These are exciting times for the Ward’s IMICo property. Last night council unanimously approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understading (MOU) between the City, Habitat for Humanity Wellington/Dufferin/Guelph Chapter and ARQi R&D developers for the future redevelopment of the property. At this stage, in order to keep everyone up to speed on what’s been happened over the past 13 months I wanted to share some history, in order to set the stage for next steps.
Following the 2015 federal election and the renewed optimism around federal infrastructure funding for affordable and social housing, many city’s began building bold proposals in an effort to attract federal funding. One proposal which caught my eye came from the City of Vancouver which I continue to follow closely.
In this context, I believed Guelph should be no different and the IMICo property presented such an opportunity. As a City owned property which has sat vacant for 20+ years, I believed IMICo (which is almost 14 acres in size and steps from our Downtown) could be leveraged for federal brownfield funding in exchange for a commitment to an affordable housing component within future developments (in addition to many market based developments). In essence, a truly mixed used community that the City (as current owners) could steer in the appropriate direction.
During the February 11th, 2016 council meeting specific to Guelph federal infrastructure proposals, I raised this concept for IMICo and on February 12th, 2016 sent the following email to council and the executive team in order to start an internal discussion on the file.
Fast forward 11 months and I am extremely pleased that we (collectively) are taking positive steps toward realizing this future for IMICo. In closing, I’ve included my speaking notes from last evenings council meeting in order to express my sincere thanks to all who have played important roles to date and to set the stage moving forward.
“I want to thank Mr. Howard and the local Habitat for Humanity Wellington/Dufferin/Guelph chapter as well as Dr. Obeidi from Arqi Developments. I’d also like to thank Mr. Cartwright and the Guelph economic development office, our planning staff, our Guelph executive team, and our intergovernmental affairs team for their efforts and involvement to date on this file. To the Mayor and Council I thank you for supporting this vision for the prosperous use of the IMICo lands into the future. It goes without saying that there are tremendous gains from moving in this direction on IMICo, especially when considering the many socio-economic and environmental multipliers that will be generated from construction activity like this in the Ward. I’ve always believed that the factors unique to IMICo create the types of conditions our federal and provincial governments are looking to support (through social & brownfield infrastructure funding) in order to grow our economy and support the social wellbeing of our country. For these reasons I commend intergovernmental relations staff in their efforts to highlight the IMICo proposal in Guelph’s portfolio of strategic infrastructure projects presented to the federal government ealier this year. We need partners to make this project reach it’s full potential and to this end I’d also like to thank our Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield for being a welcoming and engaged ear on this file. I believe this MOU lays the foundation for welcoming those partnerships with senior levels of government and (as owners of the property) the city can build in assurances that the vision will be carried out. So, today marks a significant hurdle being crossed, and now we can move forward to the next one.”
The Provincial Water taking file (I believe) has been a valuable process for our council, community and staff to go through together. What started out as a very aggressive motion brought forward by Councilor Gordon and Allt, eventually turned into a well focused discussion on how Guelph might influence the governance review of the water taking process in our province. Governance that should always be grounded in science; where priority uses can be established for municipalities and others.
I sincerely want to thank all of the residents and business owners in Guelph who have reached out to me over the past few weeks expressing appreciation that this file was steered away from it’s original tone. Many in our community have felt alienated by things that have been said during this process and to those people, I want to acknowledge that I heard your voices very clearly. While often too intimidated to speak up, I thank you for reaching out to me.
Guelph is very passionate about water, but our passion should always remain grounded in the science of sustainable resource development and priority uses; not on personal value judgements alone. For these reasons I commend staff for their work on this file. For listening to council and the community and for developing recomendations that (I wholeheartedly believe) accurately reflect our collective water security concerns. The recomendations and report are defensible and most importantly are respectful of the relationships we have with our surrounding townships and the businesses where many of our residents work. Residents and their families who are valued members of our Guelph community.