What is the Baker District redevelopment?
The Baker District redevelopment is a City of Guelph development project aimed at transforming the existing Baker Street parking lot and properties fronting the north end of Wyndham Street North into a unique mixed-use development, including a new central Guelph Public Library.
Why is the City embarking on this project and what does it hope to achieve?
Guelph’s Downtown Secondary Plan envisions the Baker District redevelopment as a model of urban intensification that drives visitors to the downtown.
The City has previously explored concepts for the site, formally endorsing the 2009 concept and 2014 concept, and seeks to achieve the following:
· Increases to downtown visitation
· Increases to the downtown residential population
· Improvements to connectivity for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles
· Establishment of new architectural landmarks
· Adding additional public parking
· Incorporation of best practices in environmental design
· Availability of affordable housing
What program components make up the Baker District redevelopment?
The Baker District redevelopment includes the new central Guelph Public Library, residential housing including a component of affordable housing, institutional uses (educational and recreational tenants are being considered), public parking below-grade, and outdoor public spaces, including a urban square fronting on Wyndham Street.
Does the City own the parking lot and properties fronting the north end of Wyndham Street North?
Most of the land is owned by the City, although several smaller parcels on Wyndham Street North are owned by private owners. The City is currently in discussions with individual land owners.
Are there any heritage or archaeological concerns with the chosen site that need to be considered? There was once a cemetery on the property. Has that already been appropriately decommissioned?
There are no heritage buildings on the site itself, although the County building adjacent to the urban square has heritage value, which will be respected and enhanced by the design of the new square. There was an historical cemetery on the site that has already been decommissioned. Respectful re-internment of any remains will be done prior to construction, supervised by licensed archaeologists.
Who is developing this project? Will the City continue to be involved to shape the vision of the site?
Windmill Development Group is the preferred partner to lead the planning, design and development for the Baker District project through a two-stage public process. The development team, led by Windmill, includes Diamond Schmidt Architects and DTAH as architects and Urban Equation as sustainability lead. The companies, who have successfully worked together before, will work closely with the City and Guelph Public Library to arrive at a final plan for the development.
Windmill will own and develop the residential and commercial components, and partner with the City in developing the public components (e.g. library, parking and urban square). The City will support the development of the site by completing technical studies, environmental site preparation and upgrades to off-site infrastructure. The City will also consider whether support for the development project is available through Downtown Guelph Community Improvement Plan grant and loan programs.
Will there be opportunities for the public to engage in the design process?
There will be multiple opportunities for the community to participate in the development of the Baker District, both through the Guelph Public Library engagement process as it develops the new library space and programming, and the City as the Baker District design concepts are developed and refined. Opportunities for engagement will be shared with the community via our social media channels (Twitter and Facebook), online (guelph.ca and haveyoursay.guelph.ca), and in the City News pages of the Guelph Mercury Tribune.
Engagement activities will include, but are not limited to, public meetings and workshops, pop up events, focussed conversations, a graffiti wall, comment boxes, and online tools.
It’s important to note that while the City has identified the building blocks of the project, we haven’t shaped those blocks. This will be done using the engagement process and by applying the One Planet Living principles.
What are the forecasted timelines being considered for the design and construction of the project?
We anticipate to have the community engagement process and Baker District Master Plan completed by fall 2019, final design work and budgeting by end of 2020, planning and construction approvals by end of 2022 and a proposed construction start spring of 2023. Windmill and City staff are working diligently to find ways to advance the schedule to start construction earlier.
What are the first steps in the development of the design?
Windmill and their design team are working on a Baker District Master Plan, which is tentatively scheduled for completion in June 2019. In parallel, the Guelph Public Library is working through its Facility Programming Study with the help of Invizij Architects Inc., and that work will also be completed in spring 2019 so that it can be reflected in the overall master plan for the property.
What are the sustainable design ambitions for the project?
The design and planning will be based on One Planet Living principles—a planning and sustainability framework based on a desire to reduce the impact of the way we live, build, and consume. Research has shown that if everyone lived like North Americans, we would need five planets’ worth of resources to support ourselves. We only have one planet and need to act accordingly. One Planet Living’s framework comprises of 10 principles to reach this end. They are:
· Health and happiness
· Equity and local economy
· Culture and community
· Land use and wildlife
· Sustainable water
· Local and sustainable food
· Sustainable materials
· Sustainable transport
· Zero waste
· Zero carbon
The current downtown main library is owned by the Guelph Public Library, while some branches are currently leased facilities. What would the ownership structure be for the new central library?
While the Guelph Public Library fully owns the current downtown library site and building, leasing has been used in the past as a way to get branches quickly up and running in new areas. At the February 13, 2018 council meeting, Guelph City Council asked City staff to work with library staff to explore various ownership options, including full ownership, lease to own and a long-term lease. A report on the implications of these various options for the central library is due back to Council by the end of 2019. The expectation is that proceeds from the disposing of the current Norfolk Street library will be put towards central library construction costs.
How much will the Baker District redevelopment project cost?
While the actual Baker District redevelopment costs (both City and developer) are yet to be determined, the overall direct capital investment is estimated at $230 to $265 million; $80 to $90 million (estimated) of which would be funded by the City to cover the costs of the new central library, urban square and public parking.
Is there any consideration of either the University of Guelph or Conestoga College using the institutional space?
Windmill is in the process of formalizing its partnerships on the institutional space and we have given serious consideration to both the University of Guelph and Conestoga College.
Windmill understands the strong synergies a post secondary institution would bring to both the project and the broader Guelph community.
Windmill is committed to invigorating Downtown Guelph by finding a complimentary user(s) for the space.