25-storey building might be just a little too tall for the City of Guelph

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

How tall is too tall? That’s the question Guelph City Council is grappling with, as they review a proposal to build a 25-storey building at the edge of the downtown core.

If it goes ahead, the tower would be the tallest building in the city.

“The height is a significant concern,” Councillor Leanne Piper said at a recent planning meeting.

Currently, Guelph’s downtown secondary plan limits buildings to six storeys.

Other councillors agreed that the tower would be too high, but they are trying to balance the concerns with the benefits the development would bring – including new jobs.

Councillor Bob Bell said the appropriate height is 12 and 20 storeys and Mayor Cam Guthrie is urging the Skyline (Skydevco Inc.) – the developer – to host another open house for public input.

“I will not support 25 storeys. I will not,” he said.

As currently proposed, the development includes retail space on the ground floor, four storeys of offices and 180 apartment units.

In his presentation to the planning committee, Skydevco president Greg Jones said the building height is “appropriate” considering new developments planned around transit hubs in other cities.

The Downtown Guelph Business Association executive supports the plan, which could bring an estimated 300 to 350 jobs to the city.

The proposal includes ground floor commercial use and an underground parking with 207 spaces and is at least 30 percent narrower than other Guelph buildings. The apartments range from 550 square feet to 650 square feet, making them affordable, Jones said.

When asked if he would revise the height if this building is not approved, Jones told the committee that six to eight storeys would not be viable.

Residents speaking against the proposal told the committee it would change the feel of Guelph’s downtown.

The Guelph development is part of an “expansive” plan by Skydevco launched in early 2019, to build 2,000 rental apartments in secondary markets  in Peterborough, Tecumseh near Windsor, Welland, Collingwood and Gravenhurst.

If all goes well, construction of the Guelph development would begin in 2023 and be completed in 2025.

Jones said he expects young professionals and empty-nesters will be the primary audiences for the rental apartments.

Limestone and granite facade of the existing two-storey building on Farquhar and three-storey building on Fountain would be maintained and incorporated into the facade of the development’s podium, which would house offices and stores.

The development would be located adjacent to Guelph Central Station, which provides VIA Rail, GO Transit, Guelph Transit and Greyhound bus access, making it “a true pedestrian-oriented development.”

Council will discuss the plan at a meeting on Feb. 24.

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