|Today's date: Friday May 24, 2013||Vol 46 Issue 21|
We Cover The County...
Above is a concept drawing of how development might shape the riverfront in Elora, with a rebuilt Victoria Street bridge and another pedestrian bridge leading directly into the Elora Mill.
Proposed development would reshape south end of Grand River in Elora
by Mike Robinson
Proposed changes along the Grand River near the Elora Mill could be one of the biggest changes to the waterfront area since it was first built.
In fact, some could say the Little Folks property proposal will change the way people look at the riverfront in downtown Elora.
In a recent telephone interview with the Wellington Advertiser, Brian Blackmere of Elora Development Inc. (Landmark), planner and project manager explained the company is seeking for a bylaw amendment which would allow the creation of a new zone to complement the ‘mixed use’ commericial/residential designation.
That change would allow construction of a banquet hall and a new hotel with a maximum height of five stories.
But it is not just one section of the proposal which will change, but the entire Little Folks property.
Changes being sought will allow a mix of residential and commercial designations
Managing director Matthew Opferkuch stated “We at the Landmark Group, who are the current owners of the Elora Mill, have been busy over the summer refining the details of the necessary Secondary Plan, Official Plan Amendment and Rezoning applications which are the precursors to actual physical redevelopment of the Mill and the Little Folks properties.”
Applications have been filed and Opferkuch added The meeting will be held on Oct. 24 at the Aboyne Hall starting at 7pm
In addition, an informal public open house is planned on Oct. 17 from 6pm to 9pm, once again at the Aboyne Hall.
“This Open House will take the form of a “drop-in” format which will allow attendees to view graphics of the proposal and speak directly with Landmark representatives to ask questions or provide comments.”
The Landmark Group bought the Elora Mill in December 2010, but closed it at that time due to serious physical limitations and state of general disrepair.
“In order to restore the mill properly and to operate it as a viable long-term business, it was necessary to close.”
Since that time, the building has been secured, cleaned up and gone through a lengthy assessment process.
It allows for an integrated concept for the site which includes new retail, hotel/banquet facilities and residential condominiums.
Current C1 zoning caps the max building height at three stories.
The site has been vacant since the building demolition in 2004.
The property is currently accessed via Wellington Road , Ross Street, Carleton Street and Victoria Street.
Documents provide a number of options one of which includes a two-level above ground parking garage which could serve 140 vehciles. However, the overall number of spaces to be created is over 400.
Blackmere pointed out that when an informal meeting was held in June, there were various discussions regarding land use and design.
Those discussions included the potential of extending the central business district, which would allow a hotel to be constructed on the Little Folks site.
“That is probably the single biggest change,” Blackmere said.
He stressed the intent of the redevelopment is to complement the village of Elora.
One of the plans for the property is to create a pedestrian promenade along the riverfront and to reintroduce a bridge at the end of Victoria Street.
The bridge would connect Mill Street to a newly created public square in front the the Walser building.
Blackmere said the public square would act as a confluence of public traffic and provide a gatherining venue or a place for public performances.
He noted that many of the heritage artifacts on site will also be showcased as part of the redevelopment.
A big change people will see is the proposed move of the public parking area at the intersection of Metcalfe and Carleton Streets to a two-level parking area further down Carleton Street.
In addition, a 28-car parking area is proposed near Wellington Road 7 adjacent to the GRCA property, which would be accessed via a private road.
Blackmere said size is one of the problems the Elora Mill has always faced.
With a limited number of rooms and very limited parking, “it’s simply not enough to make it financially viable.”
And because of the limited parking, it was almost impossible for the facility to host large banquets or weddings.
“The solution to the Elora Mill rests on the Little Folks property.”
Indeed, redevelopment of the Mill was put on hold until, Landmark was able to aquire the Little Folks property.
With the construction of a new hotel on the Little Folks property, the two hotels would work in concert.
He commented on a proposed glass walkway across the Grand River which would follow the curvature of the Drimmie Dam and lead to the second floor of the Elora Mill.
Such a bridgeway would not interfere with existing views along the river, and provide visitors with even more views of the Grand River gorge.
Blackmere stressed that while there would be refinements, the river trail system would remain.
A new 2,000 sq.ft. lobby for the 62 suite hotel.
Blackmere said the new marketing will not be just the Guelph, Kitchener area, but the world.
He stressed the intent is to retain the flavour of the existing site heritage through the use of stonework and heritage style design.
The building, known as the Kiddie Car Factory, would be blended into the new condominium development.
The Walser buildings would be redeveloped into commercial space
He said the site will include a world class space, fitness area and pool.
Blackmere noted that one of Landmark’s staples is the wedding business and he forsees new buisiness not only for the facility, but the communtiy.
“This will change the Elora Mill from a local hotel to a world class 5-star Michelen quality hotel.”
October 19, 2012
The Wellington Advertiser
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