Word of the Day: “Makerspace”

The new buzz word in urbanism is “makerspace”.   It follows on the heels of “placemaking”  which is slightly different.  Placemaking focuses on creating a physical built environment that encourages people to congregate, stay and interact within a landscape.   Market Square is a good local example.  Makerspace (aka hackerspace, fablabs) began as shared space where do-it-yourselfers could go to share communal tools, technology and resources.  Local examples include the 3D printer at the Guelph Public Library and the DIYODE Community space.

Makerspace is a concept that is growing and thriving and taking on new meanings. Guelph has been “makerspacing” for years. Innovation Guelph is one of our shining beacons.  IG has been bringing entrepreneurs together and has nurtured over 32 new start up businesses to date.

With all this momentum, what’s next for Guelph?  I am hearing in the community that there is a growing need for more collaborative space downtown — where placemaking meets makerspace.  Since Innovation Guelph and the Chamber of Commerce are already located together in the downtown, we have a unique opportunity to create an innovation precinct in the surrounding area, south of the train tracks, east of Wyndham Street South.

As far back as 2011, a conversation began about creating an information technology hub in the downtown.  At the time, Chamber of Commerce President Lloyd Longfield identified the tech sector as one area where Guelph was building momentum.   Read article here.

Fast forward to 2016.  The City of Waterloo Council recently voted in favour of repurposing a strategic public asset to create makerspace for technology, art and community groups.   See what Waterloo is doing with their old library to drive economic development.

So Guelph, let’s restart the conversation again.  Guelph is a creative place. We are leaders in re-purposing our built heritage for community benefit (Guelph Youth Music Centre, the Boathouse, Guelph Civic Museum, Art Gallery of Guelph).  The private sector knows how to step up to the plate too (Petrie Building, Gummer Building, the Gooderham Worts Granary Building).

What role can the City play to move the conversation forward to expand makerspace for information technology leaders, web entrepreneurs, digital animators, designers, graphic artists, and others?   Let’s talk about how we can leverage local assets — the Drill Hall, 2 Wyndham St. N. and other downtown space.   Political leadership is essential.  I’m ready….




TIF Grants: Giveaways or Good Policy?

A recent letter to the editor in a local paper decried the use of brownfield grant incentives given to Tricar, the developer who is building on the former Marsh Tire site on the corner of Wellington and Macdonell.  See letter here.

This is the not the first time I have heard the sentiment “we shouldn’t be giving away taxpayer money to developers.”   But is that really what we are doing?  In reality, grant recipients give much MORE back in taxes than they receive from the city.

The Downtown Activation Grants and brownfield grants are tax-increment financed (TIF) grants.  This means that:

a)  the grant amount is calculated based on future taxes generated from the site post-development,

b) grant money is not paid until the site begins generating revenue through new tax assessment,

c) grants are time-limited,

d) grants are earmarked for projects that have barriers to construction (such as contamination, bedrock, risk), and

e)  if the site does not generate the anticipated assessment, the grant is adjusted.

TIF grants are risk-free, pay for themselves, and pay back into the city revenue stream over the long-term. Let’s take a closer look at a project (simplified for clarity):

  • Site P is a brownfield, a former gas station, that must be cleaned up prior to development, and has been sitting vacant for over 10 years.
  • Infrastructure adjacent to the site (water, wastewater, hyrdro, roads, transit, etc.) is underutilized, but already fully paid for.
  • Current tax revenue generated by the  vacant, contaminated site is $1,000 per year.
  • The owner plans to develop a 25-unit, 4-storey stacked townhouse on the property, which will generate $15,000 per year in taxes to the city once constructed and occupied.
  • A portion of the increased tax revenue, $10,000 per year, generated from the developed site is granted back for 5 years ($50,000) is granted back to the developer in the form of a TIF grant.
  • The city still receives additional revenue ($4,000 per year) and yields the full benefit of increased taxation after five years and in perpetuity.
  • The developer receives the money after construction is complete and the site is generating the anticipated assessment.

CONCLUSION:   TIF grants are a win-win-win.  The city wins because a vacant and contaminated site is cleaned up, the developer wins because the project moves ahead and the grant offsets clean-up costs, and the taxpayer wins because increased revenue is generated and contributes to the cost of infrastructure and future operating budgets.




Hanlon Creek Business Park Performing Well

Last week ‘s Guelph Tribune featured an article and editorial about the performance of Guelph Hanlon Creek Business Park.  Unfortunately, the article was entirely based on the personal commentary of one councillor.

Many of the statements made in the article, are inaccurate.   The Hanlon Creek Business Park is a long-range plan and, based on a land sales to date, is performing very well.   Servicing of land is ongoing, the Laird interchange officially opened just two months ago, and land sale and inquiries have been steady, despite a global economic recession.

When a business makes a choice to set up shop, a wide range of factors play into the final decision.  Access to talent, skilled trades, quality of life, energy costs, annual taxes, access to transportation networks and co-location of other related businesses are among the many considerations.  Guelph is extremely competitive and the Hanlon Creek Business Park is highly desirable on many fronts.  It is not the place for everyone — there are restrictions on certain types of manufacturing for example — and that is by design.  HCBP is intended to be different.  It has, and will continue, to attract businesses that understand the innovation economy.

Hanlon Creek Business Park Performance Report – February 2014

Patience.  Rome was not built in a day, nor will the HCBP or the Guelph Innovation District.   Visionary planning, patience and persistence are essential.


Canada’s Number ONE Next Most Livable City? GUELPH!

MSN.com has ranked Guelph as Canada’s # 1 Next Most Livable City.    We are no stranger to being in the top 1o or 15, but this ranking is especially sweet  because our Community Energy Initiative, our world-class university and our stong neighbourhoods are mentioned as some of the reasons Guelph ranks so high.


Check out the article here…



Farmer’s Market at its Best Today

Guelph’s community spirit was alive and well at the Farmer’s Market today!  Thank you to all the vendors who set up shop and to the many, many regular and new customers who came out to support them.  Over 2,600 people came out between  7 am and 12 noon to show their Market spirit! 

The City Hall venue was bustling with the sound of music, chatter and excitement.   Market Square and City Hall are the roots of the market experience in Guelph, so the change of scenery was a “homecoming” of sorts.  Although the relocation of the market came about through less-than-ideal circumstances, today’s event was a testament to how our community comes together when the going gets tough.

City staff, under the leadership of Derek McCaughan, Ann Pappert and Mayor Farbridge, have been working non-stop this week to troubleshoot every minor detail to bring the market to life in the halls of City Hall.  THANK YOU!!!

See you all again next week!



Two major land sales were announced at the Guelph City Council meeting last night! Two employers, bringing a combined total of approx. 370 to Guelph, plan to locate at the Hanlon Creek Business Park. Due to confidential negotiations re: purchase, the names of the companies cannot be released at this time.

This is exciting news for Guelph and its citizens. General Manager of Economic Development and Tourism said during his presentation that both employers were impressed with the city, it’s reputation as environmental leaders, and it’s responsiveness to the needs of their business.