A business case for the creation of the Wilson Farmhouse Community Centre

Wilson Farmhouse Proposal Oct 22      ian

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20 Comments

Filed under Branding of Guelph, Community, Energy, Environment, Growth, Having fun, Heritage, Water, Wilson Farm Park, Youth

20 responses to “A business case for the creation of the Wilson Farmhouse Community Centre

  1. MS

    I will fight tooth and nail for this type of venture to NOT happen in my neighborhood, especially across the street from my house.

  2. Kevin Huinink

    Wonderful ideas, however not based on a realistic scenario. Needs to have 3 probable scenarios including pessimistic and optimistic revenue generation. To expect that this site would generate $80,000 profit from a cafe in the current setting, and making the comparison to Karelia Restaurant in Toronto which is located on Bloor street is optimistic to say the least. The single optimistic profit line on this proposal would make most financiers cringe. This was the issue with proposals for community development years ago – there were great ideas that no one could or would finance.
    Hate to be a naysayer – consider this just a realistic outlook based on the current location. Pick it up and move it and see then.

  3. Susan

    I’m not quite sure about the MS comment. What is the objection to “this type of venture”? Surely a model green building with amenities is a welcome addition to any neighbourhood? And a heritage building always increases the property values in the adjoining properties (check the research of the Heritage Resources Centre of the University of Waterloo).
    The proposal will bring new life to the neighbourhood.

  4. Ron

    How many times have we heard this kind of scenario presented to the citizens of Guelph?
    Sustainable? Yeah right? Lofty ideals but not realistic with the overly optimistic projections.

    Time and again in this city we have begun “sustainable’ or “revenue neutral” projects that always fail to meet the expectations of those behind the project. The soccer dome being the most recent. If I recall correctly, both the River Run and Sleeman Centre(is it still called that?) were also in the group.

    The taxpayers should not have to cosign this loan. A “great” idea such as this should be able to find a private party to back it, if in fact the business plan is truly sound.

    I also agree with MS. I don’t want it in my neighbourhood either. This kind of venture would be better suited to the downtown or the university area and not down the street from my house.

    • O Gray

      More Nimbyism at work! And so obvious too!

      • Ron

        Absolutely! I didn’t try to hide it.
        My other point stands:
        “The taxpayers should not have to cosign this loan. A “great” idea such as this should be able to find a private party to back it, if in fact the business plan is truly sound”.
        I don’t want the taxpayers on the hook for anything to do with this project regardless of where it is.

  5. Alison

    I am truly impressed and inspired at the thought that has gone into what this project could be. What an amazing asset for the community!
    I for one would love a warm building to nestle down in and buy a tea while I do some handwork waiting for my children to be done school at Trillium Waldorf.
    I can imagine veggie gardens and community canning sessions in the kitchen. Perhaps some quilters and knitters would share their skills with some classes. Book clubs, Parent and child classes…
    I can think of endless community uses-
    And what a great place for the seniors of the community to have to walk to, have a rest and enjoy some social time, before heading back home.
    Thank-you Ian.
    Love the artist rendition too!

  6. Chi-iro

    Love it! Some of the ideas put forward int he proposal will meet everyone’s needs: seniors have a nice place to walk to (an alternative to the strip mall at Woodlawn), moms with tots don’t have to drive to a drop-in but can walk to the Wilson House, the shade trees stay for everyone’s enjoyment, traffic will be mostly cyclists off the trails to Guelph Lake and locals. The numbers might be optimistic, so let’s double the amount of time for the budget to balance. Still worth it! I am willing to volunteer my time to keep the place running!!!

  7. FB

    I am neither impressed nor inspired at what this project will be. What an amazing albatross (another one) for the taxpayers of the city. I can imagine parking lots in our park. Would they be full of Trillium Waldorf parents (who have transported their children from outside of our neighbourhood and city in many cases) sipping their $200,000.00 per year of tea?
    Even with all of the endless community use envisioned, can there be even the projected profit of $17, 000.00 a year? if the miracle occurs, there is a major oversight – the payback of the tax payers’ $500,000.00 mortgage includes only the yearly interest of $30,000.00. When will the principal be returned to the mortgage holder – in the same time frame as the soccer dome?
    I love the “artist” rendition too. Ten years ago, before the entire concept of the building and land was changed, the Councillor’s Photoshop rendition would look much less ridiculous.

  8. Susan Watson

    Councillor Cam Guthrie voted in favour of demolition of the Wilson Farmhouse at the September 30th Council meeting. The following day, he posted comments on his Ward 4 blog. I think the following excerpt is relevant to the discussion at hand:

    “My advice, to those on the “demolish” side is this: Based on what I can tell at this very moment in time, this house could probably be staying where it is. When a vote is re-taken with the presence of Councillor Lise Burcher, I can see this being a 7-6 vote in favour of keeping it. If this is the case, then you need to ask yourselves if you want it to become a residential home, cornered and fenced off from the rest of the park where you can’t enjoy it, or should it become a community use building? If you need to land on the best of those two options, then you should probably choose the community use option. Get together, figure out what your community can live with and one that will be used by you.”

    • Dennis Galon

      I confess a knee jerk expectation to disagree with Councilor Gutherie, but in this instance I concur with his analysis. I think it is fair to say that the “preservationist” side includes many seasoned Council watchdogs who absolutely KNOW that Gutherie’s analysis of the probable votes is correct. Gutherie has proved himself to be a staunch friend of the “demolitionists,” so they would be very, very wise to take his analysis to heart.

      As the saying goes, “Politics is the art of the possible.” Cling to an impossible position, and you go home dejected and angry.

  9. Alison

    Another thought-
    I do believe that the Wilson Farm Park is slotted to have an ice rink this winter. Imagine how fantastic it would be to have a community center where the kids could go pee, all could warm up, and enjoy a hot chocolate too!
    Am loving this plan more and more!

  10. Tonja

    I think Susan Watson raises a very valid point. Whether or not you want the building to stay, the reality is, it likely will stay. So why not work in a conducive manner to find a solution that you are comfortable with?

    Ian, I thank you for putting a great deal of thought into your proposal and personally, I think it sounds like a wonderful idea. There is nothing similar in this neighbourhood and I think it would be a welcome addition.

  11. Brian Holstein

    I do not, I cannot, understand the knee-jerk negativity to those NIMBY-ists who refuse to listen and consider any option that leaves the farmhouse as a viable entity within the community. Why is that? Why is it that there are those in that community want a barren piece of land when it has the opportunity to have a building that will benefit the community; will be a source of pride to the community; will be a focal point for the community. Public space is no longer a monotonous piece of barren land, interspersed with goalposts and teeter-totters. A park should be part of the community, so why should not the oldest residence in that community take pride of place?

    • Ron

      If this project can be funded without the taxpayer footing the bill…..GO FOR IT!
      This will NOT be a viable entity. It will be a struggle to achieve the numbers in the business plan. Look at the soccer dome….great idea….flawed business plan.
      This entire concept seems to be an idea hatched to do anything to save that building.
      Fine…save it.. preserve it … but find a way to do it that is not taxpayer supported.
      Hope that clears it up.

      • Dennis Galon

        I agree, Ron, that an acceptable project should not be at taxpayer expense, but I have no opposition to the city adopting financial risk (as in co-signing a load, or entering into a lease arrangement) for a project Council judges viable. Sometimes such ventures work out wonderfully (the boathouse is my premier example), and sometimes there are problems (the inflated field house comes to mind).

        But given a choice between a Council that is willing to accept financial risk when partnering with non-profit or ever for-profit groups to establish amenities for this or that section of town; and a gutless Council that leaves everything to the whim of developers, I prefer the bold Council. In practical terms, the gutless type of Council is generally in the pockets of the developers, and the bold Council is more likely to think in terms of the common good.

        They bold ones will win some and lose some on such ventures, but the resulting City will be a far better place to live. But if we begin electing gutless Councils with no objective but ever lower taxes, then we will end up with an the unliveable city we deserve.

        (Suspect we disagree on the philosophy, Ron, but at least we agree the solution for the Wilson farmhouse is not a city operated facility.)

  12. lb

    I think folks need to understand that there are more than just ‘two sides’ to this issue and that there are many members of the community that neighbour the farmhouse and park that are open to alternative options. I am one of them.
    Full disclosure, I have submitted a few letters to council and posts to this blog now regarding this issue over the last few years. My wife and I were the first to build on our street across from the park almost 6 years ago, and at that time, we were told it would be parkland and that the farmhouse would be restored for community use. We liked this plan.
    Over the years, as things changed and it dragged on, and heritage, sever and sale came into the picture, our position changed. We suggested demolition, so the park would remain whole and not a private residence with a fence put up. Now that demolishing is no longer a likely option, as Susan Watson echoed Councillor Guthrie’s post after the last council meeting, we are hoping for some sort of community use again.
    I appreciate the effort that Ian and others are putting forth to try to find a solution that most people can live with. While I understand the concerns with this proposal and that there is a financial risk to the city and to us taxpayers, and likely a financial institution would not provide this financing, if council sees this as a fulsome solution (not just financial) that benefits the community and city, then I am going to choose to be an optimist on this one.

  13. Kevin Huinink

    More comments on imagination:
    I, too, would love to see all of these things, when it benefits me, and without thought to the cost. I live right by the park, and I would love to have something like this of use in the park. Reality needs to be considered here, though, folks. Would I like a place for my kids to pee when they are skating? Sure. But who, really, is going to keep hours there enough to keep it open for them to do that? The cafe – nice visions of sipping tea/coffee, eating a biscuit. Let’s think of the Guelph Y cafe which is at least 3 times the size of anything that could possibly end up in this house given all of the other uses. The Guelph Y has a LOT of traffic, and many reasons why people would want/need to patronize it. That makes sense in its location. Can we not see that the location where the Wilson Farmhouse sits can’t hope to see even 1/4 of that traffic? LOCATION! (has anyone noticed that the comparison case in the business plan is after a cafe on Bloor street in Toronto?) Cafes need to go where people are. Lots of them. Non-profits need to cover their costs too. Finally: accessibility. This house is old, it is residential, and it will not be accessible to the needs of those who should be allowed to patronize it.
    I’m not anti-dream or anti-imagination. I just shudder at the idea of precious resources being poured into a too optimistic business plan.
    This plan is taking a white elephant and placing a temporary mask on it. It will still be a white elephant, and I lament the day in the near future where we are asking again, what to do with that failed venture in the Wilson Farm Park.

    Let’s get back to talking about how the city can manage its 14 stranded assets, and how it can effectively strategize with Heritage Guelph which assets deserve funds and attention, rather than calling an all out war each time there is something old. We do not need to preserve or engineer new uses for every house just because they are old, or because we love them. Practicality does need to enter into the equation.

    I love my old shirts. They each say something about me and my experiences. I can’t keep all of them, though. I keep the one I got from my late father. Another I keep despite its sordid state as it falls off of my shoulders just because it’s comfy. The rest, even though I love them, need to face a reckoning. It just doesn’t make sense to resurrect, re-purpose, or keep each one. (and yes, I do use some as rags – it required I demolish them first, though….)

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