As Seen on GuelphMecury.com
It was standing room only at the first of two public meetings Thursday on plans to revitalize part of the downtown core.
Once it is complete, the Baker District will be home to the new main branch of the library, along with hundreds of new residential units, a yet-to-be determined institutional partner and more.
But first, the City of Guelph — along with its partners in the project, Windmill Development Group and consultant Invizij Architects — wanted to lay out how far things have come, and how much further they have to go.
“This is 10 years in the making,” Martin Jewitt, the city’s portfolio development program manager, told the 100 or so people packed into the Co-operators Hall at the River Run Centre for the meeting.
“We’re happy that we’re finally moving this forward.”
Jewitt said next year will see more concrete plans for the proposal, including final budgets and designs. Part of those determinations will be borne out of a series of public consultations over the coming months.
On the city’s end of things, those consultations will include another open house in June 2019, shortly before final plans on Baker District go to council for approval.
There are also plans for community workshops in January and March, pop-up engagement sessions on Dec. 10 and a graffiti wall at the main library branch, where residents can share their ideas on what they think the new Baker District and library should be.
All of those components, in one form or another, will also be conducted online.
Another issue discussed Thursday afternoon was the final look of the project. While several concept images were shared with the public when Windmill was announced as the city’s partner in July, both the developer and the project’s architect said those will change.
“These are concepts that are by no means set in stone,” Jonathan Westeinde, Windmill’s CEO, told the crowd, adding that public feedback will go into the vision of the project going to council next summer.
Westeinde also touted the company’s plans for making the project environmentally friendly — many of his company’s past projects are LEED Platinum certified, the highest certification available from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — but added thing will be taken a step further in Guelph.
Created by the U.K.-based Bioregional, One Planet Living is a list of principles that developers can use, such as zero carbon energy and zero waste, and encouraging walking communities and using materials from sustainable sources.
Baker District would be the second project in the country to be built as a One Planet Living community. The Zibi development, a planned 2,500-home project in Ottawa also by Windmill, is currently the sole Canada One Planet Living community.
Steve Kraft, the CEO of Guelph Public Library, confirmed the size of the new library at three storeys, and that there will be an institutional partner on the project.
“I see it as bringing real activity to this part of the city,” he said.
While an institutional partner for Baker has not yet been announced — Jewitt said that will be determined before plans come back to council next year — YMCA-YWCA of Guelph has expressed an interest in moving into the downtown core, recently launching a phone survey on the issue.
Several years ago, the Y said it would like space in the Baker Street development. Speaking recently with the Mercury Tribune, Geoff Vogt, chief executive officer of the YMCA-YWCA of Guelph, said that while Baker District is still a consideration, the Y is not yet committed to the project.
More information on this project is posted online at guelph.ca/bakerdistrict.
By Graeme NcNaughton
Graeme McNaughton is a reporter/photographer with the Guelph Mercury Tribune.