The City of Cambridge continues to grow and develop with strategic initiatives, options for residents and commercial and industrial tenants and a unique approach to communication and collaboration.
Cambridge, an amalgamation of the city of Galt, the towns of Preston and Hespeler, and the village of Blair, is in southwestern Ontario at the junction of the Grand and Speed Rivers. Set along Highway 401, Cambridge is also part of Waterloo Region’s Advanced Technology Cluster which has particular prominence in the automotive, information and communications technology, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and business and financial services sectors.
Hardy Bromberg, deputy city manager, development and infrastructure, says several of the city’s key initiatives are focused on bringing people back to its three core areas, and an overall back-to-the-river strategy, including brownfield development initiatives in early stages for Galt on the Grand, Hespeler Village and Preston Town Centre. Among these brownfield developments are options for housing that combine old and new, reflecting the heritage of the area and yet offering modern amenities that will draw interest.
“There is a crane on site now in the core of Hespeler constructing a new 10-storey development that will include 150 units. That kind of new construction is something that hasn’t been seen in that area for a long time,” he says.
On that same site, the former American Standard stone factory is being repurposed. Once complete it will offer unique historical loft spaces, completing a distinctly unique mixed offering of old and new.
While each core is in various stages of completion for streetscaping efforts including sewer, water and stormwater upgrades, Bromberg says additional plans call for mixed use developments, including ground floor commercial with upper level residential.
A daytime parking lot has been designed for multiple function as an evening and weekend gathering space along Water St. in the Galt core.
Directly across the way, the former post office is undergoing a $13 million revitalization. Expected to be completed by the fall of 2017, this heritage building, designed by Thomas Fuller, the Parliament Building architect, will be transformed into a state-of-the art digital community library.
“This will be a unique library for North America,” says Bromberg. “It will preserve the heritage aspects of the original architecture but add a contemporary, modern feel with glass installations for stunning views of the Grand River.”
The library has already received international recognition with a commendation in the “Old and New” category at the 2016 Architectural Review MIPIM Future Projects Awards in Cannes, France.
Plans are also in place to begin construction later this year on a pedestrian bridge across the Grand River to connect the city across the river and link the University of Waterloo campus and Cambridge’s Dunfield Theatre with the new community space. “The design for the bridge has been named the Weave and recognizes both the textile history of the area and the river which winds though the community. It will include walking and cycling passage and a specific look-out area.”
Bromberg says projects such as these reflect the city’s commitment to promoting a creative environment that encourages arts, culture, heritage, and values our unique architectural assets. “Our vision is to fuse the old and new, to protect and promote our heritage but also offer something new. We are able to do this by working closely with our heritage partners and in turn, we make Cambridge a place for the people to prosper.”
As part of its effort to support developers and development initiatives, the city last year launched an online system, allowing building permit applications and documents to be submitted electronically. Bromberg says the uptake from larger builders, for backflow prevention and sign permits has been high and the hope is that more renovators and one-off projects will also discover the ease of the system. “Of course there is still a dedicated face to face option for those who prefer that.”
Understanding that there is always an opportunity to improve, Bromberg says the city spoke with developers to understand their needs using a unique pre-consultation process. “Developers wanted consistency and assurances about what can be expected. We can sit down and let them know specifically what they need to do to achieve their goals, the timelines involved and then we provide them with one point of contact to ensure a seamless process.”
He says bringing together all of the authorities to meet with a potential developer or private sector interest in advance of any submission makes for a smoother and more transparent application process.
Bromberg says this is an exciting time in the city, with a lot of private sector interest and a new strategic plan: Cambridge Connected. The plan provides strategic direction aligned with council’s vision and priorities for the city. Among the plan’s goals: community wellbeing; open, transparent, accountable and innovative governance and leadership; and economic development aimed at developing a strong, dynamic and innovative local economy.
Supporting that, the city continues its long history of shovel-ready business development lands through its 110-acre Boxwood Business Campus.
Construction in the business campus began in 2014, when the first parcel was sold to Héroux-Devtek Inc. who opened an 108,000 sq. ft. aerospace manufacturing facility. Leah Bozic, senior economic development officer with the city, says this was the company’s second operational location in the regional area. She adds that the company was attracted, both to the land opportunity and to the skilled labour available.
Bozic says thus far 39 acres, or 36 per cent of the business park’s parcels have been sold. “We initially set 49 parcels of between one and ten acres but also added the flexibility for movement in lot lines to accommodate specific needs.” Those interested in learning more about Cambridge’s Boxwood Business Campus are invited to visit www.cambridge.ca/boxwood.
Other residents of the campus include Shimco North America who constructed a 22,000 sq. ft. facility and a 54,000 sq. ft. FedEx design build project completed by Westco Cambridge Inc. “StrongPoint Automation is building a 20,000 sq. ft. facility and Cintas is opening a 55,000 sq. ft. regional distribution and cleaning centre in the campus to be closer to clients in southwestern Ontario.”
A unique draw for the Boxwood Business Campus is two provincially certified lots. Bozic says land with this certification makes the property attractive to investors because it provides background on the site’s availability, utilities, transportation access and environmental records. Properties that achieve Certified Site designation are also marketed by the province to international investors.
Having serviced land available for immediate development is what Bozic says has made the city successful in attracting new investment to Cambridge. Héroux-Devtek, as an example, she says, was able to be operational within 12 months of purchasing land from the city.
The Boxwood Business Campus is a prestigious industrial campus with unique sustainability features for eco-conscious businesses. “The street has been set to maximize passive solar gain, all street lights use LED lighting and there are trails scattered throughout natural areas that have been maintained to give employees a chance to get out and connect with nature.”
Beyond the city’s own initiatives, Bozic says she has noticed significant private development and redevelopment in the area. “We’re seeing the design, build and lease of buildings, which helps provide options and a market for those who may want to lease space, rather than own.”
She says “the addition of new speculative leasable space is beneficial for the city to have available as it is evidence that investors recognize the attributes of Cambridge as a cost-effective location on Highway 401, less than an hour’s drive from Toronto, with a skilled labour force, and diverse business base.”