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Five express interest in Wilson farmhouse

By Jessica Lovell
Guelph Tribune
Not everyone who has an idea for saving the Wilson farmhouse wants to see the 130-year-old building restored.
The city received five expressions of interest for possible reuse of the much-debated north-end farmhouse before the March 20 deadline.
At least one of those submissions proposed partial demolition of the historic building.
“My idea is to maintain part of the house as a monument to the rural roots of Guelph,” said Ted Pritchard in an email response to a Tribune inquiry.
Pritchard submitted his idea independently, seeing the city’s request for expressions of interest as an opportunity to suggest a possible use for the house, he said.
His suggestion: Turn the two-storey house into a pavilion by opening up the walls of the main floor and turning the second floor into the roof.
“This preserves the historically significant details of the upper windows and eaves, and the historical shape of the building,” Pritchard said.
It’s an idea he calls “off the wall,” but one he believes would enhance the park and the neighbourhood, and would turn the park into more of a destination than a typical community park.
The idea would see the city retaining ownership of the house and would require city investment to make the building safe and useful, Pritchard said.
But while he believes the house has some historical and aesthetic merit, “it’s not an outstanding piece of architecture that would deserve preservation at all costs,” he said.
Along with Pritchard’s expression of interest, the city also received submissions from the Trillium Waldorf School, Kristen Bustamante, the NORM Group and Ben Barclay.
Barclay is part of a group that has proposed turning the farmhouse into a community centre and social hub and a green-living showroom, called the Wilson Farmhouse Neighbourhood Centre.
He was not prepared to provide details of the expression of interest before city staff and councillors have had a chance to review the submission, but he released a quote from the submission.
Guelph’s Official Plan’s suggestion that the farmhouse be preserved for its historical value and community use is “the kind of inspired planning that make Guelph an interesting and attractive place to live,” the statement said.
“An innovative team of social entrepreneurs supported by an experienced advisory group have built a solid business case to operationalize that vision by creating a small neighbourhood resource centre run on social enterprise principles without using any city funding for renovation or operations,” it said.
Information connected to an online survey conducted by the group suggested that the restoration of the house would be financed by a loan, with mortgage payments to be paid for by income streams from space rental, programming and services offered.
The city would continue to own the building, but would lease it to the centre, the survey info said.
The survey’s results are part of Barclay’s submission and will be released when the contents of the submissions becomes public in a month or two.
Little information was available on the other submissions.
An individual who works with the NORM Group had previously said he hoped to turn the house into a technology demonstration house that would use sustainable technology to be self-supporting. But an attempt to contact the organization following Thursday’s deadline received no response.
Attempts to contact Bustamante and the Trillium Waldorf School also received no response as of the Tribune’s deadline.
Information related to the proposals will not be released until a staff report is complete and is available to the public as part of a council agenda, said city communications officer Michelle Rickard.
“We anticipate this to be between April and June,” she said in an email.

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