Black Diamond: From “Wood King to Grocery Giant” – new development proposal

By Pam Jones, Editor.

A group of citizens met on Tuesday, August 26th at the Griffiths Memorial Centre to continue their discussions on their vision of Black Diamond’s future.

The primary topic of conversation was the proposed retail development of the Wood King property at the eastern entrance to town.

Three members of the group, Chris Weingarth, Ann McGill and Murray Knowler, met with Ryan Darragh, of Ronmor Developments, last Friday with an agenda of concerns and questions and summarized the outcome of that meeting for the group:

Traffic: Overall traffic flow would be 1st Avenue and 6th Street with possible modifications to Highway #7 to allow for a south turn. Connection to the town via pathways and sidewalks hadn’t been considered but would be taken into consideration.

Design: Ronmor is aware of the “Boomtown” design criteria for the town and is committed to following it. One of their existing developments, Silverado Marketplace in Calgary, already has some of these aspects – Proposed name of this development is “Miners Landing” which aptly ties into Black Diamond’s heritage.

Tenants: At this time there are no applications on file from pizza restaurants, gas bars, convenience stores or liquor stores. No Frills are on file as the potential anchor tenant with a grocery store of up to 21,000sf. Other proposed tenants have been hesitant due to the small population of the area but the major traffic pattern is an asset. The lease price range of the available space is $15 to $25 per square foot, triple net.

Sustainability Concerns: Ryan explained that he was unaware of the Town’s Sustainability Plan. Ronmor is a family business and prefers to retain ownership of their developments. Sustainability is incorporated into their designs with such items as LED lighting and water capture systems. Water concerns were raised and the stability of the water supply is of primary concern and will be addressed first. The Town has shown a desire to have the water line cross the highway and hook into the line at Rona – this may cause delays until 2015 or even 2016.

Health and Wellness: Ryan was also unaware of the Town’s Strategic Development Plan with its emphasis on ‘health and wellness’. When contacted by Chris Weingarth of this group, David Petrovich, Black Diamond’s Economic Development Officer, explained that the plan is not expected to be available until early in 2015.

Other concerns were shared with Ryan and the overall consensus was that he was very transparent and willing to work with the residents of the town. Some of these concerns were the use of trees and murals to create appeal. The Town’s hotel feasibility study was mentioned and Ryan explained that hotel chains generally prefer to own their own land and therefore none had been approached. Alternative tenants were discussed with suggestions made of perhaps a bookstore/stationery/office supplies, specialty outdoors equipment, fibre arts store and a great restaurant with outdoor seating. Chris offered to contact the owner of NOtaBLE Restaurant in Calgary to see if he would be interested. Ryan commented that he would be very interested in pursuing any leads the group could offer.

Moving forward we will see another Open House, maybe two, and Ryan expressed an interest in meeting with the leaders of this group again in about a month and also requested members attend the open house(s).

Kevin Nicholson, owner of Wood King, attended the meeting and expressed his opinion that this town needs to expand its commercial/retail base in order to reduce the property taxes for residents and to keep our young people here. He also feels that residents deserve a choice without having to drive to Okotoks. Kevin asked us all to consider what it is that we drive to Okotoks to buy and put our thoughts towards attracting those types of businesses to Black Diamond. Expansion in the retail sector would provide more local employment and keep more dollars in our economy. The future expansion of the Town east of his property also shows potential for more commercial/retail/industrial enterprises. Kevin also stated that more affordable housing is needed in this community.

After the meeting with Ronmor, the group met with Bob Miller, who manages the Economic Development Plan for the Calgary Regional Partnership. Bob offered a good resource in the book by former MLA, Doug Griffiths called 13 Ways to Kill Your Community.

This group will continue to meet once a week for brainstorming and planning. It would like to extend an invitation to anyone with an interest in the future of Black Diamond to join them. Chris Weingarth can be contacted at

In a conversation I had earlier this month with Ryan Darragh, he expressed a certain amount of excitement and pleasure at the prospect of moving forward to the next step of this project. In helping shape the future of Black Diamond Ryan was proactive in his vision of the ‘Boomtown’ concept and expressed the point that competition helps to manage prices in a community. The other aspect of increasing the commercial base of a town is the potential for lowering residential taxes.

The architectural firm that Ronmor uses is Riddell Kurczaba and a browse through their website shows an adaptation to many situations and varied design concepts. Extensive use of trees and landscaping is evident in many of their projects, where appropriate. On the subject of sustainability, Riddell Kurczaba’s website comments: …..flexible or multi-use spaces, water conservation and management, and heat-recovery systems, are just some of the examples of the thinking that has gone into positively impacting the public image of our clients.

When questioned about the amount of parking spaces planned for the site, Ryan stated that the Town’s Bylaw calls for 80 parking spaces but their concept plan allows for 130 stalls – well above the minimum requirement.

From all conversations held so far it appears that the proposed development of the Wood King site into a retail complex will be done in a thoughtful and accommodating manner and will be an asset to our community.

I hope many of you will attend the next Open Houses and offer your positive ideas. One thing is for sure, as Calgary and Okotoks continue to expand Black Diamond will continue to be an oasis for those desiring a smaller, safer community to live in. However, everything is relative and Black Diamond will also be forced to expand. I encourage all of you to be an active participant in the direction that expansion takes in our community – this includes surrounding area residents as well.