BY RICHARD GILBERT - Calgary, Regina, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Abbotsford are expected to be the leading cities for growth in 2014, as Western Canada maintains its position as the regional economic leader in the country.
“Along with Calgary, prairie cities will have the fastest growing economies in 2014, although that growth is expected to moderate,” said Alan Arcand, principal economist with the Centre for Municipal Studies.
“Most cities in central and eastern Canada will see their economic fortunes improve this year. The growing strength in the U.S. economy and a slightly weaker dollar will help to stimulate exporting activity and in turn bolster economic growth.”
The Conference Board of Canada recently released its Metropolitan Outlook-Winter 2014, which provides an annual forecast for 28 Canadian census metropolitan areas.
According to the report, the Canadian cities with the highest real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014 are forecast to be Calgary (3.7 per cent), Regina (3.5 per cent), Edmonton (3.4 per cent), Saskatoon (3.2 per cent) and Abbotsford (2.9 per cent).
The Calgary economy is being driven by the construction industry, which is expected to expand by 4.1 per cent in 2014.
In terms of non-residential construction, work is well under way on the Stonegate Landing development ($3 billion), the Brookfield Place office towers ($1.3 billion), and the Foothills Medical Centre upgrade ($500.6 million).
In addition, the International Transborder Concourse and the new runway projects are under way at the airport.
These projects are scheduled for completion this year.
The existing home market is becoming very tight in Calgary and housing starts are projected to reach more than 13,200 units this year.
This represents the highest number of starts since 2007.
Calgary was hit by a devastating flood in the summer of 2013.
This resulted in a slowdown in real GDP (3.4 per cent) in 2013, which was the fifth fastest growth in the country.
Regina’s economy is expected to grow by 3.5 per cent in 2014, while the construction industry will expand by 11 per cent.
The $278 million open-air stadium at Evraz Place, which will contain 33,000 seats, is scheduled to open in 2017.
In a recent referendum, Regina voters approved a public-private partnership to upgrade the city’s <0x000a>wastewater plant by the end of 2016.
The work could cost up to $224 million.
The total number of housing starts is expected to be about 2,200 units in 2014.
The pace of the local economy in 2013 (5.0 per cent) lifted housing starts to more than 3,000 units in the same year.
This was more than triple the 30-year average.
Real GDP in Edmonton is forecast to increase by 3.4 per cent in 2014 and total construction output is projected to increase by 3.8 per cent.
New construction projects include a $480 million hockey arena, the $340 million Royal Alberta Museum and the $190 million North Learning Centre.
Construction is under way on the Western Alberta transmission line and the NAIT Centre for Applied Sciences.
New home construction is expected to dip to 11,900 units in 2014.
Edmonton was the fourth fastest growing economy in 2013 (4.6 per cent).
Saskatoon’s economy is expected to rise by 3.2 per cent in 2014, with the construction industry expanding by 4 per cent growth in 2014.
In the non-residential sector, major projects include SaskPower’s decision to spend $514 million to enlarge its Queen Elizabeth Power Station, which will be commissioned in September 2015.
Construction is expected to start in spring 2014 on the City Centre tower, which is a $100 million luxury hotel and condo highrise.
The building, which is scheduled for completion in spring 2016, will be Saskatchewan’s tallest building, at about 27 storeys.
Other big projects slated to start this year include a $215 million children’s hospital at the Royal University Hospital.
In addition, work continues at the Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan and the River Landing parkade.
Saskatoon housing starts are expected to increase slightly in 2014 to about 3,400 starts.
In 2013, Saskatoon led the country in growth (6.5 per cent).
Real GDP growth in the Abbotsford–Mission area is forecast to expand by 2.9 per cent in 2014, from 2.4 per cent in 2013.
The construction industry is forecast to rebound from a 1.7 per cent contraction in 2013 to post 2.8 per cent growth in 2014.
Non-residential investment activity includes a renovation on BC Hydro’s Ruskin powerhouse and dam just northwest of Abbotsford.
The $718 million undertaking is slated for completion in 2018.
BC Hydro is also building a new Silverdale Substation in Mission to address growing local electricity demand.
This project is estimated to cost $46 million and will be completed by December 2014.
Also, a call for tenders is expected in the spring for the planned refurbishment of the exterior of the Abbotsford Airport terminal building and its grounds.
Housing starts are expected to decline slightly in 2014 to 650 units, as falling multifamily activity outweighs rising single-detached construction.