City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the July 17 Meeting?

City council is hourly trying to get things wrapped up before the August break, and this coming Monday they’ll have to act upon some urgent new business that will affect the fate of the downtown core into the immediate future. That might have been over the top, but if you read on you’ll see it’s a pretty big deal.

CON-2017.34 Parking Master Plan Implementation: Award of the Wilson Street Parkade Design-Build Contract #17-050 – You may recall that work on the Wilson St. parkade began last fall with some road construction on Wilson St. itself, all in an effort to set the proverbial table for the construction of the full parkade to begin this year. Things did not go according to plan. After the first request for proposals (RFP) was cancelled, a second request when out in April 2017 and it received one response form the Newton Group Ltd. But more than just getting someone to build the parkade, there’s also been some changes to the overall parking plan.

The original plan called for 302 new parking spaces to be added through the construction of the parkade, but it seems that there were constraints in the original RFP that prevented it from becoming a reality. So the new proposal will see the addition of another two storeys to the parkade, which will create nearly 500 parking spots in all in the new structure. There will also be a roof installed over the top deck, which will save in the long-term on winter control costs, and it could be used in the future for potential solar revenue.

This all means that there will be an additional $8.5 million cost for the Wilson lot, but $3.1 million will be saved overall from the 10-year capital budget with the Neeve St. parkade being put on ice. The addition of the two stories on the Wilson parkade will allow for 50 more spaces to be created versus the original plan for the separate Wilson and Neeve St. parkades.

The overall cost for the Wilson St. parkade project is now budgeted at $22.5 million, including $21.1 million for the parkade, $1 million for Wilson St., and $375,000 for the pedestrian bridge.

The schedule is now as follows: the design and approval phase will begin immediately and is expected to wrap in the first quarter of 2018, construction will then begin and run through to the second quarter of 2019, and the official opening of the new parkade, pedestrian bridge and road will be sometime in either the second or third quarter of 2019.

CON-2017.33 Downtown Guelph Secondary Plan – Implementation – Priority Programs of Work – There are five sites in the downtown looking to potential redevelopment: the Baker St. parking lot, the Fountain St. parking lot, the main branch of the public library, the parking lot between Macdonell and Cork St., and a stretch of Wellington across from Heritage Park at the corner of Wyndham St. that’s Guelph Fire/EMS headquarters. Which one of these might be redeveloped first?

The City has been pursuing a request for information (RFI) over the last several months, seeking input from a number of stakeholders from Guelph and the surrounding GTA about prioritizing City-owned property in downtown Guelph. The five sites mentioned above were ranked on a number of categories including environmental approvals and remediation, parking, height limitations, financial commitments from the City, approval processes, public space requirements, zoning, and whether the lot is of an irregular size. On the basis of that ranking, 50 Wyndham St. S. finished first with a score seven out of eight criteria. Every other site scored six except 100 Norfolk, which checked off five of the eight criteria. But that doesn’t mean that Wyndham is the most likely for immediate redevelopment.

This is where the big news comes in. “Aside from the RFI, staff have also received unsolicited developer/investor interest regarding the potential redevelopment of the Baker District, which in staff’s opinion are serious and suggest the need to advance the Baker District to market as soon as possible,” said the report. Who is this “unsolicited developer/investor”? As the report states, “The timing been delayed and influenced by notice provided by the Co-operators General Insurance Company (“Co-operators”) of its intention to assess head office relocation options.”

Yes, the Co-operators, who are currently based in their headquarters on Macdonell across from Guelph Central Station. Evidently, they have expressed interest in the possibly redeveloping either the Baker St. or Fountain St. lots for a new 180-200,000 square foot office building. Baker is the more likely option because 141 Fountain St. remains a brownfield in need of remediation. According to a 2015 press release, the City was accessing federal funds to test the land, which, according to previous studies, has coal tar residuals within and around the site of the former coal gasification plant that sat there.

City staff is asking council to make the Baker St. redevelopment a priority program, and to implement a request for proposal and come back with a status report in the first quarter of 2018.

***Editor’s Note: There will be no live blog on Monday’s meeting due to a scheduling conflict. Guelph Politico apologizes for the inconvenience.

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