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'Historic moment' at City Council meeting

Still hurdles to clear, but agreement will hopefully see IMICO brownfield property become an "urban village"
The former IMICO site at 200 Beverley St. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

There hasn’t been this much positive talk about the notorious IMICO property in many, many years.

Mayor Cam Guthrie called Monday’s planning meeting of city council a “historic moment” as an agreement was approved to move forward with plans on eventually making the former IMICO brownfield property an “urban village.”

“It’s an exciting moment to see something like this come together,” the Mayor said Monday night as a memorandum of understanding between three partners was passed unanimously by council.

“There are still some hurdles. We need other partners. But this is an amazing benchmark to get us started,” Guthrie said.

The city, Habitat for Humanity (representing several social agencies) and a private development company that specializes in rejuvenating brownfield sites have teamed up to move the project forward.

Mixed rental, owned and social housing plus everything from boutique restaurants to “artisan manufacturing” are part of the vision for the property.

“This definitely shows how serious we are as a city to other levels of government,” Guthrie said.

The partners will now move forward with getting their ducks in a row so that if and when expected Federal funding to help clean up the property comes along, they will be in a better position to move forward.

There is still the issue of cleaning up the property, with the most recent estimates putting that cost at $4.5 million.

But the plan is to not have residential use on the most contaminated eastern third of the property, reducing the level of clean-up necessary.

“The east one-third is the most polluted as we know it today,” said Peter Cartwright, the city’s General Manager of Business Development.

Cartwright said the entire property would not be used for residential use and that there were other possible uses on the more contaminated portion.

Amer Obeidi of Waterloo-based ARQi R&D said his company specializes in the development of in-fill and brownfield properties.

He said the IMICO site could eventually be a “unique neighbourhood” with different social and cultural backgrounds.

Obeidi’s list of potential tenants ranged from micro breweries and boutique restaurants to offices and light manufacturing.

“It will be a holistic community where people can live, thrive and belong,” Obeidi said.

Steve Howard of Habitat for Humanity said Monday that the plan will see “the rebirth of the IMICO property.”

“It’s been an extremely positive and constructive process,” Howard said of the plans to date.

The IMICO site – officially 200 Beverley St. – has a long and occasionally colorful history.

The International Malleable Iron Company operated an iron foundry there in various forms for 79 years, closing in 1989.

The site was bought for $1 by a one-time fringe mayoral candidate named John Long and eventually served as home to the marijuana-worshipping Church of the Universe, led by the colourful Wally Tucker and Michael Baldassaro.

The city took over the site in 1997 as compensation for non payment of property taxes.