by Todd Lewys
They’re something that aren’t talked about a whole lot, yet make all kinds of sense — infill housing developments.
Should you take a look around the city, you might notice that more infill projects are popping up, from Devonshire Village in the city’s northwest quadrant, and other projects such at The Enclave, a 55-plus apartment rental complex, in south St. Vital.
Such projects make sense because they utilizing pre-existing infrastructure, said Sherwood Developments’ Fausto Pereira, developer of The Enclave and 86 Niakwa.
“With infill housing projects, you don’t have to build new infrastructure — you have services and roads right there. That creates a win-win situation. Developers can maximize population in an established area that already has city services, mass transit, shopping and services.”
That’s exactly why Devonshire Village, one of the newest communities in the city’s northeast sector, was conceived, said Genstar’s land development manager, Dave Boles.
“Our tag line for Devonshire Village is, ‘close to everything, far from ordinary,’” he said. “The community will be situated on 90 acres of land south of Ravelston Avenue right behind Costco, and is in a spot that really is close to everything.
“It’s in an established area adjacent to shopping, restaurants, services and other amenities. Everything is a short distance away including Kildonan Place. It’s a great spot, that’s going to enable us to meet continued demand for homes in the area.”
Pereira said more effort should be made to identify areas ideal for infill housing projects, as there are always spots throughout the city that could be utilized.
“Take our project at 86 Niakwa Road in St. Vital,” he said. “The land there had actually sat vacant for a long time. When we found it, we were ecstatic. We acquired it, then put 50 rental apartments on it. The only thing we had to do was tie into the services there, something we paid for ourselves.”
Not only did the city not have to pay for anything, but they gained additional tax revenue, added Pereira.
“When the land was vacant, I believe the city received something like $4,000 in tax payments. Once we put the 50 units on the land, payments went up to about $95,000, more than 20 times the amount with the land being unoccupied. You can’t beat that scenario if you’re the city of Winnipeg — you gain additional revenue, all without spending anything.”
The same thing applies to a community like Devonshire Village, which, in it’s first phase alone, will see more than 100 homes grace a piece of land that was previously empty space. Those homes, plus additional homes that are built in succeeding phases, will also provide the city with more tax revenue.
Boles said prospective home buyers will also benefit from a wide range of affordable housing options.
“There will be single-family starter homes, duplexes, four-plexes, condominiums and townhouses going in there as the community develops over the next number of years,” he explained. “Lots of people are going to be living in an area filled with an urban village-style feel — an area that previously wasn’t being used for anything. We’re pleased to be able to literally create something out of nothing that will benefit everyone.”
Pereira said the city needs to do a better job of identifying and promoting infill communities.
“Look at an area like Point Douglas,” he said. “There’s a tract of land just sitting there vacant on the river. It could be cleaned up and turned into a multi-family community with commercial businesses — all that’s required is the vision to do it. The city should look at encouraging developers with incentives and tax plans. By encouraging development of unused infill areas, they’ll gain money.”
Ultimately, it’s all about seeing the potential that infill developments offer in terms of additional, quality living space and spin-off benefits.
“Really, it’s a no-brainer,” said Pereira. “From the city’s standpoint, it’s easier to maintain infrastructure. Right now, things are too spread out for a city of Winnipeg’s size.
“Infill housing projects and communities come with things like services, roads, schools and shopping built into them. There’s no need for new infrastructure, and, at the same time, you can take vacant land to maximize population and grow your tax base. I’m very much in favour of it.”