By Mario Toneguzzi, Calgary Herald
CALGARY — The Town of Okotoks is reaping the economic benefits of a burgeoning big city. As Calgary’s population and industry have ballooned in recent years in its southern expansion, that’s had a positive spinoff effect for Okotoks. “We are seeing trickle down effects. South Calgary certainly is growing,” said Shane Olson, economic development team leader for the Town of Okotoks. “We’re seeing some of the side-effects here. Growth in Calgary is benefiting Okotoks and benefiting the region for sure.”
That includes some interesting economic developments in the town. A proposed office building called Westmount Square is currently in the pre-leasing stage for medical, retail and office space use. The project, by Optimus Building Corporation, is a three-storey, 88,000-square-foot structure. “If built, it will be the largest office building in Okotoks,” said Olson.
Lazzaro Mautone, vice-president of Optimus Building Corporation, said the opportunity is greater in Okotoks than in Calgary given the land prices and amenities. “The proximity to the south hospital (Calgary) to Okotoks is like a 15 or 20 minute drive from the south area,” said Mautone. “We feel that the flow will go in that direction.”
Grant Greschuk, with SMI Commercial Real Estate, said within the entire Foothills region people are in “dire” need of services. “Speaking outside of the medical professional part, law firms, accounting, professional, wealth management. Westmount Square is a class A facility and will serve as sort of the epicentre for that region.” Also, a Best Western Plus Okotoks hotel is planned. Roanne Bodnarchuk, president of B.W.O. Hospitality Inc., said construction of the hotel is anticipated to start this spring and the hotel will be open in early 2013. It will be a mid-sized, limited service hotel comprising 82 guest rooms. It will also have an indoor-heated pool, waterslide, meeting rooms and banquet facilities to accommodate 175 people. A building pad will also be constructed on the property for a future on-site restaurant.
Olson said ATCO Gas is also planning an office building and service shop in the town. The Okotoks retail sector is also feeling the positive impact of Calgarians on its doorstep. “The’re coming down to Winners, and Costco, Michaels, Home Depot some of these stores that we now have here because they can avoid the lineups. That’s the big draw. You can come down during a week night from South Calgary and basically walk up to a till. Weekends are a different story. They are busier,” said Olson. And interest is also being shown in the industrial land in Okotoks. The Okotoks Business Park expansion, which includes 11.7 hectares, has sold seven lots with two sales pending for $3.9 million in industrial land sales. “Interest has been healthy with most parties seeking one acre or smaller parcels,” said Olson.