By Jessica Lovell
Residents and possible future residents of the St. Patrick’s Ward are invited to have their say on certain aspects of plans for the former W.C. Wood property; what the residential buildings will look like is not one of them.
“We were fortunate enough to acquire an amazing piece of land and we want to do right by it,” said Karen Gold, vice-president of marketing for Fusion Homes, the company that will develop the former industrial site.
Fusion is hosting an “open forum” meeting Tuesday Dec. 11 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Red Chevron Club on Elizabeth Street. The goal of the meeting will be to gather feedback on what neighbourhood residents would like to see on the site. The open forum will also provide an update on progress so far. Remediation of the brownfield site was largely complete in September, said Gold.
A representative from Kilmer Brownfield Equity Fund, which handled the remediation work, will be on hand Tuesday, said Gold. “The architects will be leading most of the discussion,” she noted.
Discussion will be largely focused on building the community surrounding the future condo development, rather than on the buildings that will be at the centre of the development.
That’s because Fusion plans to use feedback from the neighbourhood residents on the community aspects of the site to help develop its plans for the residential buildings, Gold said.
“Once we get those inputs, the residential will be built around that,” she said.
Around 90 minutes of Tuesday’s meeting are to be devoted to break-out groups that will discuss eight key areas to be considered in the site design, she said.
These include the river promenade; the bridge connection over the river; the character of the surrounding streets, including Arthur and Cross streets; the heritage building on the site; the future of the Guelph Junction Railway corridor; open space on the site; public art areas; and a possible retail component in the development.
“There’s a lot of interesting aspects to the property,” said Gold. All of those aspects are to be considered when Fusion submits its plan for the site in the new year.
The company plans to submit that plan in February, but hasn’t yet made any decisions on the design of the site, including what the residential buildings will look like.
“We know it’s going to be some sort of highrise,” said Gold, but she added, “In Guelph, anything bigger than eight storeys is considered a highrise.”
Plans will likely also include some townhouses, she said.
The last open forum meeting was held almost a year ago, in January. Some Ward residents expressed displeasure at elevation drawings presented by an architect at that meeting.
Those drawings did not represent plans, but were instead used to gauge the types of designs that might be acceptable to residents, said Gold.
In the meantime, Fusion has changed architects – going with a company called DTAH that will be facilitating discussions on Tuesday.
“We are cautiously optimistic about this process and this team,” said The Ward Residents Association chair Maria Pezzano in an email to residents encouraging them to come out to the meeting.
“If you were at the Italian Canadian Club last January you saw the proposed imagery that pretty much upset the entire audience. Let’s change it,” she urged.
But Gold maintains that Fusion has gone to great lengths to engage the neighbours in an effort to build a community that will be appreciated.
“It’s more than just a residential area,” she said. “We are actually building a community.”
Compared to the 18-storey highrise development currently being built by Tricar just across the river on Macdonell Street, Fusion has sought far more community input, said Gold.
At the same time, Fusion is optimistic about the response Tricar has received on the highrise development, which has been selling well, Gold said.
“There’s obviously demand for downtown residences,” she said.
Though, they don’t even have a design for the site yet, Fusion already has a list of about a dozen people who are interested in buying in, she said.
They will have to wait a while, though. “We’re not even going to be looking at going to construction until spring of 2014,” she said.
About 100 people are expected at Tuesday’s meeting based on RSVPs, said Gold. Though an RSVP is not a requirement, a courtesy RSVP is appreciated, and people can do so by contacting Michelle LaMarche at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-826-6700, ext. 259.
By Jessica Lovell