Long-awaited progress was made on Guelph’s first Heritage Conservation District today. The Planning, Building, Engineering and Environment Committee is recommending to Council that we proceed to Phase 2 of the development of a Heritage Conservation District for the Brooklyn and College Hill neighbourhoods. Phase 1 completed an inventory of the neighbourhoods to determine if they meet criteria under legislation. A working boundary has been acknowledged but there is further consultation proposed before finalizing the boundary.
So why bother? So what? Fair questions.
The answer is place matters. Place matters so much that our sense of attachment to our community is a predictor of the vitality and resilience of the local economy.
A community’s history and unique identity contributes to our sense of place and belonging. As we grow as a community – and we are growing – we must protect the features that make Guelph unique. The immediate benefit of a Heritage Conservation District designation is that it provides a planning framework that respects a community’s history and identity.
“Designation allows a community to recognize and commemorate what it values within an area, that contributes to its sense of place. It provides a process for sustaining these elements into the future.”
Indeed the recommendation to consider establishing a Heritage Conservation District for the Brooklyn and College Hill neighbourhood was made during the development of the Community Improvement Plan for the area. It arose from a year-long public consultation process, and was specifically raised as a means to strengthen a neighbourhood’s ability to manage change while respecting its identity.
Heritage Conservation Districts have a strong record in the Province. There is exceptionally high satisfaction with living and owning property in districts and real estate values in districts generally rise more consistently than surrounding areas. Both outcomes reinforce the important relationship between our sense of place and attachment, and the economic and cultural vitality of a community.
They are also a well-used tool. Toronto has 20 with 11 more under review, Hamilton 7, Ottawa 16, Kingston 3, Cambridge 3, Brantford 2, Kitchener and Waterloo 5, London 4, and Cobourg has 3.
Good planning is, first and foremost, about place-making.