Today marks a new beginning. It is a day to reflect upon the accomplishments of the past year and plan ahead for the 365 days ahead. Building a great city cannot be planned in 365 day increments, or four year political terms for that matter. Cities evolve over decades (and centuries) and require much longer-range vision. Some say five to ten years of planning is plenty…but I’m thinking at least 20 years ahead. When I close my eyes and imagine Guelph in 20 years, I see very clearly the baby steps that need to happen NOW to get us there. For New Years Day 2016, come take a journey to the future with me….
- In 2036, one of the most highly-used public spaces in the city will be the Downtown Library. It will be iconic, well-built and host a wide range of services and programs open to all. It will be a gathering space, an economic driver and a source of civic pride. Businesses nearby are thriving because the library serves as a cultural, artistic and social hub. In 2016, my goal is to move this vision closer to reality by ensuring that the Library project is added into the ten-year capital forecast in the 2017 budget, and a timeline established for groundbreaking.
- Inter-regional and integrated local transit is the preferred method of transportation in the city with a modal split of at least 50% by 2036. Train and bus routes are more frequent, all-day two-way GO service is in high demand, and the cost is affordable to all. Guelph Central Station is bustling and welcoming, green space has been added and the heritage train station is standing proud at the centre of it all. In 2016, I will strongly advocate for improvements to bus routes, a new “mainline” bus that runs through the spine of the city, and moving forward with the far-too-long delayed train station renovation.
Guelph Central Station
3. The co-operative local economy is booming 20 years from today. Mega-corps have slowly devolved under pressure from the new “sharing economy” that forced a new economic policy landscape. Guelph responded in 2016 with a review of some of its business licencing policies, such as taxi cab licencing, to respond to local needs (yes, I’m talking about Uber) while protecting the safety and security of citizens. In 2036, groups like Innovation Guelph, the Chamber of Commerce and the University of Guelph continue to be at the forefront of emerging entrepreneurial local co-operatives in life sciences, agri-food, information technology and bio-medical engineering. In 2016, I’ll be championing plans to create new physical space to kickstart the local entrepreneurial and social enterprise economy in the downtown, supporting the use of underutilized public and private space through grants and economic incentive policies.
4. In 2036, the use of fossil fuels is too costly (financially and environmentally) and are on the way out. Municipalities who re-tooled for local energy generation and district systems are well ahead of the game and are now generating wealth from early innovation and investment. Guelph’s strategic decisions in 2016 to build new residential developments and replace aging infrastructure with district energy capabilities is paying off in a big way. Renewable systems (solar, biogas, micro-hydro, geothermal, etc.) are built into the fabric of city municipal services, such as our wastewater treatment plant and the solid waste facility.
5. The urban forest of 2036 is thriving. Naturalized parks and river valley lands bear fruit from orchard trees and shrubs planted in 2016, contributing to a local urban food supply for both humans and wildlife. Community gardens have expanded, building upon neighbourhood community initiatives started in 2016. The Farmer’s Market and its many local neighbourhood satellites ensure that residents in 2036 have access to fresh local food and supports the symbiotic economic relationship with the farmers who steward the lands within the agricultural greenbelt that surrounds the city, protecting the water supply and sustainability of the entire region.
6. In 2036, Guelph’s heritage character and cultural identity are solidly intact — protected, valued and thriving — as a result of policies and programs initiated in 2016. The Petrie Building stands as a shining example of how adaptive re-use can bring an iconic building back from the brink of demolition to become a source of community pride. In 2036, the Downtown Guelph Heritage Conservation District will also be home to many more restored and renewed buildings and public spaces (such as the Royal Hotel, King Edward Hotel, St. George’s Square and more), and a new pedestrian allée running from Market Square to the Baker District (through the old Courtyard and parking lots) is lined with trees, cafes and shops. In 2016, I will support the initiation of Phase 1 of the Downtown HCD.
7. In 2036, I will be able to bike or hike from one end of the city to the other along the river valley trails. Broken links and gaps have been filled in through acquisition of land and a contiguous network has been established. In 2016, I will work towards advancing plans to fix the broken links along the Guelph-Galt trail (from the founding spot at Wellington/Woolwich/Macdonell to the western city limits). I envision that, in 2027 (Guelph’s Bicentennial year), the city will officially complete the contiguous John Galt Trail, the route that our city founder walked on April 23, 1827 along the banks of the River Speed from Shade’s Mill (Galt) to John Galt Park. Nine years later, in 2036, the trees and parkland restoration will be well-established and the trail will be one of the most beloved public spaces in the city.
I’ll stop there. If, at the end of 2016, I have taken action in all of these key areas — transit, energy, food security, main library, heritage, trails, and economic renewal — I will consider the year 2016 a success.
Your turn. Imagine Guelph in 2036. What do you see?