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Elora Mill Revitalisation
June 11, 2013

All Photos copyright ©Bob Hill
Read these Other Articles on the Elora Mill Project:
Elora Mill Condominiums and Revitalisation, October 12, 2013
Elora Mill Condominium Revisions, January 31, 2014
Elora Mill Condos and Restoration, August 13, 2014

Watch the Horse and Hound event held at the Elora Mill

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A bylaw was passed on May 6 by Centre Wellington council approving the changes necessary for the Landmark Group Elora Mill Revitalisation project to move forward. According to planner and project manager, Brian Blackmere, “the appeal period expired on May 29th with no objections being filed. This means the by-law is now in full force and effect.” This was the last opportunity for somone from the public to launch a meaningful objection to the development.

Landmark still needs to submit a Heritage Impact Assessment and Conservation Plan and a Site Control Plan. Blackmere said that “a draft update to the existing heritage impact assessment has been authored and is to be finalized once Landmark has completed Conservation Plans, which details how each historic building will be restored on the exterior.” This process is concurrent with the Site Plan Approval process.

“I believe it will take a full year to obtain site plan approval,” he said. He expected that infrastructure improvements such as sewer, water and roadworks would likely start next spring. Information on the condominium development will also likely be made available in the spring or summer of 2014.

Changes approved in the by-law on the Little Folks property across the river from the existing Elora Mill include allowing for the construction of a banquet hall and new hotel with a maximum building height of 18 meters. The by-law will also permit an integrated concept for the site including new retail, hotel/banquet facilities, residential condominiums and associated parking.

The new Elora Mill waterfront development is expected to transform Elora into a first class international village. The Elora Mill has always attracted visitors to Elora because it is one of the few early Ontario five-storey grist mills still in existence. One of the aspects of the new development is to maintain the historic integrity of the area.

Landmark Proposed Elora Mill Redevelopment

Above is an illustration of how the Landmark revitalisation project is expected to shape the riverfront in Elora, showing a rebuilt Victoria Street bridge that will connect Mill Street to a newly created public square in front of the old Walser Building. The drawing also shows another pedestrian bridge leading directly into the Elora Mill.

Bridge Into Elora and Remnants of the Victoria St. Walking Bridge

In an article in October, Francis Baker of the Fergus-Elora News Express reported that restoring the Elora walking bridge was key to the development. The bridge will link Mill Street West to Victoria Street on the south side of the Grand River, creating pedestrian access between new commercial developments south of the river and downtown Elora. A new glassed-in walkway is also to be created connecting the new inn’s lobby on the south side of the river, with the Elora Mill Inn and its outbuildings on the north side. The walkway is expected to follow the curvature of the Drimmie Dam and lead to the second floor of the Elora Mill. Landmark is also planning to build a public walkway along the riverbank that will connect to other trails in the area.

Remnants of the Old Bridge Linking Victoria Street to Mill Street

The Landmark Group bought the Old Elora Mill in December 2010, but closed it at that time because it was in a state of general disrepair. Landmark felt that the limited number of rooms and the limited parking didn’t make it financially viable, which is why they decided to expand their development across the river.

Erik Martensson of the Guelph Mercury interviewed Matthew Opferkuch, managing director of Landmark Group, last July who had been in the midst of negotiating to purchase the 2.8-hectare (seven-acre) parcel of land that had once been home to the Little Folks toy company. He said it was necessary to purchase the land to add more guest accommodation as well as a residential component. “Opferkuch said the Old Elora Mill had just 21 guest rooms which was hardly enough to make the operation viable. His plan was to have 75 guest rooms north and south of the river as well as more commercial and retail space.

Remnants of the Little Folks Toy Company Sign and Buildings

“’The main downtown core is on the north side of the river, on Mill Street,’ Opferkuch said. ‘We hope to expand south of the river and if we attract the right retailers and galleries, we can really add a south-side downtown that builds on the traditional style of Elora that is so charming.’” Opferkuch was reported as saying that the plan would be rolled out in stages with the hotel/guest accommodation being the first priority, then retail space and then the condos or townhouses. All told, Landmark Group expected to offer 100 full-time jobs in the hotel and 100 full-time jobs in commercial/retail once the construction was completed.

When interviewing Landmark project manager Brian Blackmere in November, Mike Robinson of the Wellington Advertiser reported that three historic buildings have remnants on the site – the Walser building, the Little Folks administrative building and the Kiddie Car factory.

Remnants of the Little Folks Buildings

Blackmere noted that heritage study author Phil Goldsmith stated that while not designated as heritage buildings, “there is inherent benefit to the public in trying to maintain these buildings.”

Some of the Amendments to the Official Plan for the Redevelopment of the Elora Mill state that the developers must respect the following key historical attributes:

  1. A large enclosed portion of the Mundell Factory Building circa 1851 named the Little Folks Administration Building;

  2. A less complete ruin of a second section of the Mundell Factory Buildings named The Walser Building circa 1851;

  3. The ruins, standing walls only, of the Potter Foundry Buildings (Ross & Company) named the Kiddie Car Building circa 1848;

  4. The head race feature of the former water power system that drove the mills. The original channel circa 1840 altered with current material in 1911.

  5. The cultural landscape setting created by the works as related to the views from the Gorge, Mill Street, Victoria Street and the relationship with the designated and inventoried buildings on the south side of Mill Street on the other side of the river; and

  6. A relationship to the inventoried houses on Ross Street and Guelph Road. New buildings on the site are to draw their inspiration from the building history of the site; stone mill buildings in a simple industrial Georgian vernacular style.

Elora Mill on the Grand River

Elora Mill and Remnants of the Second Walking Bridge

The Official Plan also states that prior to any development, stormwater management reporting will be completed and approved by the Township and the Grand River Conservation Authority that address, infiltration water budget and infiltration gallery location. The stormwater management system shall infiltrate pre-development quantities of “clean” stormwater and will include a snow and ice management plan which will address snow melt quality. The stormwater management system shall replicate pre-development surface water flow paths and shall provide an Enhanced Level treatment for street runoff.

It is also to ensure no direct impact on the Gorge, including habitat loss. The development is not to occur within a 10 metre setback of the ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Area) except for the installation of infiltration galleries.

Prior to any development, a Sediment and Erosion Control Plan devised to prevent erosion and sediment transport during construction shall be approved by the Township and Grand River Conservation Authority before being installed.

Through the Trees from the Little Folks Property

Bridge Into Elora From Little Folks Property

A Tree Saving Plan which will be approved by the Township must be completed before any development. The Tree Saving Plan will address the 10 metre buffer adjacent to the ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Area) boundary and plantings/removals along the Grand River bank. Native Species will be utilized to provide cover, soil stabilization and wildlife movement. The development will also maintain public access to the south bank of the Grand River where environmentally feasible, while protecting the privacy of new residents.

Landmark Group also owns the Ancaster Mill, the Cambridge Mills, Spencer’s at the Waterfront in Burlington, and the Earth to Table: Bread Bar in Hamilton.

For any information on Elora, Fergus, Guelph or the surrounding area, call or text me at 519-400-5301 or email me at [email protected]