Innovation District & Yorklands
Choosing not to buy the Yorklands reformatory property from the province in 2019 was the most consequential decision for Ward 1 made by council and a big mistake. I don’t understand how buying real estate that already has utility connections was considered risky when land has gone up consistently in price for as long as I can remember. Housing prices in Guelph have risen significantly since then and have only slightly come back down. Even with the soil remediation and heritage renovation costs, I’m sure we could have found developers who were interested in a vision like the innovation district. We could have made a lot of money for the city to offset costs of developments like Clair-Maltby, which are being pushed forward (instead of the Innovation district at Yorklands) by a lot of the same developers who made donations to municipal campaigns in the 2018 election.
We have beautiful heritage buildings, delicate ecosystems and parkland that could be used to house eco-industries, museums, maker spaces, local creator markets and food non-profits. We need to designate the buildings as heritage sites, protect natural landmarks and negotiate with developers to realize that vision.
There are a lot of things we can still do to influence the layout and content so that it closely resembles the innovation district approved in 2014. I talked to the Fusion Homes developers who are open to making the residences eco friendly and accessible to all disabilities so anyone can live there and people can age in place. We just need to work together with Federal and Provincial partners to ensure it is economically viable.
Learning from Past Mistakes
We need more transparency on the history of decisions made on properties like these. It’s easy to see why people feel there are no honest politicians when many of these matters are made in closed session meetings. A public timeline of votes, outcomes and consequences would be not only helpful to residents, but also for staff and council members so that we do not repeat past mistakes.