NCC woos Iqaluit with public-private development scheme

Inuit company proposes privatized subdivision



A construction company is looking to break new ground by working with the City of Iqaluit to build a new housing and commercial area in the city.

If the plan is approved by city council, it would be the first time that a private company was involved in building and selling lots in Iqaluit. Right now, the city’s lands and planning department is responsible for working on new subdivisions and leasing lots of land.

Nunavut Construction Corporation is spearheading the bold initiative to have private companies take a greater role in land development.

The move is significant because there are few lots available in Iqaluit right now and the city is struggling to find money to build enough housing subdivisions to meet the demand.

“There are opportunities worth exploring,” Sheldon Nimchuk, Nunavut Construction’s project manager, told city council at its Dec. 10 meeting.

Nunavut Construction Corporation, or NCC, is owned by the territory’s four Inuit birthright corporations. The company is proposing to create a public-private partnership with the City of Iqaluit in order to build a housing and commercial area.

NCC is specifically interested in developing the spot west of Arctic College and the Nunavut Power Corporation office. The company — rather than the city — would pay for development of the subdivision.

The development work would include putting in roads, water and sewer services and other infrastructure required for houses and buildings. All together, Nunavut Construction estimates it would put between $75-$100 million worth of infrastructure in the area over the next three to five years.

“Through a collaborative approach to land development, we believe we could develop lots for commercial and residential usage that would provide the citizens of Iqaluit with an option to pursue their various interests, whether it is a new home or business,” Nimchuk wrote in a report he handed to city council.

The report, or pre-feasibility study, conducted by Dillon Consulting for NCC, looks at the issues the construction company and the city would have to tackle before taking the public-private route to land development.

The simple engineering aspect of the project is demanding in itself.

For example, NCC would have to blast rocks from the area, grade the lot, build a road and install a water booster station.

While that’s challenging, it wouldn’t stop the project from going ahead, Nimchuk said. And, putting in the road and water and sewer services could open up the area for future development, he said.

Secondly, before getting into private land development, NCC would have to make sure the project follows the guidelines set out in the city’s general plan, a document that outlines where new development can go and how it should be set up. The city’s general plan is still in draft form and will likely become law this spring.

Private land development would also have to meet regulations set out in the Nunavut land claim, the Nunavut government’s Planning Act, the city’s land administration and zoning bylaws, among others.

Finally, NCC and the City of Iqaluit would have to draw up a land development agreement — a new initiative considering private land development has never occurred in Iqaluit. One option NCC is proposing is for the city to act as the developer and, through a partnership with NCC, the subdivision would be built.

Nimchuk said NCC is well aware that private land development might not be popular with all Iqaluit residents. “There is some support as well as apprehension in moving in this direction,” he said.

But NCC already has a list of people and businesses interested in building there, many of whom, Nimchuk said, “view this area as an attractive location for their future facility needs.”

NCC’s proposal got a round of support from city councillors.

“I’m certainly delighted to hear the suggestion that you’re willing to delve into this and take on a responsibility this like this,” councillor Stu Kennedy said.

“The city has never seen this before: a true land developer coming forth and wanting to take that risk. I think it’s great,” he said.

Councillor Lynda Gunn threw her support behind the project, saying “I see the current proposal in front of us as an exciting one.”

Nunavut Construction wants to get all the bylaws, building policies and the land development agreement worked out in time for it to start building in the 2003 construction season.

Following NCC’s presentation, city council directed the administration to continue its development talks with the company.

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