Feature - Corridor dynamics 

There’s much more than the Olympics and development projects on the horizon, there’s going to be a population shift

Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland calls it a "transition" that will involve many "fantastic projects".

The manager of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce, Karen Hudson, says the elected officials in Squamish have to have a 2020 vision with a 2010 focus.

President of the Sea to Sky University Dr. David Strangway says the planned development in Squamish could only be "good for the university and great for the town".

One of the partners involved in Squamish’s new factory outlet mall simply describes the development that is going to occur in and around his town over the next few years as "explosive".

And they’re not talking about the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Currently there are 11 major projects proposed for the Squamish area, including: the Sea to Sky University, a high-end factory outlet mall, the ongoing development at Britannia Beach, the ongoing development at Furry Creek, a proposed four season resort and ski area at Brohm Ridge, the Squamish waterfront development, a new Wal-Mart store, the Garibaldi Springs golf course, the expansion of Capilano College and a new Canadian Tire mall.

And while many of these projects will take years to complete, the result is that within two years Squamish will be a self-contained town that attracts people from Vancouver to do the same things people in Squamish used to travel to Vancouver to do, like high-end shopping.

Any one of these developments would have a lasting financial and, in many cases, cultural impact on a town with a population of about 17,000, but there’s not one development – there’s 11.

Factor in the $600 million upgrade to Highway 99, which will make Squamish more accessible from Vancouver, and the message is clear: the dynamics of Squamish, and indeed of the whole Sea to Sky corridor, are changing. Who lives in the corridor, how many people live in the corridor, where they work, where they shop, where they recreate, who visits the corridor, what visitors do and where they stay are all evolving. It’s a radical adjustment, particularly for Squamish, which for years was defined solely by the forestry industry.

There are literally hundreds of smaller pieces to the Squamish puzzle as well, but the one that is likely to have the single biggest impact is the Sea to Sky University.

The Sea to Sky University is vital because of the hundreds of students it will attract and the real estate development that will finance the university. But these are minor developments in comparison to the cultural change the school could facilitate.

When the university opens its doors to its first 600 students in 2006 it will be injecting a whole new generation of people into Squamish. And it’s expected many of those students will stay in or return to the corridor after they finish their degrees.

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