West St. Paul on verge of tapping its full potential

By Todd Lewys

Back in 2010, the Rural Municipality (RM) of West St. Paul was a community loaded with potential for development.

Problem was, that potential had yet to be tapped into.

“At that time, I felt West St. Paul was the hidden jewel of the province’s Capital Region,” says the RM of West St. Paul’s CAO, Brent Olynyk. “I was intrigued by its potential, so I left my executive position with the City of Winnipeg. I wanted something exciting to work on, and West St. Paul was the challenge I was looking for.”

It didn’t take Olynyk and his staff long to identify the first thing West St. Paul needed to pave the way for growth.

“The first project we worked on was our wastewater plant,” he recalls. “It was outdated, so we upsized the pipe to serve our area and St. Andrews; we also brought sewer service in. The reality was if we were to be a boom town, we needed water.”

As it turned out, the Stony Mountain Penitentiary was also looking for water, so the idea of a water coop was presented to both the provincial and federal governments.

Eventually, the two levels of government agreed to pay 50 per cent of the cost. The town council in West St. Paul then sought out private parties to try to cover the other 50 per cent.

“The idea worked,” says Olynyk. “The federal and provincial governments paid 50 per cent of the cost through grants, while private parties paid the other 50 per cent. We didn’t have to contribute any funding to the project.”

After that, the area began to experience gradual but steady growth.

Then, a new mayor — Cheryl Christian — took office in 2018.

“She’s younger with new ideas, a real planner,” notes Olynyk. “Council started reaching out to people using tools like social media. Things have really been taking off since Cheryl was elected.”

And how.

A new pedestrian bridge was installed to provide access to both sides of the community, a concerted effort was made to develop Main Street and neighbouring businesses and a new walking trail is being constructed under the new bridge.

As West St. Paul’s proactive reputation grew, they were approached by other groups. One of those groups was Tennis Manitoba.

“They approached us about building a new tennis centre. If built, it was to be located at the Sunova

After extensive public consultation via open houses and public meetings, the concept was approved.

“It was important to us to engage the public and get their support. We did, and the project went ahead,” says Christian.

Phase one of the new tennis centre will include eight to 10 courts with landscaping, while phase two will include six indoor courts in a covered dome.

The Sunova Centre and new tennis centre will serve as a hub for the community moving forward, adds Christian.

“It will tie in with a new residential development,” she says. “There will be trails, a retention pond and a pedestrian bridge coming across Grassmere Creek that will connect the community to the centre and tennis complex.”

Again, the local community was consulted before plans were made to proceed with the new housing development.

Developer Bill McGarry of Waterside Developments was brought in to explain the scope of the proposed development, and open houses were held to clearly outline what the new development would look like.

“Bill was great — he explained everything clearly. It was obvious to people that it would be a great addition to the community,” Christian says.

The development — Parkview Point — will feature an initial build-out of 350 single family home lots.

“Lots will be a minimum size of 44 feet by 130 feet and all homes will have municipal services,” says Pam Elias, the RM of West St. Paul’s planning and economic development officer. “It’s going to be an accessible, affordable community that offers an excellent cross-section of homes.”

Christian says she’s excited about the new development.

“It’s a community that’s going to have something for everyone, from entry-level to high-end homes. We are so excited because it’s going to help us keep young West St. Paul residents under age 21 in West St. Paul — and attract new residents to the area.”

McGarry says the initial 350-lot offering is just a taste of what’s to come.

“There are about 3,000 homes in the queue,” he says, noting 1,000 will be on the north side of town, with another 2,000 on the south side. “There will eventually be 55 acres of retail as well as Gateway Church, which will offer daycare and a community gym. The great thing is that the community is so close to the city — within the Perimeter, yet away from all the hustle and bustle.”

The mayor agrees.

“It’s very well-placed — it’s in an ideal spot.

Olynyk says he’s excited about West St. Paul’s future.

“Before, everyone wasn’t on the same page. Now, council is more united and moving forward as a team. As a result, great things are happening.”

With its new amenities and a new, masterfully designed community coming, West St. Paul is poised to experience unprecedented growth — all because of a change in thinking.

“Call it a new way of thinking, taking an innovative, progressive approach. We’re trying to do things right and are having fun doing it,” says Christian.