging. There's a lot of fractured ownership in there and a lot of players in the game," said council property chairman Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan). "The plan does allow some flexibility, but servicing is going to be an issue."
Qualico did not respond to requests for comment Friday. Neither did Landmark Planning and Design, which prepared the Ridgewood South precinct plan. Requests to speak to City of Winnipeg planners were declined.