Benefactor offers to build public washrooms in Elora

ELORA – Elora’s largely unknown power couple Kristy Hillis and Don Kogen are at it again.

After buying and restoring several historic buildings in Elora over the past couple of years, the couple, under Hillis’ company’s name Kat Florence, has offered to design and construct four gender-neutral, four-season public washrooms beside the tourism office in downtown Elora at no cost to the township. 

In return the township will take on the cost of cleaning and operating the washrooms – approximately $25,000 a year.

Public washrooms are greatly needed as there are about 90,000 visitors in the tourism office each year, according to Pat Newson, managing director of community services.

Currently the only public washrooms are in the tourism office, in Hoffer Park, in Bissell Park and a few portable toilets in Victoria Park. 

Newson explained at the May 27 council meeting that Kat Florence approached staff about the washrooms with two desires – that her architect and builder do the work and that the work is completed in 2024.

The washrooms would sit opposite the tourism office at 10 Mill St. East in a separate building with a small amenity space between that would have a few trees, benches, a water filling station, lighting, bike racks and a digital information sign.

Newson said the offer came up suddenly and the timeline will have to be rapid as well, with final design and budget to be confirmed in June, construction to run from July to October and the washrooms to be completed by November.

Tight timelines will also mean juggling this project with planned road work on Mill Street East.

The township completed the underground work on Mill Street East last year, but the surface work remains – sidewalks, trees and asphalting the road – all in the vicinity of the proposed washrooms.

“(The projects) will be fully coordinated,” managing director of infrastructure services Colin Baker assured council.

Mayor Shawn Watters said both the township and local businesses have been struggling with demand from tourists for washrooms.

“Kat Florence picked up on this and came to us,” Watters said.

“This one fell into our hands, so to speak. It’s a great opportunity and satisfies a dire need in the community.”

Council agreed to the deal and will set aside $25,000 in the 2025 operating budget for ongoing maintenance.