Dundurn, Sask. set to evolve from "bedroom community" to bustling trade centre

By Jacob Morgan, Metro News October 29, 2013 - In many ways the town of Dundurn is a typical Prairie village with a church, a tavern and a Chinese restaurant. Over the course of the next few years, this sleepy settlement south of Saskatoon is going to become home to the Dundurn International Exhibition Centre, the first wholesale mega-mall in North America.

Mayor of Dundurn, Doug Narraway, said residents are bracing for impact.

“Some people are looking forward to it and some people don’t want too big a change,” said Narraway. “It will change the small-town feel.”

He explained that most of the roughly 700 people who currently live in Dundurn work elsewhere, rendering the place a commuter town.

But as 350 Chinese-owned businesses get ready to set up shop once the complex is complete, this won’t be the case for long.

“The owners are coming from outside, but they’ve already said they want to hire local people, and they’re talking a lot of jobs,” he said.

Although today most people in Dundurn work in northern mines or neighbouring cities, Narraway said 100 years ago there was a strong economy including blacksmiths, groceries and a train station.

“If the jobs are here then perhaps we won’t be a bedroom community, and we’ll actually be our own community again,” he said.

Fred Wilson, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Dundurn, agreed with Narraway’s sentiments. He said that the Exhibition Centre should generate financial growth and stability for the whole area.

“There will be a lot of commuter traffic going back and forth so that means the service industry is going to benefit considerably,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of Brightenview, the development company spearheading the Exhibition Centre, vice-president of public affairs Lorne Nystrom said preconstruction is underway.

Phase one will span 300,000 square feet off Highway 11 just outside of town and cost about $120 million, he said.

“The project is advancing as planned,” said Nystrom.

He added that Canada was chosen for its stability and proximity to the United States. Meanwhile, Dundurn became attractive because of Saskatchewan’s geographic centrality, and due to big cities having stricter zoning regulations.

“North American buyers are already buying the same products from China,” he said. “It’s an awful lot more convenient for a wholesale buyer to go to Dundurn.”

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