Tuesday, May 22, 2012

High-rises in Guelph

How high should buildings in Guelph be? Should we allow high rises (10+ stories) in the downtown core? The answers to these questions are highly contentious, depending on who you ask.

There are many benefits of tall buildings; they house lots of people in a dense space allowing efficient service delivery, they can provide affordable accommodation, they can bring people back into the downtown core and move away from Guelph's "bar driven" downtown economy, and they can offer students housing away from the student-centric neighbourhoods of Scottsdale, Ironwood, and Cole Road.

There are problems associated with high rises in the downtown as well; they disrupt the skyline, they cast foreboding shadows across the landscape, they may become large bland monoliths that fail to integrate with their surroundings. There is no correct answer.

Provincial pressures, such as the Places to Grow Act, mandate that Guelph must provide a certain amount of housing. One way to meet this demand and escape the sprawl of subdivisions (à la the Southend) is to intensify the accommodation of people in high rises.

I can't really say if I agree with the proposed high rise at the corner of Wellington and Macdonell. I don't live nearby, and my interaction with the space is limited to infrequent drive-bys. However, I do feel the scale of a high rise in that location is not keeping with the current trends of downtown. John Galt's original plan for Guelph was low-rise developments, similar to those of liveable European cities. I wonder if it is still possible to maintain that vision, while supporting growth.

Aerial view of Guelph
Aerial view of Paris