Agricultural land, industrial use. Rural plumbing, city water.
Moving just up the road into Woolwich Township, Waterloo North Hydro expects to fit into its new surroundings when it builds a new headquarters on Country Squire Road late next year.
The latest step in that move came this week as Woolwich council approved a cross-border servicing agreement with the City of Waterloo to provide municipal water to the site. A connection to the city’s system is available just across the road.
The site will employ a septic system, as municipal sewage services are not available.
The juggling is all in a day’s work now for Rene Gatien, the utility’s president, who notes the idea of moving from the current Northfield Drive site in Waterloo first germinated in 2006.
“The building that we’re in, we’ve kind of outgrown,” he explained. “We’ve grown over time, and we’re at a point where we need more space.”
The current location, which features a 50,000-square-foot building on a 17-acre site, has been home to WNH for just shy of 30 years. Some 112 employees work out there now. The new location, expected to be occupied by December 2011, will see a 105,000-sq.-ft. facility on 35 acres of land.
To make the move possible, Woolwich had to make an exception for the WNH to use agricultural land, only possible because a provision in the zoning bylaw allows that for public services and utilities. The utility checked out other industrial locations, but in the end the combination of price and the right amount of space made the land at 526 Country Squire Rd. the right choice, said Gatien.
With that hurdle cleared, Waterloo North Hydro is moving along with the design stage. An architect has been selected, tenders taken and a final design, including price tag, should be in place over the next couple of weeks, he added.
WHN will be seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green certification for the building, likely at the silver level. There are four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum.
In the case of the new building, that certification will mean making use of geothermal heating and cooling and rainwater harvesting, among other environmental measures, he explained.
“The goal is a good LEED building, yet trying to stay within a reasonable budget.”
Conscious of costs, the utility is also mindful of aesthetics, looking for a building that complements its surroundings.
“We want something that looks like it fits in – something nice.”
Currently, that plan is for a two-storey office portion and single-storey service centre, with some of the façade using stone/bricks sourced locally, another part of the green certification.
When the new building is finally created, there will be an overlap period of a few months while the move is completed. Essential functions will be duplicated until the new setup is clearly ready to go it alone.
“We just can’t have glitches,” he said.
Only when the transition is complete will WHN consider selling the land at 300 Northfield Dr. E. The sale will help offset the cost of the new facility. As the city has grown out toward the once-remote location, the property has become increasingly valuable. The utility has in fact already had numerous inquiries from developers and real estate companies.
Waterloo North Hydro, owned by Waterloo, Woolwich and Wellesley Township, the municipalities it serves, provides power to some 50,000 customers.