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Do 'beastly monstrosities' lurk in Guelph's south end?

This week's Market Squared considers that question and others, including whether the City knows what it's doing down there
hiding fear stock

From the moment I saw the agenda for the March 19 planning meeting at city council, I knew there was trouble brewing.

In this term of council, one of the most consistently growing points of disconnect is the proliferation of midrise buildings in the south end, and the area’s growing discomfort with the swiftness of their construction. And then, last Thursday, there were two more on the drawing board.

So who here likes change? No one, right?

That’s what I thought.

Not to mitigate people’s very real and individualistic concerns, but I thought it over the top in the story when one area resident said that the prosed development meant that he’d “never see another sunset.”

Like, never? Like never again never?

Someone in the comments section of the story posted that Gordon Street South used to be a “beautiful corridor” by which one entered the Royal City, but now though “too many beastly monstrosities” besmirch the landscape.

Now granted, I don’t have as many years in Guelph as some people, but for so long as I’ve traveled to and from Guelph on Gordon, the outskirts of Guelph have looked much like a hundred other places around Ontario when you first enter them.

Change does not concern me. Changing smartly though should be a concern for all us, and if you want to ask yourself, or the City, if we’re changing smartly in the south end, you’d be pretty justified.

We are caught, it seems, in a construction cycle that’s not entirely in our control. The province says we have to grow to accommodate thousands of more people. Our own City staff say that we need more affordable housing. People that can’t even afford the affordable housing just want a house.

Meanwhile, developers want to maximize their profits by getting as many people on a piece of property as industriously as impossible, and City Hall and the council don’t want a reputation that they’re tough to work with because jobs, economy, the “Guelph Factor”, or whatever. We’re all a part of this pattern, and it seems that we’re all just as trapped by it.

So putting aside for the moment that Reid’s Heritage Homes, and their competitors, are stealing our sunshine, I think there are immediate concerns when it comes to infrastructure along Gordon Street, and it doesn’t so much have to do with those buildings than it does with the 100 some odd parking spaces that come with them.

At another recent planning meeting on a different apartment building development along Gordon, one person delegating made the observation that he was sure more people coming off the 401 were using the Brock Road exit versus the Hanlon. Brock Road in Puslinch, of course, becomes Gordon Street in Guelph.

Now there’s no empirical evidence I’m aware of to back that up, but it does make sense. The Brock Road exit is the first of two Guelph exits you come across on the 401 from Toronto. But we forget that not everything’s about commuting to Toronto! Brock Road South also becomes Highway #6 South to Hamilton, so even if Gordon isn’t the beautiful gateway it once was, it’s more of a gateway than ever.

So there’s more traffic, in other words. Good thing we expanded Gordon Street to handle all the extra traffic!

Wait, we didn’t do that? Oh…

Well, on the bright side we have added more buses to that stretch of Gordon, and if there’s a success story of last fall’s route realignment, it’s the No. 99 Mainline, but even that move is already reaching its limits. At certain times of day, the Mainline is jammed, and the express routes that are supposed to offer relief have an equal chance of being cancelled altogether as they do running on time.

And I know this goes against my backhanded comments above, but there is some reason for concern that one day you could be driving down Gordon among two giant concrete walls on either side of the street. Behind them, whole neighbourhoods, some that already exist, of single family homes, like feudal villages behind castle walls.

Now none of this is to say that we should stop midrise construction or call for a moratorium. I’m afraid we all must get more comfortable with taller buildings or give up on the idea of open space and park land because all the thousands of people coming need to live somewhere. Plus, living smaller is a viable, and sustainable, real estate trend.

The sunshine we seek is the confirmation that the City isn’t just ushering in every random proposal that comes across the planning department’s desk because this building has to be done. People need assurance that what they’re being asked to give up will have some return on investment beyond new neighbours.