Growing Strong

City of Martensville

Incorporated as a city in 2009, Martensville, Saskatchewan is one of the fastest growing cities in Western Canada. The city started as a bedroom community; people wanted to move a little further away from Saskatoon and others ended up joining them, leading to a number of subdivisions. Ultimately, a community was formed.

Situated only eight kilometres from Saskatoon, Martensville boasts a residential to business tax differential that is second to none in the province.

Growth has increased the need for services in Martensville at an incredible rate. This includes everything from basic infrastructure, such as roads and streetlights, to recreation and business. Although it is currently a city of 9,000 people, as Community Economic Development Officer Dillon Shewchuk explains, it is conceivable that those numbers could increase to 25,000 over the next twenty-five years.

The last fifteen years have seen the most growth, which has accelerated the demand for services such as waste water and water supply systems. More new construction is putting pressure on roads, but it is being managed effectively. The city’s focus is currently on providing the services needed to accommodate this expansion, as new residential developments – like Lake Vista – take shape.

Being close to Saskatoon, Martensville was slow to build a business base as everyone worked in the large city. However, growth is now happening on the perimeter of Saskatoon. Many shops and stores are moving out to the suburbs and into communities like Martensville. This has led to an opportunity to bring more services into the city and the northern regions of Saskatoon.

“Just over the last four years we are starting to see major national chains locate here, and it’s somewhat amazing if you think about where this community was fifteen years ago. McDonald’s announced that it will be coming, and a major Canadian hotel chain will be setting up an eighty-four room hotel – slated to open this fall. Canadian Tire is also coming to town.” Tim Hortons was the first major chain but it is also a fairly recent development. The local shops that dotted the city before this are also still thriving.

As to this new growth and how it could affect the feel of the city, Mr. Shewchuk comments that, “At this point we don’t want to stop the flow of major chains coming here. We still feel severely underserved for a community of 9,000. We still feel that there is a lot of room for potential commercial growth.”

The people living in the community are very happy with the community as it has retained that small town feel and atmosphere. “It is very quiet and peaceful here. There is not a lot of noise pollution, the majority of neighbourhoods have are low density; people know their neighbors here,” says Mr. Shewchuk.

The place where all the national chains are flocking is the retail development area called Black Iron Crossing. It encompasses ninety acres of land and, only five years ago, was not even zoned or serviced. Developers were sceptical about any commercial potential in Martensville given the townspeople’s shopping patterns. But, people do see opportunity here now and property values have jumped drastically.

“We were not sure how things would go commercially with the land, in terms of how long it may take to build out, but presently two thirds of it have developments on it and there is interest in what’s left. We are in a stage where we are not only wanting more services; we are running out of places to potentially put things. We need to plan ahead and look for other areas in the community to expand commercial services.”

Traditionally, Martensville has been a bedroom community and that has its effects on the tax base; the burden typically falls on the homeowner because there are no commercial businesses to help offset it. Building a commercial base will lead to more revenue for the municipality, thereby providing more and improved services to residents. Martensville has come up with a unique approach to this commercial/residential relationship. Most communities will treat commercial and residential separately, but here they are seen as equal. It has worked out better than it could have imagined.

“The Canadian Federation of Independent Business considers Martensville to be one of the best tax environments for business to start because the ratio of commercial to residential is much narrower here then it is in all the other Saskatchewan centres, and we are proud of that.” It is a good tax incentive for businesses willing to invest and locate in town and has given a lot of firms confidence in opening up businesses in Martensville.

The majority of residents are young professionals with seventy-five percent being under the age of forty-five. Elementary schools are packed to the brim and the province has announced two new elementary schools to be built by 2017 as part of the “East Concept Plan.” The local high school is also getting a complete renovation and doubling in size to accommodate growth.

Under construction is the Martensville Athletic Pavilion, a place for community programs and sports. All of these developments open up a world of opportunities and will inevitably improve the lives of its citizens. “As we get more quality of life type amenities here, the community becomes like a snowball rolling downhill. It builds a lot of momentum and becomes more appealing for people coming in. We are planning for that growth.”

Lake Vista is Northridge Developments newest neighbourhood in Martensville. In 2008, the developer purchased land adjacent to the Martensville boundaries with the hope of creating a subdivision. At around the same time, the city was drawing up plans for growth to expand eastward in that direction. It became a symbiotic and advantageous relationship for both parties. When the first quarter section is completely built, it will have about seven hundred single and multifamily dwellings. It will also have land set aside for commercial ventures, in turn creating a more traditional main street down the middle of Martensville. If all goes to plan, this will be the impetus for the projected population growth.

Already in place, are two festivals that draw people from inside and outside of the community. Buster Days is an event that happens the first week in June. It features a parade and a sports day. “In the past they have brought in an amusement park and activities therein. There is something for everyone, Kids can enjoy the events and adults can enjoy things like a cabaret. It’s evolved and grown over time, with the community.”

The other main draw is the Winter Fun Fest which takes place the first weekend in February and includes a giant bonfire, fireworks, crafts and trade shows along with outdoor sports activities like the snow pitch and coffee can curling. “It is something for people to do to get over the winter blues. The majority of people that attend are from the community, but thousands flock here.”

It raises the question – where do you see this city in twenty-five years? Mr. Shewchuk hopes that it will still be a quiet quaint city with a separate identity from Saskatoon. He emphasizes that it is cautious about making the neighbourhoods too dense and wants to include enough park space. In working with developers, the goal is to go above the minimum requirement for green spaces including sports fields and other leisure opportunities.

“We don’t want to be a steel and asphalt type of community. That being said, I’d like to see our commercial capacity increase as well which would make us more self-sufficient, to have more jobs and services locally.”

In future, Mr. Shewchuk would like to see more white collar opportunities open up. Examples such as law offices and engineering offices would entice other businesses. The hope is also for more small manufacturing that would increase employment.

Mr. Shewchuk’s enthusiasm for his job and for the city of Martensville really shows. It won’t be easy, and he will be kept very busy, but as time goes on, strategically located Martensville is becoming a whole new kind of place. From new schools to new communities, this city has some exciting changes on the horizon.

For more information about City of Martensville, please visit http://www.martensville.ca

November 19, 2017, 3:35 AM EST