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Waterloo Region Says Rapid Transit Project Attractive to Builders

Regional officials say the $818-million rapid transit project is getting a lot of attention from potential bidders.

“Our project is actually looking very attractive right now,” Thomas Schmidt, commissioner of transportation, told regional council on Tuesday.

“We are anticipating that between six to eight firms are interested in the request for qualifications.”

In October, the region will invite potential bidders to have their qualifications to design, build, finance, maintain and operate rapid transit evaluated.

Companies interested in bidding on the contract will answer questions on such issues as partnering, financing, construction experience, maintenance and operating experience.

Three front-runners will be shortlisted and invited to bid on the project in the spring. Construction on bus rapid transit is slated to start next summer and rapid transit in 2014.

“It’s attractive in different ways to different teams,” said Mike Murray, chief administrative officer.

Schmidt said bidders would be attracted by the scope of the project — without any tunnelling or other complicated work — and because of its scale.

“There are not very many, if any, big projects like this moving forward at this time,” Schmidt said.

The region expects capital costs involved in building tracks and infrastructure to be about $600 million.

About 25 per cent of that will likely be held back from the winning team and paid over the life of a 30-year contract as part of the design, build, operate, finance and maintain model.

The cash serves partly as an incentive to the contractors to do a good job and keep them from walking away from the project.

Coun. Jean Haalboom, who originally voted against using the private partnership model, said she still wasn’t satisfied.

“I remain very concerned about this,” she said.

Taking point on rapid transit is Darshpreet Bhatti, who was named director of rapid transit Sept. 25.

Bhatti, 33, has been acting director since Nancy Button resigned in March to take a consultant position in Toronto.

The University of Toronto engineering graduate has worked provincially as a consultant on transit, road and highway projects. He started on the region’s rapid transit project four years ago.

“I feel confident and I look forward to the future,” he said. “The experience over the last four years has given me that broad spectrum of what to expect.”

He added, “We need to make sure that we go out, we inform as much as we possibly can, and work with the community to give them the best product and service.”

Bhatti was appointed after the region searched across Canada and the U.S. for a new director and interviewed candidates from both countries, Schmidt said.

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October 1, 2012 at 7:57 pm Leave a comment

Central Transit Corridor Community Building Strategy: Moving People, Building Communities

The Region of Waterloo is investing in the future! A new rapid transit line will be in place by 2014 (aBRT first, then LRT in 2017) along the Central Transit Corridor, a central spine that connects Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo.

To leverage this investment, the Region is creating a Community Building Strategy that identifies key directions for building communities and moving people within, to, and from this Corridor.

This Strategy will be developed with you, and for you. The Region and its local municipal partners would like to work closely with the diverse range of stakeholders along the Corridor to ensure their perspectives are understood, and the full opportunity offered by transit investment is captured.

The Central Transit Corridor website can be found here.


October 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm Leave a comment

Cambridge Wants A Multi-Use Entertainment and Conference Facility

Council’s decision to spend $950,000 to purchase Galt’s Old Post Office was not unanimous and the sole dissenter believes the city has its priorities skewed.

Coun. Karl Kiefer opposed the purchase.

“I know I have been talking about the multi-use complex for more than a decade. The city deserves a multi-use facility. It should be next,” he told fellow councillors on Monday night.

Kiefer now intends to post a notice of motion recommending council adopt the multi-use complex as its next major project.

“I’ll also be making a notice of motion on the Preston Spring Gardens. It too should possibly be bought.

“It has been sitting for years and here are many people in the community that are concerned about its future,” he said.

Mayor Doug Craig was quick to point out that the Preston Spring Gardens, the vacant historic hotel at the corner of King and Fountain streets, is privately held.

“I recently met with the owners and they intend to start work again within six months,” Craig said.

“The Preston Springs is a wonderful building, but we need to talk with the owners first.”

In an interview with the Times Wednesday, Kiefer said the multi-use complex project would be a much more costly venture, but is still worth doing.

His original concept for the complex was to have two to four ice rinks, with seating up to 5,000 people. Given the city’s tight budget, Kiefer has reworked his idea.

“I’m still looking for at least a double rink with seating for about 2,500 people, but it’s not just an ice rink. It would also involve commercial, some sort of trade and entertainment centre. I’m looking for something for everyone here,” he said.

Like the Old Post Office project, Kiefer said it is going to need a private sector element.

“It’s a crucial part of it,” he said. “We’ll also want to get the province and the federal government involved.”

While disappointed that the city’s next major project will be the Old Galt Post Office/library expansion, Kiefer said, “I do support it. It has a good business plan.”

In June, council met to go over its capital project priorities and both the Old Post Office and the multi-use complex were adopted. However, council set no pecking order establishing which of the projects would be tackled first.

“That’s the mistake we made as a council,” Kiefer said. “I know the dam at Riverside Park will be next, but what’s third on the list. We’ll have to talk about that.”

Regarding the potential city acquisition of Galt’s Old Post Office, Kiefer said, “If the city is going into the business of acquiring historic buildings I’ve got a couple of beauties for them.”

Kiefer said that before putting forward any motion on the Preston Spring Gardens he was to first talk with the owners to hear what’s happening.

“I want to get my ducks in a row before I do anything,” he said.


October 1, 2012 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

Old Post Office to Become New Library Multi-Use Building

If you believe that Emily the ghost haunts the Old Galt Post Office, she is about to get a lot more company as city council approved the purchase of the building Monday night.

In putting the motion forward, Coun. Pam Wolf called the vacant landmark one of the finest examples of architecture in Cambridge.

“It’s fitting the city becomes its owner.”

The city plans to pay the $950,000 purchase price from the city’s industrial land reserve fund and then turn the vacant building into a library.

In an interview, chief librarian Greg Hayton said plans had been in place to expand the Queen’s Square Library in 2014. However, those plans were pushed back to 2016 due to budget considerations. In addition, land would have had to be expropriated. Funding will be used at the old post office.

In passing the motion, council has also directed staff to put funds into the 2013 operating and capital budget for consideration during next year’s budget process so the building can be temporarily mothballed.

Hayton said the planned expansion would have added up to 14,000 square feet to the Queen’s Square branch, which is roughly the same size as the old post office.

The building was built in 1885 as the Galt Customs House and Post Office. It was designed by Thomas Fuller, who was also responsible for design of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

Hayton said preliminary plans for the building includes a teen-oriented library on the first floor of the building, along with a small restaurant – which will be operated by the building’s current owners, the company which owns the Cambridge Mill restaurant.

The second floor of the building is earmarked to become a family-oriented library, while the third floor will be a digital lab, Hayton said.

“We’ll have further developed the plans by the time it goes to budget,” said Hayton.

Renovations for interior and exterior work is estimated at $6 million – higher than the $5.4 million currently identified for expansion at Queen’s Square Library branch.

However, in addition to city funding, Mayor Doug Craig said the project’s public/private partnership has a good chance of receiving grants from the provincial and federal government.

As for Emily the ghost?

“I’m sure we have a library card on file for her someplace,” said Hayton.


October 1, 2012 at 7:41 pm Leave a comment

Raucous Crowd Out Against Development

More than 300 show up to oppose Foodland

A planner is urging members of North Dumfries Township Council to take a hard look at an application for commercial rezoning on Northumberland Street from a local standpoint.

Mark Dorfman, a planner with more than 45 years experience in the public and private sectors, said it shouldn’t only matter whether a new Foodland fits within the “guidelines” of provincial and regional planning documents and that it won’t remain an orphan along the “spine” of Ayr, if approved.

He urged council members to consider the implications of future commercial development along this thoroughfare of a village that is expected to grow substantially in coming years.

“For this reason alone, this development is premature,” he added. “It’s not a sound design objective in a residential setting.”

Dorfman was retained on behalf of a citizens’ group that opposes the development of a new, 26,000-square-foot Foodland on properties currently zoned residential, across from the Broom Street intersection.

Residents of Ayr are concerned about traffic safety and their quality of life, which will be interrupted by delivery trucks, car alarms, doors slamming, running motors and exhaust fumes. Above all, they say it’s simply the wrong place to put a grocery store.

More than 300 people showed up to a public meeting Monday evening at the North Dumfries Community Complex. Some lined the back wall of the MacNeil Room due to limited seating.

North Dumfries Mayor Rob Deutschmann put his gavel to use several times and at one point threatened to shut down the meeting due to a raucous response from the crowd assembled in opposition.

Victor Labreche, a planner on behalf of the development team, pointed out that a 500-metre radius surrounding the proposed grocery store is currently comprised of 45 per cent industrial land and 40 per cent residential.

The radius includes an elementary school and a curling rink. The grocery store would result in a more “complete community” and reduce vehicular traffic going to and from the village’s core, he argued.

The plan is to relocate the existing Foodland in the village’s core into a larger building offering full service and more products, as well as an LCBO agency store.

But residents appearing as delegations don’t go along with the proposal on the two-lane road, even despite the implementation of a 25m left-hand turn lane for southbound traffic – a measure they say would do little to improve traffic flow at certain times of the day when a railway line ties up commuters of the bedroom community.

Christina Dorian resides across the street from where the development could be situated and also envisions a McDonald’s and a gas station next door if a commercial precedent is set.

Residents say they aren’t against having a new grocery store, but would rather see commercial development clustered to the north in the vicinity of Greenfield Road that is surrounded by vacant industrial land.

North Dumfries planning consultant Steve Jefferson noted that provincial planning policies can restrict municipalities from using land designated industrial for commercial purposes.

He expects that recommendations pertaining to the proposed grocery store could come before council in the next two months.

“Let’s do this right and update our official plan for the future,” said James Dol, a main organizer behind the Save Our Community group.

Dol presented the mayor with a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.

Many people, both young and not so young, urged councillors to think of the future.

A 14-year-old girl asked decision makers to imagine growing up in Ayr 20 years from now.

“In math they say you can’t add apples and oranges together because you get the wrong answer,” she said. “There are many other places we could put this grocery store.”


October 1, 2012 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

House Construction Down In August

New residential construction in the Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo area decreased in August compared to the same month of 2011, according to preliminary data released today by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Construction began on 93 homes, down from the 451 units started in August 2011.

Starts in August were at the lowest level for any month in more than three years. Builders started 71 single-detached homes in August, down from the 97 homes started a year ago. No apartments were started, compared to the 336 units started in August 2011. Townhouse starts increased to 22 units, from the 16.



October 1, 2012 at 7:01 pm Leave a comment

London: “We need to have pilot projects up and running. We want to be leaders, not followers.”

The city is moving ahead as quickly as possible to get a solar panel pilot project started on public buildings.

The city’s investment and economic prosperity committee will on Monday ask an outside company, Ameresco Canada, to put together a plan that will give green energy companies a framework to bid on solar panel projects.

In July, London-based solar energy company German Solar Corp. told the committee they were ready to mount panels on 10 city rooftops as part of a pilot project.

The project would create 337 jobs in eight years, 219 skilled-labour jobs and 108 operations and maintenance positions in 20 years, the company president predicted.

Another 1,200 jobs would be created indirectly, the company said.

“We’ve had two or three companies that are interested in putting panels on public property,” said Joe Swan, chair of the investment and economic prosperity committee.

“We need to come up with a licensing fee to lease the space, figure out the cost of installation and the return on investment.

“The marketplace is ready to implement these and the city hasn’t developed a framework.”

Ameresco Canada will develop the framework so the project gets off the ground, Swan said.

“This got support from council to move as quickly as possible,” Swan said.

“We need to have pilot projects up and running. We want to be leaders, not followers, in this.”

Source: The London Free Press

September 9, 2012 at 5:38 pm Leave a comment

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