Commercial and retail development has a long way to go to catch up to the burgeoning residential developments in East St. Paul and Riverbend around the Red River and the Perimeter Highway.
But inroads are starting to be made.
Developers say demand for neighbourhood and professional services on north Henderson Highway and north Main Street is strong, but there has always been a lack of land for development.
Patience on the part of developers of the residential development called Countryside Crossing has paid off, and 154 large-lot residential properties are in the process of being prepared. (An adjacent 150-lot residential development is also in the works.)
As part of that project, a 55,000-square-foot commercial development on the east side of Henderson Highway just south of the Perimeter has also received all of its zoning approvals to commence development.
While not nearly the same size as the growing south Winnipeg residential developments such as Waverley West and Lindenwoods and the sprawling, successful commercial developments springing up to service them, developers who have focused on those growing affluent neighbourhoods on the northern cusp of the city line say the only thing holding them back is available land to work with.
John Prall of Colliers International is marketing Countryside Centre and is leasing another 24,000-square-foot commercial building on north Main at Ridgecrest Avenue.
"When you look at the segment on Main Street north of Chief Peguis Trail (as well as the East St. Paul neighbourhoods just north of the Perimeter off Henderson) it's very safe to say residential growth rates are equivalent to what we see in south Winnipeg, with very similar demographics and all-new home construction. It just is a smaller enclave."
Marshall Freed, the developer of Countryside Crossing and Countryside Centre, has owned that land for several decades. For many years, it housed Maxwell King stables, his father's horse stables and breeding barns for his racehorses.
The stables closed about 10 years ago, but it was a much longer process to get a proper development plan in place.
"The forethought all along was to develop the land," he said. "No one in our family thought it would take 50 years."
In fact, several years ago there was a plan to do a big box retail development on the 31-hectare site. But Rural Municipality of East St. Paul zoning regulations put the kibosh to that.
"That was definitely turned down by the community," Freed said, without any tone of bitterness or frustration. "We let that fold and waited for the opportune time to develop. We think the time is right now."
As for commercial/retail development, the zoning plan is specific.
"The theme of this is not to be a large-format retail," Prall said. "They (the RM of East St. Paul) want unique neighbourhood commercial to service the immediate trade area."
So with just a preliminary concept in place, the only thing Prall knows for sure is the $10-million centre will not have a grocery store anchor or any typical big-box presence.
The 2.3-hectare site -- which will have its own traffic-light intersection at Henderson leading into the new roadway for the residential development connecting to Gateway Road -- will likely feature three or four buildings, with fall 2013 occupancy of the first phase depending on demand.
"We see an opportunity for some unique independent restaurants or specialty food stores," he said. "We have had good interest from medical/professional services. We're also targeting financial services. The idea for the centre is to service the local trade area."
Not including East Kildonan -- after all, the centre will be on the south side of the Perimeter -- there is a catchment area of over 8,000 people up to and including the town of Birds Hill.
It's the same on the other side of the river. Prall is filling a 32,000-square-foot development in three buildings at Main Street and Ridgecrest Avenue north of Chief Peguis Trail. Anchored by an oral surgical centre owned by the property developer, Prall said he's also got commitments from a convenience store, a quick-service restaurant and one other neighbourhood service.
Greg Michie is someone who does not have to be persuaded about the commercial development potential of East St. Paul.
The successful real estate broker liked the area so much, when the Henderson Highway building his former office was located in was sold, Michie bought a piece of developable land 1.6 kilometres north of the Perimeter on Henderson to build his own office plus a lot more.
The 28,000-square-foot development at Highland Park, now in its third phase, is home to a brand-new medical clinic with nine doctors, a lab and a pharmacy.
Construction is just finishing on the second phase and he said construction could start on the third phase this summer.
"The community loves it that we're here," he said. "I really didn't think I was taking a chance. You look at the residential development in the area, and it's only increasing. And what a pleasant environment to work in."
With the rural municipality maintaining effective control so as to avoid overdevelopment, pent-up demand is likely to see the region continue to be on developers' radar screens for years to come.
Recent north Henderson Highway and Main Street developments:
-- east off Henderson Highway, just south of the Perimeter Highway
-- more than 31 hectares, including over 2.3 hectares for about 50,000 to 55,000 square feet of commercial development
-- occupancy fall 2013 at the earliest
Main and Ridgecrest
-- southeast corner of Main Street and Ridgecrest Avenue
-- 32,000 square feet of space
-- first phase completed, with medical/professional tenants; food service and convenience stores on the way
Highland Park Professional Centre
-- 3014 Henderson Hwy., 1.6 kilometres north of the Perimeter Hwy.
-- 28,000 square feet when third phase is complete
-- walk-in medical clinic, pharmacy and real estate offices
-- 1441 Henderson Hwy. on the the southeast corner of Henderson Hwy. and Chief Peguis Trail
-- newly developed Safeway opened last year
-- Boston Pizza to open later this year
Sunova Credit Union
-- 2526 Main Street
-- opened last year
-- 2575 Main St., just south of the Perimeter Hwy.
-- recent expansion and renovation