High? Low? Slim? Wide?

I had a call from a constituent today about one of the Environics survey questions re: highrise buildings in Guelph. For those who don’t know, the city is conducting a survey on the many issues that Guelph is currently facing to feed into the upcoming Strategic Plan, ranging from taxes to recreation and everyting in between.

The specific question of concern is worded as follows:

“As the city continues to grow we need to make choices about the budget we allow. Some people think taller buildings of 7 to 18 storeys that allow more green space are better. Others think we should only have low-rise buildings – 1 to 6 storeys – even though it would cover more ground area. Which of these views is closest to your own?”

The caller felt that the question was too black and white — that the answer had to be “either/or” — and did not leave enough room for a fullsome response.

I agree.

In some locations, highrises might work. In other locations, a highrise is undesirable. Same with lowrise. In some locations, a lowrise would fit nicely and have plenty of greenspace. In others, a lowrise surrounded by asphalt is undesirable. Planning a city is not an either/or exercise. Seven stories is very different than 18 stories, with different impacts at different locations.

I have been fairly consistent in my preference for lowrise forms of development, but why does it have to be at the expense of greenspace?

Guelph must grow, and our downtown core will accommodate a significant percentage of that growth, with approximately 9,000 new residents by 2030. Highrises are not the only form of development to accommodate this new growth. In fact, it is my understanding through the modeling that has been done to date, that Guelph can accommodate this new growth with buildings under eight stories, through adaptive re-use of underutilized existing buildings, brownfield redevelopment and new construction.

I look forward to the results.