We’ve been following the proposed second core planned for Iqaluit’s industrial district, and the dream is now becoming a reality. The capital city has long needed more core space for businesses and residents to grow.

Over the past few years, the city’s land planning has focused on filling in gaps in Apex, near Joamie School, and then down the road to Apex. Despite running a ballot draw last year, and building the cul-de-sac in Apex this summer, only one of 10 lots saw development this year. (Another lot reserved for Habitat for Humanity was developed but we can ignore that one in this discussion). Lot draw winners must start construction one year from signing the lease but there’s no sign on the ground that this will happen by the city’s deadline.

The fact is the cost of development there is too high for the return on investment. The lots ranged in price from $60,000 to $90,000 but construction costs range from $500,000 to $700,000, and the private market is showing that getting that back is next to impossible these days. It’s no wonder almost no one is building this year.

Despite this, some builders complain publicly on Facebook that there is no land available to build, though they presumably mean in the city proper. The city gives first-time homeowners first dibs on building, which is noble, but kind of a joke at the same time. The process following this is not easy or affordable to most first-time homeowners, and giving up on such a project results in a huge loss for the draw “winner.”

For builders, these small in-fill residential projects on the periphery of the town are fine for keeping them busy in the winter. But the city’s needs are far more than 10 homes on the edge of Apex. We need a lot of space in the core, and yesterday.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s ‘second core’ project will be a major economic driver both during construction and once it is done. As the Iqaluit airport and pool did, the project will keep the city’s builders busy and flush for some time.

It will also bring a welcome overhaul of the area between the airport and the RCMP building, and hopefully some of the older unsightly buildings will be displaced by new, more efficient, and better planned ones.

As it is, visitors to Iqaluit arrive at the new airport only to be greeted by the burned-out Old Residence, then the row of jails, and then industrial buildings in various states of repair. First impressions matter, and it will be good to bring some visual relief.

The insertion of 16 hectares (40 acres) of new buildings there – for culture, business, and accommodations – will transform the capital.

We are also excited to see the QIA, along with NTI, take the lead on bringing to life not only a desperately needed hotel but also the Nunavut heritage centre. We’re hopeful partnerships can be confirmed to build a performing arts centre. This is the time to look hard at the long-term value of such a space in Nunavut, especially when this opportunity for a blank slate is available.

Find a space for everything. You only get one chance to do this right. The rewards will show in the long term.

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