The City of Selkirk will be the master of its own "economic destiny," via a huge plot of land the Manitoba community has purchased for $3.2 million.
The land — 326.5 acres located on the west side of the community, a short distance south of commercial development which includes a Walmart store — is the largest such purchase in the city's history.
"I'm calling it my 'field of dreams,'" Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson said Monday. "We are growing.
"This is a big day for us. It's probably one of the few remaining good-sized pieces of land on this side of the highway. This will help us grow for generations to come," he said.
"I hope councils and mayors down the road look back and say it was a good vision by us."
Duane Nicol, city chief administrative officer, said the land was put together over the last few years by a private developer, who recently, and quietly, put it up for sale.
Nicol said the land — which likely makes the city the largest landowner in Selkirk — won't cost taxpayers anything extra, because it will be paid for with a land acquisition reserve fund set up a few years ago and grown through land sales and budget surpluses. He said the land will eventually include a mix of multi-residential housing, single-family housing and commercial, with the intention of making it a walkable community.
"It will have zero impact on taxpayers at this time," he said. "And, as the land is sold, the money will go back into the reserve to purchase other strategic parcels in the future."
Nicol said the move helps the city take more control over its "economic destiny, as well as to encourage responsible land use that aligns with the community's vision. By owning this land, we'll have full control over how it gets developed and we ensure it supports the community's sustainability in the long run."
It is expected it will take at least three decades for the land to be fully developed. With the proposed multi-housing units, it has enough estimated room to double Selkirk's current population of more than 11,000.
Nicol said next comes the creation of a concept plan for the land, to be done with the help of Scatliff Miller Murray urban designers. The Winnipeg-based firm has previously designed city subdivisions the Oaks, Assiniboine Landing and Royalwood.
Mike Scatliff, a principal with the firm, calls what Selkirk is doing "visionary and transformative."
"As an owner of the lands that will hold their future neighbourhoods, they can forward plan with confidence," Scatliff said in a statement.
"The future growth of Selkirk can evolve at a pace and scale that suits its character, culture and commitment to sustainability."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.