CentrePort rail park appears to be back on track

By Martin Cash, Winnipeg Free Press

Development of a 665-acre rail park, long envisioned as a key feature of CentrePort Canada’s inland port concept, is apparently on track to start the first phase of construction in the spring of 2022.

Although the actual purchase of the land from the province has not closed, significant investment is already being made by an as yet unnamed developer on design, engineering and pre-marketing.

In April, the land just west of Sturgeon Road on the north side of CentrePort Canada Way was rezoned to allow for this type of industrial use that includes rail spurs that would connect to Canadian Pacific’s main line that runs nearby.

The concept is an industrial park occupied by tenants — 20, 30 or more —that regularly require rail cars for rail shipments. The co-location of many shippers would make it more cost-efficient for them and for the rail lines. (Inter-switching regulations would also give shippers access to CN and BNSF lines.)

Diane Gray, CEO of CentrePort Canada said, “It creates an efficiency of service.”

The project has been in the planning stage for years. In fact, in 2016 CentrePort introduced what was thought to be the first tenant. But a tenant-by-tenant approach proved untenable and a request for proposals to attract a developer to own and manage the project took place in 2018.

The developer that was selected through that tender process is the one that is working on the project now.

Cushman & Wakefield Stevenson is the broker for the project.

Carly Edmundson, Cushman’s communications director, said, “It is a bit of a unique situation. Until the land is closed on, we are not publicly marketing the project. At this time we are presenting information to qualified prospects who have shown interest in the park and I can tell you there is really strong interest from the market.”

She said the Canadian developer has experience in doing similar projects in Canada.

Gray said one of the features of the “fairly complex legal agreement” between CentrePort, the developer and the province is the developer cannot be named until the land purchase agreement closed.

The development is likely to create more than $100 million in investment.

Gray said among other things, it will require significant investment to extending the wastewater line to the project from Route 90 and Inkster Boulevard as well as the rail infrastructure work that is required to connect to the CP main line.

Despite false starts in the past, Gray said in light of signals she has received she has a high degree of certainty it will proceed.

“The developer has spent a lot of money already and the general rule of thumb in the development world is that you don’t throw money away,” she said.

Depending on tenant needs, lots could be configured many different ways and the developer can build to suit the tenants.

As well, Gray said if the developer found a tenant that needed to be operational sooner, the developer would be prepared to move more quickly.

The land was originally acquired from Canadian Pacific by the province during planning for CentrePort Canada Way, the highway that connects the west Perimeter Highway with Inkster Boulevard.


Winnipeg Free Press, May 15, 2021