Pearle Hospitality pausing Riverwalk idea; hoping for greater support in the future

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Committee members were expecting a report from staff on the proposed Elora Riverwalk project during a Nov. 16 economic development committee meeting. 

But the report never came. 

 “After some preliminary discussions with public partners for the proposed Riverwalk project, Pearle Hospitality has decided to not pursue the project at this time,” states a single sentence on the matter in a November report from economic development director Crystal Ellis.

 The Riverwalk project, included in Pearle Hospitality’s ongoing Elora Mill South development, would have been located in an undeveloped area along the south bank of the Grand River in Elora, between the Badley Bridge and Jack R. MacDonald Bridge.

 Elora Mill, a subsidiary of Pearle Hospitality, wanted the county to collaborate on a federal grant application, including making a $915,000 financial commitment toward the $2.7-million Riverwalk project.

 Ellis didn’t have much to divulge about the reasoning behind the company’s apparent change of heart.

 “I wouldn’t want to speak for them,” Ellis explained of the short mention in her report.

 All Ellis could say was the project was “paused” and she didn’t know if the idea would ever be brought back.

“We had regular conversations with them and that was what they came back with,” Ellis said.

She remains in support of the riverwalk, saying “it’s an excellent project and it could bring that activity and vibrancy to the downtown—it was a really lovely proposal.”

A previous county staff report recommended supporting a funding application for the project and that the county consider contributing funding in a “financially responsible fashion.”

Ellis declined to comment about whether she was disappointed about the news, and said, “it is an exciting project and I hope something … an alternative comes forward or it gets revived.” 

In a phone call with the Advertiser, Elora Mill communications advisor Sara MacIntyre said, “It’s not that the project is completely sidelined, it’s just paused for the moment.”

MacIntyre explained the company would want the project to be enjoyed and “supported by local residents and public partners” if it was going to proceed.

“The current climate just didn’t seem that it was going to work with the numbers and support level,” she said. 

Pearle Hospitality, according to MacIntyre, is open to different options and re-engaging with “public partners” to tackle another idea or revamp the current one.

“We’re going to put a pause and try and come back to it at another time, but it just doesn’t seem like now is the best time.”

With files from Patrick Raftis