Council made great progress last night solidifying its new approach to city building, thanks to the inspired and brilliant work of Enterprise Services.
Guelph Enterprise Framework
First, we approved a new Guelph Enterprise Framework and Tool to strengthen Council’s decisions when making strategic capital investments. The framework and tool will do three key things:
– Maximize the value of current and future City assets
– Support more informed decision making
– Better engage Council and the community in that decision making
The broad context is this: in Ontario and throughout North America, cities are realizing that the world is changing – and the role of cities in the world is changing too. The rise of web-based commerce and communications technologies, and the ease of global transportation, means that businesses are no longer tied to physical locations as much as they once were. People have more freedom to choose where they live than in the past. And where they live is becoming the most important value to them.
Guelph is competing to attract investment, jobs, and talented people in a global market. We must differentiate ourselves not only as a city, but as a community.
I have heard this message many times over the past several months – at the Guelph Urban Design Summit; at the Economic Summit hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce earlier this year; at a recent Roundtable I held with key stakeholders from the business and development communities; and at a meeting of the big city Ontario Mayors.
Our work over the last several years to integrate our economic development strategy and our growth strategy is positioning us well to be globally competitive.
Second, we approved a preferred option for the redevelopment of the Baker Street District with a Conestoga College campus as an anchor. In addition, Council approved moving forward on the construction of 350 new parking spaces in the downtown.
We often hear the question – why invest in the downtown?
At this point in our city’s history, our downtown has the highest tax productivity and provides the highest and best investment opportunity to generate a positive return for the entire city. And we are seeing the results.
Guelph’s downtown represents only 1% of our land base but contributes 4% of taxes per hectare – and we are growing that contribution.
Our tax-increment-based financing program has sparked major redevelopment in the downtown. We have attracted private sector investment to transform several underutilized and contaminated properties. We have seen that taxes on an underutilized property can go up as much as 36 times after redevelopment.
This is about maximizing the value of existing downtown assets – and that added value benefits every residential and business taxpayer in the city.
It is vital that our land use decisions – how we grow – contribute to our financial sustainability as a municipality and not weaken it.
In the shorter term, these decisions focus on the downtown. In the medium and longer term our attention will turn to opportunities to be found in the Guelph Innovation District and South Guelph.