Investors await 'Klondike days' for Fort Mac

“The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (home to Fort McMurray) is known as one of the fastest growing regions in Canada,” read invitations for bids on four parcels on land, put out by the Alberta government this month and closing Aug. 16. “Fort McMurray and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo are experiencing development pressures relating to the supply of readily developable land, housing supply and a varying seasonal workforce at the major oil sands projects in the area.

"The purpose of these four separate Invitations to tender is to solicit bidders for the purchase of four individual parcels of land at Saline Creek Plateau, which is owned by the Province of Alberta. “

For a total of 600 acres, those four parcels come courtesy of a Fort McMurray college. The area will be developed as Saline Creek and the residential and commercial centre will house up to 20,000 people near the airport.

Four large-scale investment companies are each expected to claim one of the parcels. Each development is expected to afford smaller residential investors an opportunity to get into the northern market, where a scarcity of housing has created the priciest home price in the province.

Details surrounding those successful development bids won’t come until after the tendering process closes and the government has an opportunity review the bids. The exact number of those bidders hasn’t yet been made public.

The community of Fort McMurray — the urban centre of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo — has seen an overwhelming demand in housing recently, as oil sands jobs have brought the population above 100,000, along with as many as 45,000 in work camps.

Last year, the Alberta government opened up a 135 acre development one year ahead of schedule that is expected to eventually house 24,000 residents in Fort McMurray, dubbed Parsons Creek. It’s the only major residential unit underway currently in the area.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation noted that the Wood Buffalo community has seen its vacancy rate drop from 10% in 2009 to under 6% in 2010, and is forecast to reach as low as 4% early this year.

All of that translates into a potential boon for investors looking to capitalize on demand from oil sands workers.


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