A large number of businesses want to set up shop in Gander, and building near the airport seems to be the way to go.
The Gander International Airport Authority (GIAA) is nearing the end of a planning process that might see more than a half-dozen retailers establishing themselves in this part of the province.
The land — a multi-acre lot which spans an area between Roe Avenue and James Boulevard north to south, and between Garrett Drive and Cooper Boulevard west to east — has been on the radar of GIAA for several years.
“We have been working on this for quite a while,” said Gary Vey, president and CEO of GIAA. “There has always been, from a federal government stand point, the effort to find ways to use (Transport Canada) land that will allow us to generate revenue.”
The GIAA is now proceeding with developing a 150-acre business park on its land.
“In a growing retail landscape, this will be an exceptional location for businesses,” said Steve Burbridge, GIAA Manager of Infrastructure. “Gander is certainly constrained by a lack of premium, high visibility, and accessible retail spaces and this development will help address that need.”
Mr. Burbridge said the development will unify the current retail power cluster on Roe Avenue, and create one convenient commercial district.
“One of the primary collector roads will run parallel to Roe (Avenue) and connect with it, which will create a consolidated business destination,” he said. “This will benefit both incumbent tenants already doing business on Roe Avenue, and prospective new businesses operating from the new adjacent location.”
Mr. Burbridge said the airport’s commercial development department has already fielded eight qualified expressions of interest for businesses seeking long-term lease of lots on airport-managed land.
“It’s evident there is a pent up demand from retailers looking to relocate, grow, or establish new operations,” he said. “We aim to fast track this development because, in the absence of suitable space in this community to accommodate growth, retailers may take their operations to other jurisdictions.”
Plans in place
In December, 2012, a conceptual design, produced by local consulting firm Cecon Ltd., was submitted to the Town of Gander for review. After a consultative process, council granted approval in principle for the project.
“We are now resubmitting a detailed design for the town’s final approval,” Mr. Burbridge said. “From there, we are prepared to tender construction and get the shovel in the soil.”
Mr. Vey said that developing commercial land has remained a strategic focus for the airport authority over the last decade.
“It is no secret we have worked very hard to generate non-traditional revenue,” he said. “We are fortunate to manage, right on our property, what is a premium location for a complementary business park development.
“As we have told our stakeholders time and again, it is of paramount importance that the GIAA shore up sources of long-term, sheltered revenue to ensure a sustainable future for the airport. It is no secret that Gander’s traditional business of international fuel stops is in continued decline, and we are working very hard to replace that revenue. The domestic passenger market continues to grow and we have high hopes for commercial development as well.”
Mr. Vey said the GIAA views this development as a positive move forward for the airport, the community and the entire region.
“The town will benefit from an increased tax base, as the airport and its tenants already contribute over $1 million in municipal taxes annually,” he said. “The proposed development is completely complementary to the existing business park on Roe Avenue, and will enhance access, relieve congestion and establish a common, visible business district.
“Retailers will be able to avail of a strategic location to do business, and consumers from the throughout Central Newfoundland can enjoy a better shopping experience with more choices. From the airport’s perspective, we can secure revenue that’s sheltered from the international market as we seek to reinvent the airport for modern times. It will allow us to reinvest in an important community asset and critical piece of enabling transportation infrastructure.”
Town officials have said they are in talks with Transport Canada in the hopes of opening up portions of federally-owned land adjacent to the business park.
Parcels of land, mostly east and north of the existing park, are being considered for future development.