With Gasoline Alley firing on all cyclinders, Red Deer County wants to repeat that success a few kilometres south.
Junction 42 is envisioned as a sort of Gasoline Alley: The Sequel on 100 acres of county-owned land six kilometres south, next to Highway 2 and east of Penhold.
Deals are already in the works with businesses keen on setting up shop in what the county hopes will become a cluster of gas stations, restaurants, hotels and other businesses catering to the thousands of drivers who pass by daily.
County Mayor Jim Wood said the municipality has learned from its Gasoline Alley experience, and intends to be firmly in the driver’s seat when developing Junction 42.
“I think we’re going to see this handled a little bit different,” said Wood. “The land we’re working with right now, Red Deer County owns.”
That allows the municipality more power to steer development in the direction it wants and on its timetable.
“I believe we could have seen Gasoline Alley develop out at a far faster pace if Red Deer County owned the lands, rather than private industry.
“We’ve seen a lot of speculation in Gasoline Alley over the years, where people didn’t develop the property — didn’t develop because the person was waiting for a higher value in the next year, and the next year and the next year.
“In fact, some of those lands have still not been developed out because they’re still waiting for higher prices.
“I believe we have the opportunity to see development the way we want it to happen.”
So far, Junction 42 appears to be humming along. On Tuesday, the county’s municipal planning commission approved carving out five lots for incoming development.
“They’re not just being subdivided on spec,” said the mayor. “I guess that gives you an idea that Junction 42 will take off — and probably at a very fast pace.
“We’re excited abut the enthusiasm we’ve had from our business comunity.”
Wood said the county has no doubt there is a market for what it wants to do on the highway.
“We’re anticipating that there’s a need for it.
“There are very few prime locations like this on the Highway 2 corridor that have that interchange and have the population close by to make businesses successful.
“Through time, our anticipation is that we’re going to see lots of businesses tied to the travelling public, like fuel stations and restaurants. I think that eventually, we’re going to see hotels.”
Penhold, located just three kilometres to the east, will benefit too. The town has already identified the land out to Highway 2 as a future growth area, and eventually, there will be a seamless link from Junction 42 to the town’s businesses, Wood believes.
“With all of our communities, we don’t work in isolation, we work together. Every time a business comes in, it provides a job, and each and every one of our municipalities benefit.”
Wood said, for now, the identities of the first businesses expected at Junction 42 are under wraps. But he expects announcements soon.
“The excitement is there. We’re not that far away from seeing some things happen.”