Canadian project to turn downtown parking lot into neighborhood with library & urban agriculture wins green certification

On September 23, 2020 the landmark Baker District redevelopment by the City of Guelph (Ontario) and Windmill Developments became only the second redevelopment project in Canada—and the third in North America—to receive international endorsement under the One Planet Living sustainability framework.

The mixed-use redevelopment will transform a downtown parking lot into a vibrant and environmentally-conscious community anchored by a Central Public Library.

Bioregional, a UK-based non-profit organization that promotes a better and more sustainable way to live, is the creator of the One Planet Living® framework.

One Planet Living is a vision of a world where people enjoy happy and healthy lives while responsibly sharing the planet’s limited resources. It recognizes the negative environmental and social impacts stemming from the way cities are designed, built, and utilized.

Bioregional’s Ben Gill says, “We are impressed by the commitment to revitalising a brownfield location to create a community where sustainable living is the norm and nature can thrive. Its approach to transport and food is especially impressive. There are some areas that require further detail before construction begins in 2021, including its approach to embodied carbon and how it will achieve a community engaged with sustainability. But with a clear commitment to develop these strategies in timely fashion, we’re confident that Baker District will be an exemplar for achieving One Planet Living in a smaller city.”

Bioregional verified the outcomes, targets, and strategies included in the Baker District’s One Planet Action Plan, a roadmap that will guide the development of the Baker District as one of the world’s most sustainable communities.

Baker District strongly aligns with the City’s aspirations, with an acute focus on zero carbon, sustainable food production, and sustainable transportation,” says Alex Speigel, Partner, Windmill Developments. “Following in Guelph’s green tradition, the transformative redevelopment of the Baker District will be a model of urban intensification, showcasing sustainability and civic participation in an effort to reshape Guelph’s downtown.”

Anchored by a new central library designed be Diamond Schmitt architects, Baker District will also feature a series of public spaces by DTAH as well as well as residential, commercial and institutional space and public parking.

We’re really impressed with Windmill’s leadership in making sustainability a priority for the Baker District redevelopment here in Guelph,” says Kealy Dedman, deputy CAO at the City of Guelph.

Sustainability was a critical factor in identifying the right developer to make this landmark City-building project come to life, and the One Planet Living Principles will help us deliver on the City’s strategic priorities as well as those of our community,” she added.

One Planet Living is one of the most holistic sustainability frameworks available around the globe. By encouraging projects to consider sustainability from a triple bottom line perspective – people, planet and prosperity – and across all project phases – design, construction, operation, community living – One Planet Living helps create thriving, ecologically responsible communities.

As a One Planet Living community, Baker District is instrumental in the City of Guelph’s goal of becoming a net zero carbon city by 2050. The development is the first of its kind in Canada to use ecological footprinting to inform the strategies that will minimize the overall impact of the project.

By understanding the ecological footprint of Guelph, we can better determine what it takes for residents of the Baker District to truly achieve One Planet lifestyles,” says Jenny McMinn, Managing Director, Urban Equation, who helped lead the formulation of Baker’s One Planet Action Plan. “It’s how we ended up with a focus on local and sustainable food as one of our priority principles for Baker District.

This principle aligns with Guelph’s smart city initiative, Our Food Future, which seeks to create the first circular food economy in Canada. The project will leverage the resources and energy from Guelph’s dynamic food community to make the Baker District a hub for urban agriculture and food responsibility.

To meet the specific targets under each Principle in the framework, Windmill has identified a set of performance requirements that will inform the design of Baker District once the Urban Design Master Plan has been approved. The One Planet Action Plan has been made available online, and can be found here.

To further enhance the Baker District’s ability to meet its objectives the project is planning to be partially financed by The One Planet Living Fund, a newly launched real estate impact fund that is a partnership between Windmill and Epic Investments.

Rendering courtesy of Windmill Developments.

See Windmill Developments website.

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