Red Deer County is keeping the economic development pedal to the metal with a new highway project unveiled Thursday.
Burger King, Tim Hortons, Petro-Canada and a couple behind a ’50s retro diner have all signed up to be part of Junction 42, located at the Highway 2-Highway 42 interchange just east of Penhold.
The economic boost provided goes far beyond additional tax revenues, said county Mayor Jim Wood.
“I believe this area is going to provide a lot of jobs, a lot of opportunity, a lot of business,” said Wood.
Gasoline Alley has proven to be a big success, and Wood sees the development of a similar draw as an important part of the county’s long-term strategy.
“We have many years of development and future capacity in this area,” he said. “We look at this as way to offset the annexations that the city will have some day in our industrial areas.
“This is a way we, in fact, can keep Red Deer County viable into the future and will continue to thrive.”
There are a number of other investors looking at the area, including car washes, lube shops and other motorist-oriented businesses.
“I don’t think it will be long before we start to see a hotel out here and those types of activities,” said Wood.
“I think in this rural area, it would be a very unique opportunity for farm equipment dealers and those kinds of suppliers for the farming community.”
Phase 1 is only a portion of the 270-acre site. The county is playing the long game when it comes to plans to develop other phases, said county manager Curtis Herzberg.
“We’re not looking for a specific return on investment. We’re looking to put facilities and services in this part of the community that need it. We know we will be successful with that in the long run.”
Miles Davis, of service station development company K.A.R. Holdings, said as Gasoline Alley has developed, it no longer has room for the highway truckers that used to line up on a service road that was removed last summer.
“Gasoline Alley has evolved so much from what it used to be,” he said.
“I think through discussions with Alberta Transportation, and the county, and ourselves, we really identified that need and a place for commercial traffic to be able to stop.”
The service station expected to open in mid-November will be designed with plenty of space for RVs, campers and holiday trailers.
“We’re built so the travelling public, whatever you’re driving, you’ll be able to easily manoeuvre and navigate around the site.”
As well, there will be cardlock fuelling and a pair of electric vehicle charging stations, provided through a partnership with Suncor.
Jolene Bjarnason plans to add a retro touch to Junction 42.
Bjarnason, husband Grant Blake and their six children, will pour their energies into Junction 2/42, a 50s’-style diner with a menu full of homemade favourites.
“It’s won’t be just the diner itself, it’s going to be the whole experience,” said Bjarnason.
“Saturday night will be the car hop nights, so the girls will roller skate out to the cars, just like the old A&W used to be.”
Bjarnason said they are even planning to bring the drive-in movie back on Saturday nights, with an inflatable screen.
The family wants to make the restaurant a destination eatery beyond those travelling by on the highway.