City recommends alternative site layout for Baker District redevelopment

New layout aims to improve overall financially viability of project

Guelph, Ont., September 24, 2020 – On October 5, City staff will present an alternative site layout for the Baker District redevelopment project that includes a new central library, urban square, parking, and residential, institutional and commercial space.

The new site layout moves the 88,000-square-foot library from the north tower residential/commercial complex to a freestanding, three- or four-storey building on the south end of the site. Putting the new library in a simpler, stand-alone building, originally planned to house an institutional partner, provides potential cost-savings without losing any of the amenities and programs planned for the library.

“We expect the alternative layout to create more property tax revenue and improve the overall financial viability of the project, while still meeting all the original development objectives,” says Stephanie Guy, project manager for the Baker District redevelopment.

At a recent library board meeting, members voted unanimously to endorse relocating the new central library as the stand-alone anchor facility in the south block.

Guelph Public Library CEO, Steven Kraft shares, “This new plan for the central library and Baker District project gives us greater opportunities and flexibility to meet the needs and goals of a 21st century library. The library will be the cultural and educational centre of Guelph and the heart of our community.”

An increase in appraisal values for land not currently owned by the City is part of the reason for City staff’s proposed site changes; purchasing these properties does not increase the value of the overall project. Other reasons for the recommended change are significant complexities of the legal agreements and business terms required to house the library as part of the residential tower, and a current lack of interest from an institutional partner—a circumstance exacerbated by COVID-19 now that colleges and universities are offering most of their courses online.

“There’s always a chance an institutional partner will still come forward, and we’d still have an opportunity to include institutional space in the north residential tower,” notes Guy.

The alternative site layout still features two levels of underground parking, but with about 118 fewer public parking spots. City staff are seeking Council direction to maximize the number of spaces in the south block and pursue sharing agreements in the north block to address parking on the site.

There are no expected changes to plans for two urban squares. City staff is, however, recommending that construction of the new central library be delayed by one year, until 2022.

“By and large, the changes presented in the alternative plan represent a more efficient organization of the different elements that make up our Baker District proposal,” says Alex Speigel, partner at Windmill Development Group. “Simply locating the library as a freestanding structure on site, separate and apart from the residential tower, presents several potential benefits with regards to design, identity, programming flexibility, operations and finance.”

If Council approves the site changes, City staff will work with Windmill Development Group to revise the Urban Design Master Plan and update the library design for the stand-alone building. Both would be shared as a virtual presentation with the community to outline the changes and collect final comments for Council’s consideration.

Current overall costs for the Baker District are estimated to be $106.9 million to $116.9 million, including $67.1 million for the library. The alternative site layout lowers expected City capital costs to between $84.3 million and $89.3 million, including $62 million for the library.

Submit comments, delegate or watch online

Members of the public can register as a delegate or submit written comments about the Baker District project update by contacting the City Clerk’s office at 519-837-5603 or [email protected] by 10 a.m. on Friday, October 2.

The meeting will be streamed live at guelph.ca/live and on Facebook. Note: The Committee of the Whole meeting starts at 2 p.m. and there are agenda items that Committee will work through before debating and deliberating on the Baker District report.

About the project

We’re transforming the existing Baker Street municipal parking lot and adjacent properties into a vibrant district nestled in Guelph’s historic core that will create a renewed area of activity, commerce and civic space for the local community and city.

This welcoming and publicly-accessible integrated civic hub—known as Baker District—is anchored by a new central Guelph Public Library and outdoor urban square, and features residential units, commercial and institutional space, and public parking.

As a landmark city-building initiative, the Baker District redevelopment further revitalizes our downtown and—by extension—improves our entire city’s economic and social prosperity.

This means:

  • more people living downtown and contributing to the City’s tax base to fund municipal programs and service
  • more jobs due to an increase in demand for retail and commercial services
  • an increase in retail spending for current and new businesses
  • more people visiting and learning downtown; contributing to a vibrant and healthy downtown

The project also contributes to Guelph’s growth target: a population of 203,000 people and an employment base of 116,000 jobs by 2051. Specifically, the City’s Official Plan has Guelph’s downtown being planned to achieve a density target of 150 people and jobs combined per hectare by 2031 and to be a focus for high density employment, residential development, public infrastructure and services, and multimodal transportation.

To learn more about the Baker District redevelopment project, visit guelph.ca/bakerdistrict.

For more information

Stephanie Guy
Project Manager, Special Projects
Economic Development and Tourism
519-822-1260 extension 3622
[email protected]