The City of Guelph has found its partner for the multimillion- dollar redevelopment of the Baker District.
At a special meeting of council on Monday evening, staff announced that the Ottawa-based Windmill Development Group would be at the helm of the massive project, which could cost as much as $295.5 million between both private and public funding.
According to staff, the project will bring with it 950 direct and indirect jobs during construction, followed by 190 permanent positions. The new development would also bring with it about 500 new residents and $7 million in annual local retail spending.
Staff said Windmill’s proposal spoke to the city’s view of what they want to see built on the Baker property. According to a post on the developer’s website, Windmill uses “innovations in land use, water, air, energy, design, waste management and smart building technologies to create healthy, high-performance green buildings and communities.”
Among the projects in Windmill’s portfolio are Zibi, a development in Ottawa and Gatineau that will bring with it condos, townhomes, commercial and office space, recreational facilities and plazas; the Plant, a condominium development on Queen Street West in Toronto; and the Arch Lofts, the condo redevelopment of a former Seventh Day Adventist Church on Perth Avenue in Toronto.
Windmill will not be alone in the project, bringing Diamond Schmitt Architects for design and master planning, DTAH for landscape and urban design and the Urban Equation Corporation for sustainability into the fold.
While concept images of the Baker redevelopment were shown on screen in council chambers, Scott Stewart, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer of infrastructure, development and enterprise, said residents should not expect that what they see is necessarily what they are going to get.
“It’s going to change, and it’s going to change because of public engagement,” he said.
Speaking with the Mercury Tribune earlier this month, Stewart said the public consultation phase will get started once the initial design phase for the library, which will be at Baker, gets underway. He added that a preliminary design could come as soon as the second quarter of 2019.
Coun. James Gordon said, pointing to a number of people donning ‘Libraries Matter’ shirts in the gallery, that the public talks continue to make Baker into something the community truly wants.
My hope is having clarity around that public consultation process is that we all get involved,” he said.
“It would be very exciting to see how we capitalize on that, and making a really robust public engagement process takes two partners.”
Going ahead, current timelines would see the design and budgeting stage last through 2019 and 2020, with council and regulatory approvals coming in 2021 and 2022. If all goes according to schedule, construction would get started in 2023.
The vote to approve staff’s request to move ahead with signing a letter of intent with Windmill was passed unanimously by council, prompting a round of applause from those in attendance.
“This is one of the proudest moments of my time on council and as mayor,” Mayor Cam Guthrie said ahead of the vote.
“This is not just for the library, not just for Baker Street, not just for the downtown core. This is going to impact, positively, our whole city.”