Future Mid- to High-Density Residential Redevelopment of Historical Distillery and Foundry
Arthur Street South, Guelph ON


The Kilmer Brownfield Equity Fund acquired this 9-acre property in downtown Guelph. When the remediated site is sold, it will be built out as a mid- and high-rise residential development with accessory commercial uses and new public open space. The property is within Guelph's Urban Growth Centre (as stipulated by the Provincial Growth Plan, Places to Grow) and is within walking distance to the VIA Rail and GO Transit train stations. Redevelopment of the property will therefore support Guelph's intensification initiatives, as well as existing public transportation infrastructure and the variety of established businesses and services in the downtown core.

Over its industrial lifetime, dating back to 1835, the property was occupied by a variety of land uses (including a distillery, foundry, woollen mill and appliance manufacturer) and contained several historical limestone and brick buildings.

Guelph Woollen Mills Company Ltd, c1895. (Source: City of Guelph)

There were many challenges associated with the redevelopment of the property, including: the retention of heritage buildings; significant changes in elevation across the site; floodplain issues related to the adjacent Speed River; and aging and failing infrastructure traversing the property in several locations. These challenges influenced the redevelopment vision, requiring innovative design and remedial solutions. At the time of Kilmer's acquisition of the property, the City was in the process of preparing a new Secondary Plan for this area to implement the Urban Growth Centre requirements of Places to Grow. The Secondary Plan guided the redevelopment considerations for land uses, built form, height and site layout.

Kilmer received approval from the City for a unique solution regarding the life of the development charge credits, which recognized the various challenges associated with the site and the scale of the redevelopment. Kilmer also received approval for financial incentives offered through the City's Brownfield Redevelopment Community Improvement Plan, and approval to remove selected former foundry buildings in order to implement the remedial strategy. An agreement with the City was also negotiated to facilitate the relocation and replacement of failing infrastructure located across the property for both short-term and long-term servicing requirements.


Given the range of the previous industrial land uses, the types of subsurface environmental impacts vary across the property, including a significant volume of historical industrial-fill materials. Soil and groundwater were also impacted by other common industrial parameters, such as petroleum hydrocarbons and solvents. A risk-based remedial strategy was established to respond to these site-specific characteristics and the sensitive receptors, such as the adjacent river and residential uses. The remedial strategy also met Kilmer's objective to implement a more sustainable remedial approach (when compared to conventional remedial solutions) by recycling the upper fill materials on-site where possible. Soil amendments were included as part of the source remedial process to assist further treatment of shallow groundwater impacts. The planned redevelopment includes a mix of land uses, including mid- and high-density residential uses with accessory retail/commercial uses, and the creative adaptive re-use of the retained historic limestone buildings. This project will incorporate risk management measures to address the risk-based remedial approach, such as the provision of parking below any residential uses to provide separation between the sub-surface and sensitive land uses.

Above: Proximity of the site to downtown Guelph, VIA Rail and GO Transit stations, the Speed River and the established residential neighbourhood.

Above: Former industrial facility prior to demolition, showing newer warehouse and loading dock wrapping heritage limestone buildings.

Above: Remedial activities at the site.



Extensive consultation with the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and other stakeholders (the City, the Grand River Conservation Authority and the local neighbourhood organization) was a critical element of planning for the site's redevelopment. The neighbourhood residents expressed their interest in being apprised of site activities and the future redevelopment. In response, the City and Kilmer initiated an ongoing dialogue with residents, which established an effective informal communication process. In addition, as part of Guelph's inaugural Nuit Blanche festival, and prior to demolition of the 335,000 sq. ft. building, a temporary art installation was exhibited in the former warehouse area, allowing visitors a rare glimpse inside the former industrial and historical complex.

Above: Demolition of former foundry building, showing retained heritage building and wall that will be incorporated into future redevelopment plans for the site.

* * *