A review of the stockyards lands could see Woolwich get a piece of the action as the area undergoes something of a boom in new office space. There’s already a proposal in place, and others are likely to follow if full municipal services are extended to lands surrounding the farmers’ market and King/86 power centre.
Development would hinge on a secondary plan study planned for next year and reaching a cross-border servicing agreement with the City of Waterloo, which provides water and sanitary sewers to the area.
A proposal that would see some 150,000 square feet of office space built on a vacant six-acre parcel at 865 Weber St. N., north of the TSC store, makes the long-planned review more pressing, says the township’s manager of planning.
John Scarfone noted the township has requested that Waterloo Region put on hold plans to reconstruct portions of Weber and King streets until the secondary plan is completed and a servicing agreement is reached with Waterloo, if needed.
A comprehensive plan is preferred to a piecemeal approach, he added.
Along with the planning review, the complete set of changes would require environmental assessments and new arrangements with the neighbouring city. Under the current agreement with Waterloo, full municipal services cannot be extended to the site of the proposed office buildings. Any change for the one location would almost certainly bring a rush of requests from other landowners in a similar situation, said Scarfone.
“The secondary plan would ultimately determine the planned function of the stockyards, as well as address other land-use, servicing transportation and environmental issues.
“The secondary plan would be a way to finally determine how the stockyards should develop and grow,” he said.
Preliminary plans for the office development call for two four-storey buildings on the site. But the realtor representing the property owner, an investment group incorporated as 214638 Ontario Inc., said the configuration would be based on the tenants ultimately attracted to the site.
That could mean one, two or three buildings, said John Whitney, president of DTZ Barnicke in Waterloo, adding there’s a strong demand right now for office space.
He sees good potential for Woolwich given its proximity to nearby development just across the border in Waterloo. The stockyards area has good transportation links with access to the expressway, King and Weber streets, as well as bus service and the potential for light rail transit.
“The stockyards are certainly on the radar screen now,” said Whitney, adding the recent move of Quarry Integrated Communications to St. Jacobs also put the township on the map. “It said to others that Woolwich is a good office location.”
That’s a sentiment welcomed by Mayor Todd Cowan, who campaigned last fall on attracting high-tech businesses into the township. He, too, sees considerable potential in the stockyards area.
“This is just the kind of thing that was part of my election platform,” he said of the office building project. “I will be exploring ways to make it work.”
Don’t expect to see construction imminently, however. The process will take time.
Scarfone said the secondary plan review is slated for next year. In requesting a delay on road reconstruction in the area – there’s no point ripping up the road before deciding if water and sewers will be extended to unserviced land – the township wants to see the work pushed back to 2015 from 2013 to allow planners time to formulate a comprehensive strategy.