Urban renewal is a means for municipalities to maximize built assets/infrastructure, increase tax productivity and strengthen a city’s fiscal standing. To this end I support the concept of downtown renewal in Guelph. Not to be lost in this however, are the growing concerns over the recent tone and direction of our downtown revitalization aspirations. While the vision has merit, the social/economic tradeoffs in terms of increased taxation, affordability, capital project deferral and gentrification need to be better understood.
Ward 1 we need a balanced approach to downtown renewal focused first on affordability for Guelph households and the many needs of our growing City. The recent $8.4M Urbacon judgement and settlement is the greatest testament to the need for leadership change at City Hall. Further, while current council efforts focus on a punitive tax levy at Baker St and a roundabout at St. George Square, existing city assets such as the Sleeman Center and River Run Center remain significantly underutilized. With a fraction of the investment required for St. Georges Square or Baker Street these venues could become the iconic, downtown destinations this administration continues to espouse the need for. By comparison, maximizing events such as a summer concert series, annual conferences and/or trade shows would not only contribute significant revenue to the City but would also equate to millions in indirect economic activity for downtown businesses; all while helping bridge the urban/suburban divide which exists like never before in our city. This strategy has been proven effective in other municipalities like London and Oshawa. Guelph’s potential is no different. As your council candidate I look forward to pushing forward this agenda for funding downtown renewal, and for rebuilding the bridges between our vibrant downtown and our healthy, active and strong suburban communities!