Well, my cards are on the table….I agree with this open letter sent from these downtown businesses. It should stay open longer.

Check it out:

Downtown Guelph’s Dining District Pilot Program: A Hopeful Success

Date: September 3,2020

Dear Community Members,

There is no question that Guelph’s Downtown Dining District pilot program was and continues to be a success. Among our collective group of Business’, we have had overwhelming positive feedback from the community. For example,

“This is Exactly what downtown needed, not just for economic recovery from COVID-19, but to help downtown Guelph realize and seize its potential.”Customer

“I haven’t been downtown in years!”, “This reminds me of Europe! “, “I hope this happens next year!”Customer

These types of  sentiments echoed throughout downtown during the summer’s pilot dining district program; which saw the main downtown intersection of Wyndham and Macdonell Street closed to vehicular traffic to allow for expanded street patios, curbside retail, and a spacious walking zone for pedestrians.

Leveraging the unique aesthetic of downtown’s architecture and gardens, business owners invested in furniture, umbrellas, tents, fences, patio heaters, and lighting to transform the downtown intersection into a pedestrian-friendly spectacle. 

“The response was incredible. As someone who has run a restaurant downtown for over 10 years, I am used to seeing the same faces. I can tell you firsthand that the number of Guelphites we saw repeatedly throughout the summer who had previously avoided downtown was huge. The exposure this has given to every downtown business, restaurant or not, is tremendous,” Said Richard Overland, Owner/Operator of NV Kitchen and Bar.

Not only did this program help downtown businesses operate safely while adjusting to the changing regulations of the province’s staged COVID recovery plan, but it also fostered support to help them flourish in a season where downtown Guelph is usually slowest. A survey of eight of the restaurants included within the dining district revealed that the program created in excess of 300 new jobs since April 2020. Many businesses were also able to extend their hours, opening earlier to cater to customers who were previously not drawn to downtown early in the day.

“We are very thankful to the City of Guelph for all of the hard work put in by City staff to make this pedestrian zone happen and happen so quickly. With the uncertainty of what will happen in fall and winter, we are incredibly pleased to hear that the City has extended the program from September 7th to September 22nd. Many of the restaurants downtown, ours included, feel that the extension should extend beyond September 22nd to Thanksgiving or Halloween. The longer we keep customers outside, spaced and seated in public, the better. We are all headed into a lot of uncertainty in the coming year and should be taking full advantage of tolerable weather while we can. I think we would find that customers are not only willing to remain outside but would be appreciative of the option to do so.” SaidChuck Nash, Owner/Operator of Frank and Steins.

“As a downtown business who had not had a patio prior to the dining district, we cannot thank the City enough for allowing this to happen. Summer is usually a slow time downtown; students move home, residents go to their cottages, and the remainder make frequent trips to neighboring cities for other events and activities. Something that keeps people in town, attracts day-trippers to Guelph, and pulls people downtown in the summer is long overdue. Extending that program another two weeks is great, and we are extremely grateful for it, but think that it might be cutting the opportunities short unnecessarily. Given the popularity and appeal of the current layout, there is great opportunity for some responsible fall programing. Nothing too crazy, this year at least, just a few fall festival or Oktoberfest themes that businesses can use to give those Guelphites who have been supporting the downtown district throughout the summer a reason to come down a little bit longer. Yes, it’s getting colder, but serious snow is likely a ways off, and we are Canadians after all.” Colton Proveau, Owner/Operator, Brothers Brewing Company.

Phot credit: Guelph Today

The consensus of the businesses involved is one of hope for a further fall extension and timely decision for future years. There is a large opportunity for coordination among the City, DGBA, and downtown businesses to organize attractive programing for future years and ensure that 2021 sees a pedestrian zone built up from 2020, rather than scaled back. Rumours of alterations to the current design, limiting business to the sidewalk space and parking spaces are already concerning participants.

“There just isn’t enough room on the sidewalk and parking spaces to create the atmosphere we achieved this year. I think all participants, customers included, would agree that having cars racing by you while you dine or shop in the parking stalls would make your experience tremendously less enjoyable. I hope the City chooses to keep things largely as they are and not risk ruining a good thing,” Bryan Steele, Owner/Operator, La Reina Restaurant.

The boost in foot traffic generated by the closure has many businesses supporting the idea of having the intersection closed permanently.

“People weren’t coming downtown, not like I expected. I often think about moving my business to the south end once my lease is up. The momentum I see built by the street closure has changed things. If this were permanent, you would see all these downtown vacancies disappear as other businesses seek to take advantage of all these people. More businesses downtown means a bigger draw for even more people, and things can only go up from there. I would like to see the roads permanently closed.” Anurag Sood, Founder/Owner, Crazy Carrot Restaurant.

Its clear that the success of the Dining District Pilot Program has people excited for new opportunities and the prospects of an exciting future for downtown. The condensed layout, historic architecture, sidewalk gardens, and number of unique small businesses give Guelph the opportunity to create something with their downtown that other cities cannot. Will this initiative become a piece of Guelph’s identity as an annual or constant occurrence or simply be a fond memory of a brief silver lining and glimmer of hope given to small businesses during a difficult time?

What other businesses have to say:

“We get crowds just before lunch and just before dinner. People are just excited to be out shopping.” Erica Palmer, Manager, Harmony By Earthwinds

“Not only has every weekday been busy, the moment we open our doors in the morning, but we’ve been able to extend our hours and continue selling into the night. Its been incredible.” Jay Macfarlane, Owner/Operator, Wimpy’s Diner Guelph

“This is amazing. I’ve worked downtown for 14 years and this is the most inviting it’s ever been. This needs to happen every year! Let expand! Let’s include farmers market vendors and more!” Teija Tucker, Stylist, Acqua Salon 

We would like to request the ability to continue the Dining District past the new deadline of September 21, 2020 until the weather makes it unreasonable to do so.

Reasoning:

  • The Dining district saved many of our business from bankruptcy as the vast majority of people still don’t want to dine in even though that is a current option
  • After being closed for almost 4 months we are now just getting caught up with bills at home and at our businesses.
  • Our businesses will immediately turn to the red when the Dining District is closed. Most of us do not have the sidewalk space or parking stalls to remain profitable
  • It will allow us to continue to employ hundreds without layoffs
  • It is safer for the community to dine outside than inside
  • Line painting can wait and is not a priority in comparison to pandemic needs and Catch basins can be checked with everything as it is.
  • There will be more students coming back than planned (estimated 10K – 15K students returning for 2nd, 3rd, 4th year despite the fact that they will be taking their classes online) By not providing a safe controlled space for these students to socialize, the City of Guelph is not helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  Students and student groups will resort to unprecedented house parties that will negatively impact our city, police force, and public image.
  • Outdoor dining is the most effective way to deal with the spread of COVID-19.  By removing the Dining District many establishments will move operations inside at a much quicker pace.  It has been proven that mask-wearing, hand sanitizing, and proper ventilation are the most effective tools in the fight against COVID-19.  The responsible solution is to continue to provide safe outdoor spaces for people to socialize while weather permits and education on COVID-19 continues.
  • The City of Guelph for the last 4 years has implemented Safe September.  This Program included the mandated closure of the intersection of Wyndham and MacDonnell streets throughout the month of September.  Keeping the Dining District in place for the month of September would not negatively impact the core, it would be consistent with previous years and would support a safe approach to both the return of the student populace, risk factors associated with COVID-19, improved community moral and security issues.
  • Businesses in the downtown core have been on the front lines of COVID-19 since the beginning of Phase 2.  This is Guelph’s greatest front-line defense in mitigating the spread of this virus as cooler temperatures set in, students from out of city return, and many office workers return to their workplaces. Taking this stance would show leadership and visionary thinking on behalf of The City of Guelph.
  • Economic recovery for the downtown core.  If the second wave of COVID-19 hits and we have to close our businesses again the economic impact will be devastating as the shutdown will be longer. Many businesses in both the hospitality, retail may not survive and protracted closure or slowdown which could lead to a sharp increase in vacancies downtown which in turn could lead to more vacancies.

To summarize,

“We would likely not have survived without the creation of Downtown Dining District this summer. It has enabled us to catch up on bills for our businesses and just like many other Canadians at home as well. It has also helped us employ hundreds during these difficult times and we would like to continue to do so. We are thankful that the City of Guelph along with the Downtown Guelph Business Association for giving us this opportunity. Our collective view, is that by extending the GDDD, it would give our business’ a fighting chance to make what it surely to be the toughest winter on record for us.” Derek Boudreau-Owner/Operator Royal Electric/Jimmy Jazz

Kind Regards,

Thank you for your immediate attention.

Derek Boudreau, Justin Corstorphine, Conrad Aikens– Royal Electric Bar & Public Eatery/Jimmy Jazz

Bryan Steele, Derek Boudreau, Justin Corstorphine, Conrad Aikens –  La Reina

Bob Dehu – McCabes Irish Pub and Grill

Richard Overland – NV Kitchen and Bar

Colton Proveau, Asa Proveau – Brothers Brewing Company

Chuck Nash, Dario Di Renzo – Frank and Steins

Katrina and Taj Marshall – Rise & Shine Brunch Family Restaurant

Jay Macfarlane– Wimpy’s Diner

Anurag Sood – Crazy Carrot

Recently an opportunity has presented itself for the Drop In Centre to consider purchasing the existing Parkview Motel in Guelph and turn it from the existing short term emergency shelter use that it’s been operating as for years, into permanent supportive housing for the same clientele.

About a week ago I interviewed Dominica from the Guelph and Wellington Poverty Task Force about what supportive housing is, and can be, in our community. For that interview and background please click here: https://mayorguthrie.com/2020/08/25/supportive-housing-updates-info-in-guelph-time-for-yimby-not-nimby/

But for today, specifically on the Parkview Motel issue, please join me as I interview Gail Hoekstra, the Director of the Drop In Centre as she answers a lot of questions regarding the potential conversion of the Motel.

Click here and consider sharing this video with others: https://youtu.be/zRwWMl1GRUo

Thanks so much,

Mayor Cam

Good day Guelph!

To start off, please click on this link below to see a layout of the work being done to date locally on making supportive housing a reality in Guelph. Here’s the link:

Info Sheet-Permanent Supportive Housing (June 2020)

Next up, is a couple of links to articles in the last 24 hours on two projects that are starting to come together. The first is about a local motel being turned into supportive housing and the second article is about a developer looking to add a fifth floor to a building under construction, and those units would be supportive/affordable too!

Link #1 https://www.guelphtoday.com/local-news/housing-advocates-hope-to-purchase-motel-and-turn-it-into-housing-for-the-homeless-2661769

Link #2 https://www.guelphtoday.com/local-news/conversion-of-former-factory-into-apartments-looks-to-add-fifth-floor-of-affordable-units-2660990

And finally, this is about 35 minute video interview I was did with Dominica McPherson who has been the Co-Chair of the Mayors task force on supportive housing, and I think it really answers a lot of questions about what supportive housing is, what it isn’t, what’s happening locally and how people can be engaged!

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO: https://youtu.be/gP3iib7nBhs 

Take care, share and be well!

Mayor Cam

Metrolinx Info for #Guelph:

Good morning Guelph,

I have found it best to look at the work being done or considered by Metrolinx by identifying two key issues.

1. Downtown Rail Line Upgrades

2. Margaret Greene Park Power Station

In regards to the Downtown Rail Line Upgrades, I’d like to address the Dublin Street closure first. Contrary to some continued misinformation circulating within the public for some time now, I’d like to state the following:

This particular portion had to be closed to meet the Transport Canada Federal Rail Safety ACT and Standards. Period. This was NOT a city of Guelph initiative. The city was told by Metrolinx that it had to close. There was detailed information about this through a report posted publicly and I’d ask people to read it to understand more fully the issues at play here: https://pub-guelph.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=4158

Lastly, regarding the other rail crossings downtown, rest assured I can confirm that there are already plans from city staff in reviewing these areas and it will include public engagement. Staff have indicated the following:

1. City Transportation Planning team will be initiating a transportation study of the neighbourhoods on the east and west sides of Edinburgh later this year.

2. The general purpose of the study is to (among other things):

·         Confirm whether a grade separation of Edinburgh Road is warranted

·         Provide the necessary data to inform the scope of a future potential EA for grade separating Edinburgh Road

·         Evaluate and propose recommended active transportation crossing locations east and west of Edinburgh and recommend preliminary design option(s) for crossings.

3. There will be an engagement component to this work, and potential to bring the report to Council for endorsement if that is desirable. (This report IS coming to Council because as Mayor I’ve requested it to).

The Terms of Reference for the study have not yet been started, so more details will emerge once the work begins.

Now let’s move on to the second issue identified which is the proposed Power Station on Margaret Greene Park:

Let me be very clear on the position of the City and myself:

Improved rail service and the associated environmental benefits from electrification are an important part of our Strategic and Community Plans, the City does not want the TPS infrastructure in a City park. Parkland is important to our community, and in fact the City wants more parkland, not less. As such, we’ll be encouraging Metrolinx to reconsider their selection.

The city has a dedicated website link for the community to gather info on Metrolinx work and will be updated as new information is known. Please bookmark this link here and come back to it often:

https://guelph.ca/living/getting-around/metrolinx-in-guelph/

Some more Q & A to consider:

This is a Metrolinx project/process:

  • Metrolinx has initiated a study (environmental assessment) for future electrification of the rail line from Kitchener to Acton, through Guelph.
  • The purpose of Metrolinx’s study is to select sites for electrification infrastructure, including locating a proposed Traction Power Substation (TPS) in Guelph.
  • Currently, through virtual engagement, Metrolinx is seeking community feedback on their preferred site for the TPS in Margaret Greene Park and other changes related to electrification of their rail line.
  • This is the second of three public information events. The first occurred in November 2019 (seeRound 1 tab at above engagement link).

What is the City’s role in the TPAP EA and site selection process?

  • The City has provided Metrolinx with technical information related to siting the TPS in Guelph (see below).
  • In April, City staff provided input on a number of possible sites for the TPS, including Margaret Greene Park.
  • In June Metrolinx advised us that their preferred site for the TPS was Margaret Greene Park and that they would be engaging the community on this location.  
  • The City can raise concerns and provide Metrolinx with feedback, but Metrolinx makes the final decision for site selection and can (if necessary) expropriate lands for this use. Our opportunity lies in ensuring that the TPS design mitigates impacts to our community.

How is the City advocating for the community?

  • Rail improvements are specifically identified in the City’s Strategic Plan as a priority under Navigating our Future.
  • The City provided Metrolinx with the following feedback on Margaret Greene Park as a potential location for Metrolinx infrastructure:
    • This site is currently zoned as parkland (1975) and is bounded to the south by the rail corridor and the north by the rear yards of houses on Ferman Drive and Lisa Lane.
    • A large portion of the park is identified as a Natural Heritage System (NHS) in the City’s Official’s Plan. Official Plan policy indicates development and site alteration are prohibited in the NHS. An Environment Impact Study is typically required when development/site alteration is proposed within 120m of Significant Woodland. Should this site be considered by Metrolinx, the following steps are required:
      • Field verify the limit of the Significant Woodland and establish the NHS boundary.
      • Assess whether any unmapped natural heritage features occur in close proximity.
      • Prepare site plan/development footprint.
      • Assess impacts on NHS, including a tree inventory and preservation plan to assess impacts to trees and establish appropriate compensation (tree planting to make up for lost tree canopy cover). 
      • Identify appropriate mitigation and enhancement measures to support the NHS.
    • There are existing trails through this park parcel that must be maintained. Parks staff has noted the sensitivity in the community to the amount of parkland and that careful communication would be required around how the proposed infrastructure affects parkland.
    • Per the City’s Zoning By-law, any structure built in a park requires setbacks of 6 metres and 7.5 metres depending on what is considered the “front yard” for the structure.
    • There is an underground sanitary sewer that more or less is installed under the existing trail.

What are the next steps?

  • Metrolinx will consider public feedback as part of their final analysis, narrow down the exact location for the TPS within the broader site, then develop conceptual designs for the TPS.  
  • The City will have a chance to provide additional feedback on the final location and design concepts as they are developed.
  • Metrolinx will host a third open house to present designs concepts with the public (planned for winter 2021).
  • After the third open house, Metrolinx will complete their study and file their report which provides another 30 days for public comment.

What’s being planned related to potential grade crossing closures?

  • Metrolinx is conducting a review of all at-grade rail crossings in Guelph and beyond, but no decisions have been made beyond the Dublin Street closure.
  • Metrolinx has agreed to collaborate with the City as the review moves forward; our next meeting to review Guelph’s at-grade crossings with Metrolinx is Friday.
  • While Metrolinx may request additional closures the City is advocating for them to explore all options before proceeding with any action, e.g., are there engineering solutions that can be done instead of closures, keeping in mind that some costs for needed upgrades to keep at-grade road-crossings open may fall to the City.
  • The City has asked Metrolinx to engage the Guelph community as part of any potential work associated with grade-crossings; if they’re not prepared to do this the City should engage around this work.

What other Metrolinx initiatives are there in Guelph?

  • Metrolinx is working on several initatives in the community that relate to asset management, improved speed/service, etc. These include:
    • Improvements to grade crossings ahead of increasing train speeds and twinning of tracks
    • Review of train warning options (to avoid the use of train whistles)
    • GO Station improvements including design of a new south platform
    • Maintenance or replacement of rail bridges and culverts
  • The City is also preparing to relocate locomotive 6167 to John Galt Park before the end of this year. The initial information can be found on here: https://guelph.ca/living/construction-projects/locomotive-6167/

Thank you for your continued engagement and remember, this is a Metrolinx process and your feedback through their process is key. Please fill out your concerns to them here: https://www.metrolinxengage.com/en/content/kitchener-corridor-guelph-wellington

Take care,

Mayor Cam