The restructuring of the North American economy following the 2008 recession, coupled with broadly-felt fiscal and demographic challenges, means every infrastructure investment must optimize benefits to the community.
In Guelph, our economic development strategy has been integrated into our growth strategy to do just that. Private sector investment in the downtown is a direct outcome of this integration. The plans for the Guelph Innovation District are another demonstration of integration in action.
Land use decisions – the way we grow – must contribute to and not degrade our financial sustainability as a municipality. This is the core message of Joe Minicozzi. He presented at our recent Guelph Urban Design Summit: Delivering Change on the Ground. He was in town last week drilling down deeper into what this means for Guelph.
Mr. Minicozzi analyzes municipal data in a powerful way. He builds three dimensional images of a city’s tax productivity to inform smart decision making. We are the first Canadian city that he has done this work for.
His tool is designed to help cities “unlock the wealth of downtown and mixed-use centres”. Some properties make a significant contribution to paying for services; others not so much – like underutilized brownfield properties. The same is true for certain parts of our city. Guelph’s downtown represents only 1% of our land base but contributes 4% of taxes per hectare.
What does this mean?
- The way we grow has significant implications on the long-term affordability and financial sustainability of our community.
- We are investing in the downtown right now because it has the highest and best opportunity to benefit our community.
- There are multiple benefits to a more compact urban form – one of them is the bottom line.