Moncton’s Growth Momentum Occurred across several sectors in 2005
Increasingly Moncton is seen as not only a commercial service and distribution hub, but is developing a strong concentration of hospitality and matching retail centres to create Moncton, as the visitor shopping destination centre in the Maritimes.
In 2005, a series of projects and announced accommodation projects for new hotels and motels concentrated in two significant growth areas in retail around the Mapleton Road-Wheeler Blvd area, and for meeting visitor attractions the downtown core, moved onto centre stage for Moncton.
Moncton as a natural retail shopping centre and industry distribution centre services a population catchment area far in excess of its core City population base. This is why, say municipal leaders, the City continues to attract unique shopping destination attraction stores such as Home Depot, Costco, and Princess Auto uniquely to New Brunswick, and which are located in Moncton.
Winnipeg based, national industrial parts sales retailer, Princess Auto, nearly doubled it's overall retail floor space in Moncton in 2005, and continues to draw industrial service customers and repair hobbyists from all over the Maritime Provinces.
Princess Auto was just one of many businesses expanding in Moncton during the year including the opening of new, modern facilities for automobile retail dealers Toyota, Hyundai and Nissan, with Honda starting a new facility at the end of 2005.
It is this same population catchment area capability that has lead civic and sports community leaders to propose the building of a large stadium in the City to serve as a host location for large scale sporting events. Officials from Athletics Canada traveled to Moncton June to view the City's existing facilities and plans for a mega stadium to potentially host the 2008 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships.
By the end of the year, a major 10,000 seat stadium for Moncton was being considered as part of an international bid to host the athletic events and will be decided on in 2006. (in March, 2006 Moncton was awarded the games for 2010).
As the year progressed more news reports updated the City of Moncton's business case to construct a high density seating platform to add to the City's sports venues.
Moncton's ability to host a significant size of entertainment event with a sudden population influx of 75,000 plus estimated visitors was visibly demonstrated in September, when the Rolling Stones Tour played the Moncton outdoor theatre site at Magnetic Hill.
The City of Moncton sponsored event demonstrated the City's physical as well as organizational capability to move tens of thousands of visitors in and out of the city without incident. In 2005, it was confirmed that the City would play host to the 2006 Memorial Cup, a major hockey event in Canada drawing thousands of fans from across Canada and major network television coverage of the sporting event.
Events occurring in Moncton such as music concerts, sporting events and the annual July week long Grand Nationals Car Show with just under 30,000 participants and car show enthusiasts as an audience travelling from all over the US and eastern Canada, continue to fill the vacant hotel and motel rooms of Moncton and of the southern New Brunswick region to capacity.
2005 saw announcements of major hotel chains such as the Marriott Residences, coming to Moncton's Downtown to be part of the revitalization plans surrounding the proposed Convention Centre on the newly extended and re-aligned Assumption Blvd along the Petitcodiac River bank.
In addition to major hotel chains coming into the city's urban core to anchor the proposed convention and meeting facilities, Moncton's ring road to the north of the city, which is the Route 2 Trans-Canada Highway and is the major west-east connector highway for Atlantic Canada, also is the target of new accommodations and retail projects announced in 2005.
Preparation for the pending announcement of a convention centre downtown and the continuing growth in the retail and entertainment infrastructure for Moncton lead to a steady stream of announcements throughout the year. Hotel and motel construction date announcements dominated the year's economic growth and hospitality headlines and contributed to a growing sense of momentum and business investment in the City.
What sets 2005 apart from other significant years of building permit records and growth in infrastructure was the focus of the City of Moncton's municipal council in conjunction with their private, commercial development partnerships to fit together a jigsaw puzzle of land assembly, new streetscapes along the southern riverbank of the Petitcodiac River.
These plans call for a blend of public facilities including a major convention centre for Downtown and accommodation for the Province of New Brunswick's justice system components.
Late in 2005, the Province of New Brunswick announced the relocation of the Provincial Jail from Assumption Blvd, to another location in the City and also announced the construction of a new $28 million dollar Court House construction as part of the configuration of property footprints, and service centres that are being integrated into a major revitalization of Moncton's downtown core, south of Main Street.
By the end of the year, the combination of expansion of medical care infrastructure in the city, including the advent of medical training facilities connected electronically with leading medical schools in Canada, plus announced expansion of the hospitality and accommodations sector, in addition to the preparation of an infrastructure platform for expansion of Downtown Moncton, was described in the local press as representing, " a period of unparalleled economic development investments fuelling growth over a period of subsequent years for Moncton".
But the year was not only about announcements, as construction activity in the housing sector maintained a steady pace.
Early in the year, a $4M Moncton housing project was announced by the federal government for a 40-unit apartment building, as well as renovation of former military houses for seniors, and fixed- income families, which in total creates 58 available units in Downtown Moncton. Construction began immediately on this facility located on High Street in Downtown Moncton, for an early 2006 opening.
A few blocks further east, Homburg Place Bonaccord, a luxury apartment building just off Main Street, began accepting tenants in 2005 to serve the City's growing demand for upper end housing in apartments, condos and homes costing above $250,000. This upscale trend in Moncton's residential real estate market for demand of high end apartments and luxury homes was highlighted by CMHC in their annual analysis of the booming 2005 Moncton housing market.
CMHC figures show that high end home sales in the Moncton market nearly doubled in the two years 2003 to 2005, resulting in a strong real estate market in Moncton.
This same market condition lead to the increased popularity and lower vacancy rate in what CMHC describes as luxury level apartments and condo units in the Moncton market. An example of this luxury market is the Homburg Place Bonaccord in Moncton’s Downtown.
As the summer of 2005 unfolded the pace of announcements and the growing indicators of economic confidence and investment in the City continued to accumulate.
Moncton was highlighted as leading the growth in new housing starts for 2005 among the three major cities of the Province of New Brunswick. By the month of May, in New Brunswick, Moncton at 343 housing starts for single family residences was well ahead of the same time of the previous year.
When the books closed on the 2005 housing market year, Moncton posted what CMHC in their annual review of Moncton real estate market described as a “record year for Moncton, which saw the average MLS unit sales increase from 2,028 in 2004 to 2,341 units in 2005, an increase of 15.4 %.
The Average MLS Sales Price also advanced significantly from an average of $113,096 in 2004 to $124,088 in 2005 for a 9.7% increase in average price of a home,
The most significant number from the MLS stats is the total dollar volume of residential real estate sales in Moncton, which is the total number of sales achieved and that advanced by 26.7 %, rising from $ 229.4 million total in 2004, to $ 290.5 million in 2005.
CMHC statistics record that the five year period for Moncton, from 2000 to 2005 has seen the average number of sales completed grow on annual average by 9.7%, growing from 1,491 residential units, to the 2005 sales figure of 2,341 units.
In the same time period the average MLS price increased by 6.9% annually to post a 2005 price point of $124,088, from the 2000 MLS price of $89,065, according to figures released by CMHC, for Moncton.
The multi-tenant building starts in Moncton remained strong with vacancy rates largely unchanged for the year at 4.7 % and new construction starts in rental units of just over 200 new buildings.
Moncton’s economy is being driven by two significant factors. The first is a strong job market that in 2005 registered 69,075 employed in the market on a 12 month rolling number. Over the past 10 years from 1995 to 2005, the average annual growth in employment has been increasing at the annual average rate of 2.4%.
Moncton also enjoys a continuing low unemployment number at 5.5% of the available workforce, even as more people move into the community from other areas of the Province and Maritimes.
The second factor in the vibrancy of the 2005 economy in Moncton was the net positive increase in population for Moncton and Westmorland County, as young families moved to the area. This is a trend that has been significant in Moncton for the timeframe of 1999 to 2004, with the largest in-migration recorded in Westmorland County of all counties in New Brunswick at a 6,465 population gain.
With an increasing demand for all forms of housing and a net in-migration of new young families moving to Moncton and their being able to find full and part time jobs as they are required, the demand on the City's core municipal services continues to be felt from the growing economy.
As 2005 drew to a close, a member of one of the core sectors of Moncton's economy announced an expansion of their business operations. Asurion, North America's largest provider of enhanced services for the wireless communications industry, will continue to increase its operations in Moncton with the creation of 300 new positions.
The grand opening ceremony for the newest infrastructure component in Moncton's expansion and re-alignment of traffic patterns to increase economic development and private investment was held for the new bridge connecting Moncton, with the Town of Riverview, connecting their two downtown core business service districts.
In November 2005, traffic began to flow across the broad laneways of the modern, urban architecture bridge.
Following the opening of the new bridge structure and in anticipation of completion of the extension of Vaughn Harvey Blvd bridge connector highway running north and south, connecting the City’s downtown core with Mountain Road and Main Streets, with the now re-aligned and widened Assumption Blvd; additional announcements were made.
Private real estate developers in Moncton heralded the opening with predictions of more announcements of expanded retail and housing developments planned in the area surrounding Highfield Square Shopping Centre, which will see a new stand, alone Sobey’s Grocery complex modeled on their new urban core design using in other large metropolitan centres.
As Moncton launches into the new century, in many ways the City in 2005 has come full circle on the riverbank of the water way that once had Moncton noted as one of North America’s inland freight ports.
Moncton, in 100 years from 1905 has come in a full circle of development back to its roots along the riverbank. Then, a major inland, tidal river port with freight vessel docks servicing barges and sailing vessels, there are now plans for a number of modern new hotels, national brand restaurants, and a major convention centre. These facilities are planned for locations along Assumption Blvd and the Downtown’s central riverbank area, fuelling new areas of economic growth in Moncton.
In 1905, five major rail connector lines converged and switched tracks to pass through the Moncton train station yard for freight and passenger connections east, west, north, and south, connecting to the Bay of Fundy Coastal communities and central New Brunswick and Canada. This same area is now the focus of several years of investment and new commercial project developments under consideration during the year.
In 2005, within feet measurement of those former multi-track rail switches is the location of where a connector highway interchange and rail overpass awaits final completion connecting the new Moncton Bridge with a highway tunnel and rail overpass for the extension of Vaughn Harvey Blvd. to completion.
This new, multi-lane connector and interchange with the extended Assumption Blvd to the Causeway traffic circle is to be completed in the next few years and will not only link the four corners of Moncton, and its surrounding regional communities, but will link seamlessly to major connector highways serving coastal New Brunswick tourist attractions.
As a pivotal year, when the previous infrastructure investments all began to link together to create a seamless transportation hub, the results started to come in.
In 2005, the Greater Moncton International Airport broke records for more than a half million passengers passing through the new facility and continued to be a major hub in air freight in and out of the Atlantic Region. GMIA, is now in addition to becoming New Brunswick’s largest passenger airport in passenger travel is now well established as a major inland freight port, by air.
In 2005, among national firms, Armour Transport, whose distinctive highway freight trucks resemble a small railroad of freight trains travelling to all corners of Atlantic Canada from the Moncton Industrial Park location, won national recognition yet again for being one of the best managed companies in Canada.
Armour continues to be one of Moncton's largest employers as it continues to expand its freight logistics centre in its massive building infrastructure in the Moncton Industrial Park.
The technology of being the hub of the Maritimes for entertainment and distribution of products and a service centre for medical as well as industry has changed dramatically since 1905, but the strategic importance of Moncton's geographic centre in the Altantic region as a natural central location continues to power the announcements of growth from expansion and new business in Moncton, during 2005.
By air connections, by passenger bus and train services, and by highway travel and freight distribution, Moncton continues in 2005 to be the growing service centre hub of eastern Canada.