Archaeological excavation of Baker District redevelopment site: July 21

Guelph, Ont., July 21, 2022 – We’re transforming a former municipal parking lot into a compact 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. The Baker District is a landmark city-building initiative that will bring more visitors and residents downtown, create more jobs and enhance the vitality of our downtown.

Before any underground construction can begin, we were required to conduct an archeological clearance of the Baker District redevelopment site including streets adjacent to the site. The City and archaeological consultant, Archaeological Research Associates Ltd. (ARA) excavated the area for the required archeological clearance of the Baker District redevelopment site.

Clearance work is now complete

The archaeological clearance activities for the Baker District redevelopment site (including clearing the roadways adjacent to the main development site) are now complete.

During clearance activities, 129 grave shafts were identified and 106 distinct discoveries of human remains (bone fragments) have been unearthed. Additionally, there have been a small number of interesting miscellaneous items discovered. This includes small glass bottles, clay pipes and the datestone of the former Victoria Curling Rink which previously occupied the southern portion of the site.

All remains found during the excavation are being documented and will be reinterred at Woodlawn Memorial Park.

Pre-construction continues with utility relocations and road reconstruction

Now that the archaeological clearance activities have wrapped up, the next phase of pre-construction activities can begin. Third-party utility companies (e.g., Alectra, Enbridge) will soon begin relocating utility poles and underground pipes. In early fall, underground road reconstruction of Baker Street, Chapel and Park Lanes will begin prior to the anticipated ground-breaking of the Guelph Public Library next spring.

Construction can be fluid and the current schedule is highly dependent on several factors including weather, utility locates and the complexity of working around existing utilities in the rights of way.

Baker District project updates

In the near future, to streamline information about this project, we will issue regular project-wide updates that include details about pre-construction activities including utility relocation, road reconstruction and other general project updates. These updates will be posted on the Baker District redevelopment webpage.

Respect and dignity for human remains

To ensure that human remains are treated with respect and dignity the City does not take or share photographs of any remains found. The City requests that media and the public also follow this direction for the respectful treatment of remains.

Site history

The triangular block that was formerly the Baker Street parking lot was the site of an all-faith cemetery from 1827-1853. The Public Burying Ground was established by the Canada Company in 1827. The site was used as a cemetery for 26 years. In 1853 the Town of Guelph passed a new bylaw banning human burials within town limits. The property continued to be owned by the Canada Company for another 24 years, until it was purchased by the City for use as a public park in 1879. When plans were made to move the remains from the old Public Burying Ground to a new cemetery (Woodlawn Memorial Park), family members moved some burials but others, especially unmarked graves, remained.

About the Baker District redevelopment

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

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

The Baker District redevelopment project supports multiple priorities of the City’s strategic plan, Guelph. Future Ready.:

  • Sustaining Our Future through net-zero carbon targets
  • Powering Our Future through helping to grow downtown business and the local economy
  • Building our Future through the inclusion of affordable housing
  • Working Together for Our Future through innovation and strategic partnerships

The redevelopment also supports the themes of Guelph’s Community Plan to love where we live, protect our environment, create value, and play and explore.

Resources

 

For more information about the Baker District redevelopment

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