Prince Albert is the third largest and most northerly city in Saskatchewan, with a population of just over 40,000. According to the City of Prince Albert it has a direct marketplace of approximately 60,000 people and a regional marketplace of approximately 160,000 people. While the city is still in the southern half of the province, it is a main service and distribution centre for the north. It is situated on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River between the agricultural southern area of the province and the forested lake land and mineral belt in the north.

In April 2006 the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill closed indefinitely, affecting some 690 jobs. Weyerhaeuser later merged with Domtar Inc and in September 2007 plans were announced to re-open the pulp mill portion of the mill however these plans were then cancelled by the new government. In March 2008 Domtar announced that it was removing the paper processing machine from the site saying it would likely be sold. In Dec. 2009 it was announced that the mill will be demolished in 2010. Iogen Corp, owned largely by Shell has been investigating in this property to be used for biofuel production. They say that they are still interested in the site. Click here for more detailsIn the Fort a la Corne area, 65 km east of Prince Albert is one of the worlds largest known diamond bearing kimberlite deposits with over 70 pipes now identified and the kimberlite field is estimated to contain over 9 billion tonnes.

The Saskatoon based Shore Gold joint venture with Newmont Gold of Denver announced in November 2007 that they extracted 10,000 carats of diamonds worth $1 million during their initial exploration process. According to the CEO of Shore Gold, the Star-Orion diamond project contains some 35 million carats of diamonds worth $7.9 billion. They say they have now finished the pre-feasibility and construction of two open pit mines could start as early as 2011.   Clich here for more details »

Other drilling exploration is being done in the area by an international corporation Vaaldiam Resources Ltd. who are doing test drilling in the area near Candle Lake.

1. Real Estate Market
The general outlook for real estate in the city has remained very strongly active. A new shopping mall was announced in fall of 2008. It is to be just south and west of Cornerstone Centre on 15th Street and 6th Avenue East. Anchored by a Home Depot, is will include 7 buildings with a total of 170,000 sq.ft. Home Depot announced that they will be delaying the construction until of their building until 2010.

The Prince Albert and District MLS service, one indicator of the real estate sales market, had a 2006 total MLS sales volume was a record $86 million and the year 2007 was at $153 million. In 2008 it was $152 million. The year 2009 was $167 million with 89% of this being residential. The average residential sale price for the year 2007 was $119,312 on the sale of 939 houses. In 2008 this climbed to $180,126, up 51% over the previous year and there were 759 house sales reported. In 2009 the average house sale price for the year was reported to be $198,132 based on 740 house sales. The year to date in 2010 is $197,414 on 289 houses sold.

There were 13 sales of apartment blocks in 2007 with a total of 447 suites and total sale price of $19 million or an average of $42,500 per suite. In 2008 there were 3 sold with a total of 38 suites and an average of $70,300 per suite. The year 2009 had 4 sales of 6 blocks totaling 178 suites at an average of $55,200. Then, in Dec. 2009 the Lanesborough REIT sold it’s portfolio of 6 apartment blocks with 404 suites for $17.4 million or an average of $43,069 per suite to Weidner Investments.

In 2008 the City Council approved the downtown to become an Enterprise Zone. That provides incentives such as property tax abatements, rebate of development permit fees and business license incentives. The downtown zoning bylaw was also amended to remove barriers to retail stores and restaurants.

In 1999 the City completed a large scale purchase of downtown land and buildings between First and Second Avenue West from River Street to 12th Street. The long term plan is to have a convention facility built in this area however this is some time away yet. Part of the redevelopment for this area is a new Court House on River Street that was occupied in Feb. 2001. As well, the E.A. Rawlinson Arts Centre on the corner of Second Avenue and 12th Street West was opened in April 2003. The 74,725 sq.ft. Sask. Forestry Centre on Central Avenue was occupied in early 2005 as an extension of this urban renewal project.

Retail construction has flourished recently. The downtown Gateway Mall added a new Staples and Sport Chek and the downtown Co-op store did a $4-million expansion and upgrade.

Springwood Developments Phase 1 of Cornerstone Centre opened stores for Wal-Mart, IGA Garden Market, Dollar Store Plus, Payless Shoe Store, FutureShop, and JYSK Linen ‘n Furniture. Phase 2 included Shoppers Drug Mart, a medical clinic, M & M meats, Subway restaurant and Ultracuts. Further additions to the area included a new Kelsey’s restaurant and a McDonald’s restaurant. The last phase includes two more retail buildings totalling over 36,000 sq.ft including a Rona Home Centre. The mall has also purchased land on the south side of 15th Street East, immediately across the street from their existing development for further phases.

The relocation of Wal-Mart and Payless into larger spaces enabled the South Hill Mall to do a $5 million renovation to accommodate Winners as well as a 6 screen movie theatre and a new free standing restaurant.

Two new hotels are nearing completion on the South Hill.

On 2nd Avenue West the Canadian Tire store expanded, a new 60 room Super 8 motel was opened by the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, and a new free standing McDonalds was opened.

According to CMHC, there were 170 housing starts in 2009 in the PA area, 97 single family and 73 multi-family.

City of Prince Albert Construction Stats
Year 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Housing Starts 170 174 148 60 104 69 90 79
Building Permits in Millions $53.5 $84.0 $27.7 $22.2 $21.9 $32.7 $37.4 $25.4
Source: City of Prince Albert & CMHC

CMHC now do their snapshot of the number of vacant suites at a specific date in both October and April. In October 2009 they indicate that there was a 10% increase in the average rent to $663/month over the past year.

CMHC Vacancy Rates
Apartment Structures Of Three Units Or More
Oct 09 Apr 09 Oct 08 Apr 08 Oct 07 Apr 07 Oct 06 Oct 05 Oct 04 Oct 03 Oct 02
Vacancy 2.4% 2.2% 2.9% 1.0% 2.2% 7.1% 2.9% 7.8% 7.7% 5.4% 7.0%
Source: CMHC 2009 Saskatchewan Rental Market Report

The City of Prince Albert has been the main developer of residential and industrial land. They have just over 80 residential lots available in Crescent Acres. Their prices range from $9.60/square foot to $10.10/square foot depending upon the park proximity. In 2008 they sold development land in Crescent Acres to 2 private development companies and they should bring an additional 160 new lots in the spring of 2010. The City has also started construction on a 3 year plan to bring servicing and storm retention ponds on the West Hill to prepare the area for future commercial and residential development as well as a large public park and a large soccer, fitness and health centre.

They have a small supply of industrial land at the southern edge of the city where the price is $113,750/acre or $120,250 with highway frontage. Sites over 3.0 acres in size sell at lower per acre prices. The supply of serviced industrial land in the Marquis Road area was nearly fully exhausted in 2007. The other industrial land is in the North subdivision where there is no sewer servicing and the price is $61,100/acre. A new green energy industrial park is in the planning stages to be located near the airport and completed in 2011.

2. Economic Background
Prince Albert is the junction and main river crossing of four major highways including #2 which runs north / south between Regina and La Ronge, #3 running east / west between the Manitoba and Alberta borders, #11 going south to Saskatoon and Regina, and #55 leading both to the north westerly quarter of the province and to the north easterly quarter.

Additional transportation facilities include two rail lines, STC Bus Lines, and over 25 trucking firms. Communication services include two radio stations, two TV stations, cable TV service and daily newspaper service. Transwest Air (formerly Athabasca Airlines) provides regular north/south flights into the north of the province and south to Air Canada connections at Saskatoon and Regina and there are a number of air charter companies based in the city that provide services to the resource and recreational developments to the north.

The economic base for the city is a mixture of government, forestry, tourism, agriculture, and mining. The largest employer in the city is government. Prince Albert is a provincial administration centre for the north. The P.A. District Health Board has nearly 2,000 employees and the provincial government has some 1,200. There are two provincial correctional centres plus related youth camps. There is also a federal prison that employs 250-300 full time staff.

As well, there are a number of post secondary educational institutions. The largest is the SIAST Woodland Campus. Others include the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT) and the Gabriel Dumont Institute (SUNTEP) and the National Aviation College. The First Nations University of Canada now occupies the first and second floor of the old Eaton’s building on Central Avenue and also run the National School of Dental Therapy.

The tourism sector has always played a part of the economy due to the proximity of the parkland and lakes such as the Prince Albert National Park, Emma Lake, and Candle Lake. As well, it is the jump station to the northern outfitting business.

Brunsdon Junor Johnson Appraisals Ltd is a real estate appraisal firm providing a wide range of appraisal and consulting services, including property tax assessment appeals and condominium reserve fund studies. The primary market area is north and central half of Saskatchewan.