GUELPH (Feb.8, 2008)Guelph Mercury
This could take awhile.
It will likely be 10 to 20 years before the Guelph Innovation District, also known as the York District Lands, sees major development. But the city of Guelph wants to keep the idea of transforming the vast tract of land in the community’s east side in the minds of residents.
Seen as integral to Guelph’s future growth plans and economic evolution, the district’s potential continues to be studied. The public is invited to an information session on the concept tonight, 6 p.m. at Civic Square, committee room C.
Ward 1 councilor Kathleen Farrelly said plans for the district are nascent and extend many years into the future. Crafting a comprehensive plan for the over 450 hectares (1,000 acres) of land is challenging because it requires speculation on things like economic trends and population growth projections, she indicated.
“I’m thoroughly enthused about all the plans,” said Farrelly, “because I would like to see a mix of live, work and play there. The lands can be enhanced and can be used in their natural state in some cases. I hope we can encourage the right kinds of businesses that would work in that area.”
Fellow Ward 1 councilor Bob Bell said the primary focus of the land should be business development. He favours zoning areas with a “majestic views” of Eramosa River valley for business, so that things like corporate headquarters locate there.
The city must do all it can to attract new business and the beauty of the York District Lands is the best location the city has to offer, he said.
The city began formally studying development of the York District Lands back in 2005. The lands are bordered by York Road and Stone Road at the top and bottom, and by Victoria Road South and Watson Road South along the sides.
Just 99 hectares of the land is owned by the city, while the province owns about 233 hectares and Cargill Better Beef own about 122 hectares. City planners envision a kind of urban village on the property, with residential space for 3,000 to 5,000 people, and economic development capable of creating 8,000 to 10,000 jobs.
While embryonic, the plan favours “new economy” types of enterprises, including agri-technology and bio-science, alternative energy and advanced manufacturing businesses, in combination with some institutional uses such as university, college and health care facilities. Pedestrian-oriented medium to high density residential developments have been incorporated into early plans.
What is likely is that elements of the Provincial Correctional Centre complex and its surrounding landscape will be preserved when development takes place. Following 2007 studies, the province identified a number of heritage elements on the property, including 13 buildings and the associated landscape.
“That is a very important piece of land out there, and we can’t let it just sit, or be used in a way that would be detrimental to the city,” Farrelly added.