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Proposed Brant Avenue community hub takes the next step

Controversial project waiting for provincial funding before moving ahead with next stage

Plans for a new community hub in the Brant Avenue neighbourhood are slowly but steadily moving forward.

Those behind the project held an open house at Brant Avenue Public School Thursday and Saturday showing concept drawings and more details for the hub, which would be a 10,000-to-12,000 square foot building on property the city recently purchased from the school board behind Brant Avenue Public School.

It would serve a variety of neighbourhood uses, from community-use rooms to possibly doctor and dental care, night courses, a community kitchen, seniors programs and public space.

The hub is not yet a certainty and proponents are now awaiting word on their application for a provincial planning grant in order to progress with detailed design and planning work necessary before approaching the city with a development application.

"Our hope is that we will hear back from the ministry (Ministry of Health and Long Term Care) on the planning grant in six to eight weeks, at least that's our hope," said Raechelle Devereaux, the new Executive Director of Guelph Community Health Centre who is spearheading the proposal.

If and when that planning grant is attained a public meeting before council would be part of any development application process.

The Guelph Community Health Centre is the lead agency, but others would likely be involved in running and filling the space.

"It wouldn't be a city-run space," said Brendan Johnson of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition and a member of the committee trying to make the hub a reality.

"The city has been supportive as a council as a possibility, but until we put an application in there's not a lot of discussion," Johnson said. "It would just be like any other development application."

Johnson said the community will help determine just what services are offered in the hub.

"This is why we're wanting their feedback," he said.

"I'm not sure everyone feels like they're fully informed but we've really tried to do that."

There has been plenty of opposition to the project in the past year, with people concerned about what the hub means for the community and potential issues. People are also upset about losing part of the neighbourhood's green space.

A public meeting last spring saw lots of angry residents engage in shouting matches with those behind the project.

Some of those same people were seen holding a more civil discourse on the matter at Saturday's open house.

The city's involvement at this point would be leasing land to the project. Relocation of a park might also be necessary.

Ward 2 councillor Andy Van Hellemond attended Saturday's open house.

He said he is neither for or against the project, but wants to make sure the project is of significant benefit.

"I need to know it's needed and needed by the whole community," said Van Hellemond, who cited loss of park space and potential cost to taxpayers for relocating a park as concerns.