CentrePort Canada – Winnipeg: Central Canada’s new intermodal rail port

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Centreport

You might, at first thought, do a double take when someone tells you that Winnipeg is building a massive port.

After all, while the central Canadian city has four rivers, the Red, Assiniboine, La Salle and Seine, most observers would not credit these waterways as major trade or shipping channels.

However, Diane Gray, president and chief executive officer of Centreport Canada Inc., says Winnipeg has excellent rail links – it is the only major city in Canada with three major interconnecting lines – as well as a solid airport without excessive congestion or access restrictions. The rail lines link Winnipeg to east, west, and US gulf ports, as well as Churchill, Manitoba.

Could all of these elements be connected with new road/highway connections, bonded warehouses, and services infrastructure to create a land port?

Centreport has taken shape as a result and early indications are the project is succeeding.

The new (and currently Canada’s only) Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) and ti-modal inland port “gives a bottom line advantage to rail-intensive businesses – as much as $10 per tonne” in shipping costs.  “You are saving tens of thousands of dollar for every train shipping,” she told a gathering at the Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) conference in Winnipeg.

The inland port, sitting on 20,000 dedicated acres, partially within Winnipeg’s urban boundaries and partially outside, has special zoning and land-use restrictions to ensure its transportation and business efficiency..

‘”Developers have a good sense of when the infrastructure is going in,” she said.  “We have a form-based zoning bylaw.  They (developers) know what are allowed uses.  We are eliminating conditional uses or variances.”

“You need to develop according to the rules . . . if you follow the rules, you are in.”

Since the project started in 2008 – 09 with special Manitoba legislation, it has attracted 39 new companies and more than 200 acres of new development, Gray said.  Planners anticipate an additional 71 companies will set up shop in the FTZ over the next five yeas, and about 500 acres of industrial absorbtion within the next decade.

Design is under way on a rail park, integrating rail lines and manufacturing/warehouse facilities to reduce shipping costs and facilitate assembly based on materials arriving from different locations.

As well, infrastructure has been constructed or will be soon to ensure the overall project can absorb the increased business activity.  “Under construction is a $45 million water treatment facility,” Gray said.  The $212.4 million CentrePort Canada Way, “the single largest construction project in Manitoba’s history,” has connected the FTZ to the highway system.

Different developers can acquire and build within the zoned areas, encouraging competition and market-based decision-making, and this will be especially important once the rail park has been completed.

“Ten different developers own or have options on quarter sections of land,” she said.  “The choice is good for shippers and business.” If you are considering CentrePort, you won’t be directed to a specific site “and you can also negotiate your price – there are flexible rate options.”

She said although the original concept was for the project to be purely for transportation and business, CentrePort realized that there are advantages to including a residential component so workers won’t need to travel great distances, and this area – adjacent to existing Winnipeg residential communities – would also accommodate relevant local retail services and a “multi-use secondary education training facility.”

Another area, adjacent to Winnipeg’s airport, will facilitate air cargo shipments.

CentrePort has been designed with sustainability in mind, she said, but without excessive regulation.  “You could put up a LEED building at any level, if not, there are other options to achieve the sustainability threshold.”

Overall, the project offers intriguing opportunities for developers, along with contractors and others servicing the building/infrastructure industry.

“CentrePort Canada offers businesses a selection of high-quality industrial land and space for sale or lease,” the FTZ’s website says. “Currently there are more than 2,400 acres of land ready for new development and more than 530,000 sq. ft. of industrial space available in existing warehouse facilities.”

For more information, see http://www.centreportcanada.ca.

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