BY BLAIR BRAITENBACH, THE STARPHOENIX MAY 29, 2014 - As the fastest growing city in western Canada, it's safe to say the secret's out that big things are happening in Martensville. Originally established as a bedroom community to Saskatoon, Martensville in recent years has begun to generate a thriving economy and recreational lifestyle the likes the region has never seen before. According to Martensville Mayor Kent Muench, the steady growth of the local economy has been bolstered by its everincreasing residential base. With a current population of about 9,000 (nearly double from 2006) and a regional population hovering around 20,000, Muench said it was only a matter of time before business development progressed as newcomers and long-time residents alike began seeking local amenities within the city's limits.
"For the size of the community, it was very underserved," Muench says. "People started noticing Martensville as a great place to invest, and then it started to explode. Smaller franchises began opening in town, and now national chains like Canadian Tire
and McDonald's are going to be opening soon."
Recognized for some of the lowest commercial and industry tax rates in the province - as well as its strong regional ties with Saskatoon, Warman and other nearby centres - Muench says the city's business growth is building on momentum. As more commercial operations move into Martensville and area, investors see the city and region's economic potential, Muench explains.
"It gives confidence to others and that's when you see more development take place," says Muench.
North Prairie Developments' Black Iron Crossing and Sunset Ridge commercial sites are key drivers in the city's business industry expansion. Already situated within these sites - visible along Martensville's busy Highway 12 corridor - are Tim Horton's, Pharmasave, a Co-op gas bar/convenience store, Dairy Queen, a dental office and Taco Time. An 84-room Canalta Hotel at Sunset Ridge as well as an RV automall by TRX RV at Black Iron Crossing are currently under construction.
Dillon Shewchuk, Martensville community/economic development manager, is amazed at how far the economy has come in such a short while. For example, in 2010 when Martensville council rezoned the 41 acres where Black Iron Crossing is now located, it was unused space with cattle grazing the area. Now the development contributes to the over 400 businesses registered within the municipality.
"In developing these commercial areas there was some scepticism, but the City remained confident in their vision and we are pleased with the process to date and hope to see the sites filled up in the future," he says.
Shewchuk adds that having local services available isn't just about convenience, it means more people will be able to actually work in the place they call home. Though he admits it will be some time yet, if ever, before Martensville is completely self-sufficient, Shewchuk says many residents who originally moved to the municipality for its various lifestyle and home-buying advantages are inclined to work locally.
"People have more of an option to live and work here now. As development continues, we'll look to get more professional and white collar jobs here so people will have more opportunity to work closer to home," Shewchuk says.
Martensville's history is relatively short. Founded in 1939, the community wasn't incorporated as a town until 1969 and then became designated a city four decades later in 2009. But with Saskatchewan's rapid growth over the past decade, people began looking to Martensville for its affordability and peaceful surroundings - with the added benefit of being situated only minutes from Saskatoon.
Unfortunately, the good old days of bargain basement housing prices are over in Martensville. According to Royal LePage, the current average cost to purchase a home in Martensville is approximately $325,000. As of February, Saskatoon's average home price was $351,000, according to The StarPhoenix. However, despite the closing gap on housing prices between the two municipalities, Shewchuk says younger families are still inclined to purchase in Martensville as they can upgrade the size of their house at a lower cost. Additionally, Shewchuk says by working with developers, the City was able early on to provide "neo-traditional" (bungalow-style) housing as an affordable option to those looking to enter the market. While the strategy led to the initial influx of new residents, many of the homes were designed with secondary suites allowing for rental units, providing cost-saving benefits to anyone in the market today.
Cost advantages aside, Shewchuk says the most important reason people choose to make Martensville home is due to its "laid back lifestyle," its family-friendly community and safe environment. Boasting extensive urban parkland, trail systems and other leisure amenities - in addition to the soon-to-be opened Martensville Athletic Pavilion (MAP) - Shewchuk says the city is also ideal for recreation-minded individuals.
"For quality of life reasons, Martensville is a very quiet place - people know their neighbours, it's peaceful," Shewchuk says. "You don't have the density of housing, the pollution or the noise you get in a bigger centre.
"Until you experience both (living in Saskatoon and Martensville), it's hard to quantify those differences. You know it just feels different. It's really gratifying to see people interact with one another and it's very inclusive to new residents."
Shewchuk estimates Martensville's footprint will double in size over the next 20 years, in part due to new subdivisions like Lake Vista that will see new homes built this year. To accommodate the continued population growth, Shewchuk says two new elementary schools are slated for the city, with additions to double the size of the high school. In addition, Shewchuk says the City is working with the Saskatoon Health Region to bring more health services to the community to add to its lone medical clinic. He says increased medical services will not only assist local residents, but will alleviate strains on existing facilities in Saskatoon.
By looking to other communities that have experienced similar histories and growth spurts as Martensville - such as the surrounding municipalities of Okotoks and Airdrie outside Calgary - Shewchuk is confident Martensville will continue to enjoy a prosperous and strong future.
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