Developer Wants To Build Guelph’s Tallest Building

  • 01/7/20
  • |          Guelph

If approved, Skyline’s 25-storey building would contain 20 floors of rental apartments, three floors of office space

A Guelph developer is proposing to build a new apartment building that, if approved, would be the tallest building in the city.

Earlier this month, Skydev — a new subsidiary of the Skyline Group — filed a proposal with the city to build a 25-storey mixed-use building.

The new structure would replace the company’s current headquarters at the corner of Fountain and Farquhar streets, and contain office, retail and lobby space on the ground floor, three floors of office space and 20 floors of rental apartments.

There would also be one floor “of shared indoor amenity with rooftop outdoor amenity on podium,” according to a news release announcing the proposal.

“Skyline’s called downtown Guelph its home for the last 20 years, and we’re looking to invest in the downtown and bring more people to live and work in the downtown area,” Greg Jones, Skydev’s president, tells the Mercury Tribune.

Jones later added the proposal is “smart growth,” as the 180 rental units would be built on property that has already been built on, and not extending into undeveloped lands.

“Where would you rather build 180 new homes? On a half-hectare site downtown beside a train station, or on 20 hectares in a subdivision?”

Under this proposal, the façade of the company’s current building would be preserved — it is listed on the city’s register of heritage buildings. Jones says, assuming everything goes well through the city’s planning processes, construction would start in about three years’ time.

There is no getting around the building’s height. At 25 storeys, if approved this would be the tallest building in Guelph.

At 18 storeys each, the tallest buildings in the city are currently the River Mill condo building on Wellington Street East, the River House condo building at the corner of Woolwich and Macdonell streets and the Riverside Residences near the Evergreen Seniors Community Centre.

According to David de Groot, a senior urban designer with the City of Guelph, there are four locations in downtown Guelph that are designated under the city’s official plan to have buildings as high as 18 storeys – the properties that make up the River Mill and River House condo buildings, and the northwest and northeast corners of the intersection of Wyndham and Wellington streets.

Outside of that, building heights in the downtown core are generally limited to six storeys.

“The maximum heights recognize the Basilica’s status as a landmark and signature building, ensuring that no building should be taller than the elevation of the Basilica,” de Groot said in an email to the Mercury Tribune.

“Outside the downtown, the high-density residential designation of the official plan contains a general 10-storey height limit, although there are a handful of sites where taller buildings have been permitted.”

Under the official plan, the Skyline property is outside of the protected view corridor for the Basilica, and has a designated building height of between three and six storeys.

Jones says the developer is looking to reduce the impact of such a tall building by making its footprint much smaller than a building its size would typically be.

With a footprint of 660 square metres, the building would be much narrower than others in the city of comparable height, such as River Mill’s 1,089 square metres.

“Yes it’s taller, but it may actually be a bit smaller in terms of square footage,” Jones said, comparing Skyline’s proposal to the River Mill and River House buildings.

This footprint would fit in with the city’s bylaws. According to de Groot, for buildings that are nine storeys or taller, the footprint cannot exceed 1,000 square metres, and cannot exceed a length-to-width ratio of 1.5:1, meaning the building’s length cannot be 50 per cent greater than its width.

“I think it’ll be much more pleasing architecturally, and from an urban design perspective, we have that office and pedestrian realm incorporated into it from the street level,” Jones says.

“Having a narrow floor plate allows for something nice to look at, but also reduces any kind of shadowing in the general area.”

The timing of this project, assuming approval at city hall, would coincide with one of Skyline’s most notable downtown buildings seeking a new tenant.

“This proposal does give us some leasing flexibility with the Co-operators leaving the 135 Macdonnel office building,” Jones says, referring to the insurance company’s planned relocation to the south end in 2023.

“We need that space because the subject property today has our team. Skyline’s growing, and we need more space. We hope that this can be our flagship project, our flagship building.”

Jones adds that should the project be approved, Skyline would move temporarily into the Co-operators building while construction is underway. During that time, Skyline would be “looking to attract some of the top firms that are already in the Kitchener-Waterloo area” to make the move to Guelph, using the upcoming two-way, all-day GO train service as a selling point.

“(We will) go after the likes of Google or large banks funds that would need the entirety of the building Co-operators is leaving downtown because they need more space,” he says.

“Most big businesses today need a whole building from a leasing perspective, and we don’t want to limit that potential.”

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