Several Kemptville businesses and property owners are reviving expansion plans after the federal and provincial governments committed to funding an upgrade to a problematic 1.15-kilometre stretch of County Road 43.
Ron Theriault, Kemptville Retirement Living’s land and business development director, said a 75-bed expansion was always part of the company’s plan when it purchased its property west of the Highway 416 interchange. However, the economic impacts of COVID-19 and uncertainty around the road upgrade meant it had been placed on the backburner.
“I don’t think we would have moved unless we had that commitment – it would have been just too dangerous. I think it would have been a big factor in the final decision.”
The current state of County Road 43 means residents can “forget about” turning left out of the retirement facility and requires drivers to be extremely vigilant to turn right onto the road, Theriault said.
“No one will ever tell you if that’s what scares them off (from deciding not to stay at the facility), but it is scary to try and drive and pull out,” Theriault said.
“You have to be really alert and I think sometimes it could be scary and maybe some of them don’t go out because of that.”
Work on doubling the number of lanes to four as well as adding roundabouts, crosswalks, bike lanes and streetlights is set to begin next year after the federal and provincial governments committed nearly $10 million in funding.
The bridge over Kemptville Creek will also be rehabilitated as part of the project, which received $5 million from the federal government and $3.33 million from the provincial government, with the balance to be funded by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville as well as the Municipality of North Grenville.
For Theriault, who said another site would have been chosen for the retirement community without assurances from the municipality that upgrading County Road 43 was a priority, securing the funding will usher in “the next boom for Kemptville” and allow KRL’s expansion plans to commence.
The road upgrade, which will include a turning circle near the facility, will also trigger the creation of another entry to KRL’s existing 150-suite facility, which opened last July.
“Obviously with the COVID and not knowing what is happening with the four lanes we kind of put it (the upgrade) on hold until we could figure it out,” Theriault said.
Commercial and residential property developer Kevlar Developments, which owns the Giant Tiger and KFC retail sites on County Road 43, says the upgrade will help the company develop and find tenants for some of its vacant commercial retail land.
“Once (Highway) 43 is expanded to the four lanes and the traffic flows better, it certainly is going to help finish off the retail component up front,” CEO Kevin Mulligan said.
"It’s certainly going to attract more quality tenants for our commercial retail space."
“The tenants we’ve attracted – Starbucks, Mucho Burrito, some of the national food franchises – they look at traffic count and how well the traffic flows. The better the traffic count, the better the flow, it’s certainly going to attract more quality tenants for our commercial retail space.”
Kevlar Developments is currently planning an 84-unit development across four buildings on the rear of the vacant land it owns spanning from Giant Tiger to KRL, with Mulligan hopeful the upgrade will convince more people to move to the area.
North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford said securing the funding was a “game changer” for Kemptville. She said the condition of County Road 43, used by more than 18,000 vehicles each day, was “deplorable” from both a safety and traffic flow perspective.
As well as KRL and Kevlar’s retail spaces, County Road 43 is home to North Grenville’s largest daycare and high school, as well as the Colonnade retail centre.
“It’s such an obvious example of infrastructure that didn’t grow with the community, so we were just putting more and more traffic on the road and it was just stressing everyone out quite frankly. So it is a big deal, it’s a game changer for our community and we’ve been waiting a very very long time,” Peckford said.
It is expected that construction will begin in 2021. The upgrade is set to take between two and three years, with Peckford saying she was “realistic enough” to expect construction to extend into a third year.
The County of Leeds and Grenville has also committed to securing funding to expand a further three-kilometre patch of County Road 43 between Colonnade and Somerville roads, with the total cost of all upgrades on the regional highway tipped to exceed $30 million.