The Town of Hay River is en route to positioning itself as a hub of economic development after receiving an infusion of cash that will help advance its Sundog business park.

NWT MP Michael McLeod, through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor), recently announced federal funding of $498,000 in addition to a $124,520 contribution from the Municipality of Hay River, which will be used for the research and planning of the Sundog development project located near the hospital.

Patrick Bergen, the town’s assistant senior administrative officer, said the money will allow an engineered drawing of the area to be completed.

“That will provide what lots are available and the infrastructure we are going to need,” Bergen said of the project, which will be undertaken in phases.

The detailed design work is expected to be finished by this spring, with actual construction anticipated to start in 2024, he said.

With the design details in hand, Bergen said they will be able to gauge the interest in the development from prospective businesses.

“Commercial-wise, we have no commercial inventory available, so that is a big focus for us,” he said of the need for developed lots. “The initial phase is all on commercial, so we want to see what sort of feedback we get, what kind of interest we have. We have had some interest already.

“We have been approaching a few developers and I think everybody agrees that multi-unit buildings are an interest and there is a need here. Once we have these designed, then we can say, ‘Here is the location; this is what it would look like,’” he said.

One of the businesses that they want located there would be three or four storeys in height.

“It would be office space, gas station, restaurant, coffee shop, that sort of thing. Some amenities for residents,” said Bergen.

In addition to commercial clients, the new business park may allow for construction of a long-term care facility. Image courtesy of the Town of Hay River

Mitigated flood risk

One major benefit of the site’s location is that it won’t be prone to flooding, Bergen said.

“The flooding is on the river side, this is on the other side of the highway, so this will be flood-resilient. It is well away from any risk of flood, which is another reason why we want to grow in that direction. We are obviously addressing the flood risks, but this is an area that wouldn’t be impacted by floods at all.”

Bergen did not have an estimate of the final cost of the development project, but said once initial construction and development is underway, the most expensive part will be a lift station that will be added into the infrastructure next year.

“A lot of it depends on the anchor tenants and as we negotiate whether they are going to cover some of the cost of the infrastructure up to their units. That is something we can discuss,” he said.

“A lift station is typically about $4 (million) to $5 million, so it depends on how big we grow from there. That is probably the biggest piece and then the rest is road and infrastructure, so at this stage it is just a guess.”

The subsequent phases of development will include construction of 3.6 hectares of commercial space that has direct access to the Mackenzie Highway.

Bergen said talks between the town and the Government of the Northwest Territories may also result in having a planned long-term care facility in the area.

As the project progresses, it’s projected that the development will also host a 5.3-hectare residential development that includes 1.7 hectares of green space.

The inclusion of residential zoning will then pave the way for multi-family housing and pre-built single family homes.

On the horizon

Bergen indicated that development in the area is gaining momentum.

“The Pine Point mine is looking very promising so that is an hour away, so there is potential for that, and the commercial fish plant is supposed to open this spring. There is a development in Enterprise that is starting to build and there is the need for housing and office space for any tertiary businesses.

“Cheetah (rare earths) mine across the lake is looking at growing as well and they are looking at shipping through Marine Transportation Services (MTS), so there is probably some tertiary work there as well.”

Overall, Bergen said the potential for economic development for the town is encouraging.

“I think it is quite exciting. It’s going to be really interesting.”

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