City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the July 16 Meeting?

If was about one year ago that council decided it was full speed ahead on Baker Street redevelopment, and over half-a-year since council approved a business plan for the a new main library. The next phase of both these actions happens Monday in a special meeting of city council.

Baker District Redevelopment, RFP Findings and Recommendations – If council endorses the staff recommendation, we’re one step closer to redeveloping Baker Street with staff being authorized to issue a Letter of Intent with a development partner, $500,000 pulled from the capital budget to start planning and implementation processes, and a deadline of the second quarter of 2019 to report back to council.

Who the preferred partner is will be revealed when the addenda to the report is released this Friday. Why the secrecy? It’s “due to timeline constraints in the preparation of reports.”

What we know is that it will be one of these four finalists from the Requests for Proposals (RFP) process: HOK Inc. (Baker District Landmark Alliance), Turner Fleischer Architects Inc., Windmill Development Group Inc., and Triovest Reality Advisors Inc. City of Guelph and Guelph Public Library staff members including DCAOs Colleen Clack and Scott Stewart, treasurer Tara Baker, planning general manager Todd Salter, and library CEO Steve Kraft were among those that made the unanimous decision on which proposal to accept.

The next step with this unnamed partner will be to enter into a Letter of Intent (LOI) with them, which will work out the objectives, roles, and responsibilities for all parties. The LOI will also lay out the direction for further negotiations that will decide on the master planning of the site, procurement procedures, financial commitments, and the transfer of ownership.

These negotiations are expected to take between 12 and 18 months, but while those are in process, other activities will be happening concurrently including the decisions on the ownership structure, property acquisitions, enabling work like environmental remediation, and, yes, design and other specifications. According to the report, the City is expected to spend $25 to $30 million over the next three to four years on the project.

The final cost? Between $330 and $365 million. The actual capital cost for construction will be between $230 and $265 million, with the City’s share being about $80 to $90 million for the new library, and urban park, and public parking. The rest of the money goes for the planning costs, and indirect infrastructure renewal costs, including, likely, work under Upper Wyndham.

The objectives of the Baker District Redevelopment are many, and they include increased visitation downtown, increasing the residential population downtown, adding 500 new parking spaces, offering a diversity of housing options, and, of course, building a new main library. A concept from 2014 included in the report showed a three-storey library of up to 80,000 square feet, three to four storeys of mixed use/commercial and parking, two residential towers that were 11 and 12 storeys respectively, plus three levels of underground parking.

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