Baker District urban design plan ready for Council’s consideration

Economic modelling forecasts new Guelph retail spending over $18 million a year

Guelph, Ont., July 9, 2021 – City of Guelph staff have posted a report to Council seeking key approvals for the updated urban design master plan, public parking construction budget, and sustainable neighbourhood action plan for the Baker District redevelopment.

“This is a really exciting moment in this project,” says Jayne Holmes, the City’s deputy chief administrative officer of Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Services. “The City has been working toward the redevelopment of this part of downtown for almost 20 years and after much planning and community input we’re on the cusp of making our vision to create a renewed area of activity, commerce and civic space a reality.”

The meeting for discussion and decision of these staff recommendations is July 21 starting at 4:30 p.m.

Urban design in the Guelph context

Urban design master plans show the design intent of a space and evaluate proposed development in the context of urban design as described by municipal plans, policies and guidelines.

The updated urban design for the Baker District is the result of more than three years of community engagement, modifications to the site layout as approved by Council in fall 2020, and careful consideration of guiding City documents including Guelph’s Official Plan, Downtown Secondary Plan, Urban Design Manual and Downtown Streetscape Manual. The plan also helps achieve the City’s Guelph. Future Ready. strategic plan priority, Building Our Future.

“In addition to the 600 people who will live and bring more vitality to the downtown core, the centrepiece of this landmark development is a state of the art library that will serve as a destination, bringing even more people downtown,” said Jonathan Westeinde, CEO of Windmill Development Group who are leading the planning, design and development of the Baker District.

Despite changes to the site layout as a result of new financial information and the lack of an institutional partner, all the original objectives for the Baker District redevelopment are still met in the updated urban design master plan. Should Council approve the updated plan, detailed site planning and final designs would be developed and refined through the planning process.

City expects close to $1 million a year in new property taxes

The City recently commissioned an independent review of expected economic benefits from the Baker District redevelopment. Modelling by the Altus Group estimates that the redevelopment project will provide a total of $969,700 a year to the City through property taxes which will help offset costs for municipal service delivery to the development. Modelling also forecasts new Guelph-wide spending on goods and services by workers and new residents of the development at $18.3 million per year, with $4.2 million of that new spending expected in the downtown core alone, supporting the Guelph. Future Ready. priority of Powering Our Future.

“Many of the sectors that will most directly benefit from additional residents and associated economic activity in downtown Guelph are the same ones hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” adds John Regan, general manager of Economic Development and Tourism. “This includes arts and entertainment, restaurants and small retail business.”

Underground parking for downtown residents and visitors

City staff is proposing two levels of underground parking in the Baker District and seeking Council’s approval for a construction budget of $15.9 million for public parking. This plan estimates 156 public parking spaces. The developer would pay for the construction of 260 private spaces for people living in the residential towers.

The Baker Street and upper Wyndham lots currently offer 294 public parking spaces. Site constraints including shallow bedrock prevent more than two levels of underground parking as part of the new redevelopment. The City added 496 downtown public parking spaces when the Market Parkade was finished in 2019.

“While there are fewer public spaces proposed for underground parking than are currently available in the Baker Street lot, we have an overall increase in available downtown parking,” notes Antti Vilkko, general manager of Facilities and Energy Management. “We’re more than meeting current demand and we’ll consider what post-pandemic parking demands will be as we update Guelph’s downtown parking master plan in the next couple of years.”

Designing for sustainability

Urban Equation prepared a sustainable neighbourhood action plan that explores ways to reduce the environmental impact of the Baker District redevelopment and includes meaningful goals and targets to guide development decisions. This work helps deliver the City’s Guelph. Future Ready. priority of Sustaining Our Environment. As a result of this plan, Bioregional endorsed the Baker District as Canada’s second One Planet Living Community.

“We’re proud to be working with the City of Guelph as we look beyond reducing harm towards having a net-positive impact on people and the planet via the way we develop and build our communities,” says Jenny McMinn, managing director for Urban Equation

Windmill Development and the City of Guelph received a grant from the Federations of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund toward the development of this plan. The action plan needs Council’s approval so that the City can claim the remaining funds.

About the Baker District redevelopment

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 squares, and features residential units, commercial 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.

Resources

Media Contact

Stephen Gazzola, Project Manager
Facilities and Energy Management
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 3886
[email protected]