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Baker Street plans under microscope

The issue of Baker Street redevelopment will be back before city council next week, with city staff recommending a plan that would bring a new main library, a Conestoga College campus and other institutional uses to the site.
Council will be asked to endorse this plan, which also includes some private-sector housing, at the 6 p.m. meeting on Wednesday June 18.
The ambitious plan favoured by staff, which was first unveiled in February, is one of three options outlined in a new staff report. Twenty-year financial projections are included for all three options. One of the options would see nothing but residential development on the Baker Street Parking Lot site. Another would see residential development and a new main library, but no other institutional uses.
The province has invited Requests for Proposals for post-secondary expansions, with a Sept. 26 deadline.
However, the results of Thursday’s provincial election could affect plans for expanding Ontario’s colleges and universities, the report says.
It says staff will return to council before the Sept. 26 deadline with more information about how much financial support the city would have to provide towards a 1,000-student Conestoga campus on Baker Street.
Staff’s preferred option, for which council’s support in principle will be sought on June 18, includes branches of the YMCA-YWCA and Innovation Guelph at the Baker Street site, as well as a new main library and a Conestoga College campus.
Private redevelopment of the site for housing would lead to more assessment growth and higher property taxes than the other two options, the report says. However, “private redevelopment of the site does not achieve any of the major city-building components for the community,” it says.
Staff’s preferred option would require the city to spend money on an 80,000-sq.-ft. library and on 750 public parking spaces, in addition to potential support for educational partnerships such as a Conestoga campus.
Under this option, the new main library would be part of 183,000 square feet of institutional space on the site, along with 350 residential units.
“The (city’s) total commitment could be as high as $43 million to develop 750 public parking spaces and the city share of the 183,000 square feet of institutional uses on the site,” the report says. However, more analysis of the city’s share is needed, it says.
The preferred option would attract close to 3,800 people a day to the area, compared with 2,000 for the library-housing option and about 690 for the option that only involves housing, the report estimates.
This additional traffic would have major spinoff benefits for downtown retailers, with the biggest benefits associated with staff’s preferred option, it says.

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