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ACO Cambridge and HIP Developments settle appeal: Gaslight goes forward with significantly more heritage preserved

Cambridge, ON. … ACO Cambridge, the local branch of Architectural Conservancy Ontario (ACO), and HIP Developments are pleased to announce that they have reached a settlement on ACO’s 2017 appeal of the City of Cambridge planning approvals for the Gaslight District.

Following a series of meetings between the two parties and their experts, HIP has agreed to several design changes that will preserve and incorporate more of the historic buildings into the development. The former Southworks foundry on Grand Avenue will be developed into a mixed-use community, and introduce an active retail street leading to two 20-storey apartment towers on the site.

“Our members welcome the revitalization of our downtown cores, and there’s much in HIP’s proposals we’ve supported from the outset,” says local ACO branch president, Jeremy Hetherington. “But this site, dating from the 1890s, is one of Ontario’s few remaining intact industrial complexes. Among other impacts to this distinctive heritage, we were concerned with the extent of the loss of the north building -- the site’s ‘front door’. ACO wanted to see more of the historic buildings preserved and here was a unique opportunity, linking the past with the future. Thanks to HIP’s willingness to work with us, three times as much of the original building façade is being preserved compared to the original plan.” 
Scott Higgins, HIP’s president adds “There has been a lot of good dialogue between us and ACO Cambridge. I have to tip my hat to ACO and their consultants who provided a lot of great suggestions throughout a collaborative series of meetings the past six months. The ACO group are tremendous advocates for the historical landmarks and history of our city. Without question the plan we have today, the heritage preservation and the active new street, is a better one than we had when we started the project designs several years ago.”

ACO appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in July 2017, regarding the City Council Zoning and Official Plan Amendment approvals that HIP received for their redevelopment plans. ACO Cambridge and HIP were set for a hearing at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT, formerly the OMB) this October. Despite the upcoming hearing, the two parties have been meeting outside the appeal process to identify solutions acceptable to both parties. Now that agreement has been reached, the ACO appeal has been withdrawn, the October hearing has been cancelled, and the Zoning and Official Plan amendments are in effect. The $125-million Gaslight project will now proceed with enhancements that can be attributed to the design process and the positive meetings and input by ACO Cambridge.

While the appeal was pending, HIP has continued working with the City of Cambridge to advance designs, the site plan approval process and permitting. HIP has obtained the required permit from the City to demolish portions of the buildings to facilitate the plans. Now that HIP and ACO Cambridge have come to terms, selective demolition and further restoration work will start in August.

Gaslight Rendering - Street View

As part of the project, HIP Developments has agreed to obtain designation of the property under the Ontario Heritage Act immediately following redevelopment of the property.

“At the core of the Gaslight District”, says Higgins “is our commitment to build something creatively important for the community. We want this location to become a place where the stories and cultural meaning of the Grand River come to life through the arts. We will be creating multiple playful and engaging art installations, including tracing the river’s flood lines through Gaslight Square and a ‘Dreaming River’ that will encourage us to think about our region’s future. It’s all very exciting. We’re thrilled to be supporting the community in this fashion and we’re eager to get on with it.”

Hetherington notes that ACO is a province-wide charitable organization “with a mandate to raise awareness and advocate at the local level here in Cambridge and North Dumfries for the preservation of significant heritage sites. It’s a compromise and we still lament the loss of any element of this historic site, but we also appreciate the outcome of this collaboration and are thankful that HIP is seizing the opportunity to protect more of our endangered industrial heritage stock, to everyone’s benefit.”

Other notable design enhancements agreed to by ACO Cambridge and HIP include:

  • creating a more human-scale streetscape at the base of the new north tower facing the Hamilton Family Theatre and the west tower facing Glebe Street, with street level artists’ studio spaces and commercial units to enliven pedestrian activity within the neighbourhood;
  • portions of the existing historic building remnants in the square will now be retained, restored and enhanced to provide a unique platform stage and focal point;
  • re-use of salvaged original materials throughout the site, interpretive signage on site.
Gaslight District render

Primary Media Contacts

Scott Higgins
HIP Developments
Tel:519-886-8855 ext. 101

Jeremy Hetherington
President, Cambridge Branch
Architectural Conservancy Ontario