Airport expansions seen as catalyst for growth

Along with giving the city a transportation hub that rivals the very best in Canada, Calgary’s airport expansion is expected to lure even more development to the area.

The $2-billion expansion – the largest project’s in the airport’s history – and its role in driving future development in the area were among the topics discussed as part of a recent lunchtime talk with Calgary Airport Authority’s communications & marketing director Jody Moseley.

“I would say that northeast Calgary is a very robust area in general and, I think that we feed off each other’s
success and everybody keeps drawing towards that area,” said Moseley, whose discussion was put on by the
Economics Society of Calgary. “You’ll see more and more locations and businesses and people up there as well.”

Officially breaking ground in April 2011, the expansion has already seen the construction of a new $620-million runway as well as the six-lane Airport Trail tunnel, which was constructed by the City at a cost of $295-million.

The new runway — the longest in Canada — stretches 4.2 kilometres and required 260,000 cubic metres of
concrete. Expected to be completed sometime next year, the expansion will also double the size of Calgary’s international terminal, adding 22 gates and another 100,000 flights to Calgary’s existing annual capacity of 250,000.

While Moseley said it’s unclear just how many jobs will be added directly as a result of the new terminal — although new airlines are likely to add Calgary to their list of destinations — the level of activity around
the airport is bound to increase.

With an expanded airport bringing more traffic — and with it the possibility of more jobs — the airport’s role as a catalyst for growth in the area has already begun to appear in the number of Calgarians moving to the city’s northern communities. Half of Calgary’s six fastest growing communities in the 2013 Census were located within a 20-minute drive of the airport.

The area is also home to developing communities such as Redstone, which sits on 97 hectares south of Stoney
Trail and north of Skyview Ranch, and Cityscape, which will eventually offer 4,000 homes along Country Hills Boulevard and Metis Trail.

“With the increased traffic at the airport, it’s now the third-largest in passenger and cargo volume in Canada, which means with the number of people and the amount of stuff going through there, there needs to be more facilities and places for people to live so they can work in the area,” said Susan Thompson, business development manager with Calgary’s Economic Development.

Approved by council last month, Savanna — Genstar’s newest northeast community — will eventually be home
to 7,000 residents. The 129-hectare site located along Airport Trail will also contain a 16-hectare commercial
development, all within 15-minutes of the airport.

According to Thompson, it’s the sort of development Calgarians should expect to see more of as the new airport spreads its wings.

“That’s one of the hot areas in the city right now. We’ve seen a number of larger developers make investments in that area, both on the commercial and the residential side. And they’ll be viewing it as a long play, so they’ll be looking to activate those lands over the next coming years.”