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Elora Mill Revitalisation and Condominium Project
October 12, 2013

All Photos copyright ©Bob Hill
Read these Other Articles on the Elora Mill Project:
Elora Mill Revitalisation, June 11, 2013
Elora Mill Condominiums and 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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Landmark is not waiting for the Drimmie Dam to be completed before continuing with its Mill Revitilisation plans. The company is trying, however, to get the Drimmie Dam contractor, Xterra Construction Inc. of Kitchener, to complete some work for them while they are in the river. According to planner and project manager Brian Blackmere, “we are close to having Ministry of National Resources (MNR) and Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) approval to install the piers we need for the new pedestrian bridge and for the removal of the old concrete piers downstream of the dam.” It is the concrete piers that Landmark is hoping to get the Drimmie Dam contractor to remove for them.

The Old Concrete Piers and the Drimmie Dam Reconstruction

Landmark has recently been rethinking the location of some of the proposed condominiums because not all of the condos will have a view of the river or green space, which they would like to change. Landmark is hoping to have final condominium and building site plans completed by next summer. At that time they may begin taking preconstruction deposits on the condominium units, he said. Landmark is also thinking about incorporating a parking area for bus tours in the site plan, which will be located on the west side of County Road 7 north of the water treatment plant on land that they also own.

The New Elora Mill Condominiums will be located at the top right
of this photo opposite the Tooth of Time

The Original Elora Mill Condominium Layout

Because of public concern about the amount of time it is taking for the renovation of the existing Elora Mill to take place, Blackmere said that Landmark may look at making changes to the phasing of the project and how they will proceed, taking those local concerns into account. He said that, Landmark‘s architects, Page and Steele, are working on a full site plan submission, which is taking some time because of the complexities of the project.

Commercial space in the new development will be owned and managed by Landmark and will specifically target boutique style retail. Blackmere also mentioned that they would like to target some space for artisans and may offer below market rental space to attract artists. Some office space will also be available for lease. In the green space that will be located in a section of the current parking area bordering the river beside the old Walser building, they are planning a music venue so that musical acts can perform there. This area will also be made available for community groups such as the Elora Festival.

Bob at the base of the Old Foot Bridge and pointing to the area
where the Music Venue will be built beside the old Walser Building Ruins

Fireplaces Inside Elora Mill

The Old Dining Area inside Elora Mill

Remnants of the Little Folks Toy Company Sign and Buildings

Landmark owns 50 percent of Elora Power Corporation, which is in midst of an approval process for a new Elora generating station. Blackmere, who sits on the Board of Directors of Elora Power Corporation, said that “the proposal being advanced is certainly in keeping with our site plan development on the former Little Folks Site. We always promised that the power facility would be compatible with the overall plans and this was the very best way to ensure follow through. We aren’t in the power business so we partnered with Shaman Power who have developed and currently operate several small hydro electric plants in Ontario.”

A small hydro station already exists on the north side of the river adjacent to the Elora Mill and with the new proposal it would be removed and its flow re-directed to the new station, which will be located on the south side of the river.

Bob Beside the Old Power Station with Tooth of Time
and One of the Old Piers in the Background

Elora Power Station Proposed Layout

General Layout of the Proposed Power Station Including Elora Mill

Mike Robinson of the Wellington Advertiser recently quoted GRCA communications manager Dave Schultz, as saying that a key question of the environmental proposal for the new power station would be the impact on the river. Patrick Garel of IBI Group, the consulting engineers for the project, was at a meeting at the Elora Mill on October 10 to answer questions about the proposal. He said that the new power station would not impact the river flow over the falls as they would be closing the old station which has always diverted some water from the falls. When the river flow is high the new power station would utilize the excess flow to run at full power. When the river flow is lower the power station would automatically scale back to run with the lower flow rates and not adversely impact the water flow over the falls.

Drimmie Dam Reconstruction Underway

Schultz noted that removal of the water intake for the current mill generating plant would actually make for a better Drimmie Dam and the current reconstruction work could provide provisions for the new generating station. Since Landmark owns both sides of the river the idea is to consolidate the generating capacity in one location rather than two, he said. Both properties have established water rights for power generation.

The water power project will include an intake structure that will be built in conjunction with the Drimmie Dam. The power station will utilize the head water produced by the Drimmie Dam and will produce 3,800,000 kilowatts of annual energy production, which could power 350 homes.

Remnants of the Old Bridge Linking Victoria Street on One Side of the River to Mill Street on the Other

There will be a small powerhouse to provide access to a turbine set below and a new distribution line approximately 120 metres long. It will be located at the bottom of a concrete shaft and at the foot of the falls to hide it from view and drown out any sound. There will also be rehabilitation and widening of the existing power canal to a 100 metres long and a penstock 2000 millimeters in diameter and approximately 28 metres long. According to Garel, the power canal and penstock would not be visible because they would be integrated and hidden in the design of the pedestrian walkway. Because it will be located in a concrete structure and with the noise from the falls, the sound of it will not be heard either.

The company plans to sell the hydro generated to Ontario Hydro, thereby subsidizing the power they use in operating the mill. They are at Phase two of their proposal which consists of five phases and approval could take six months. The construction of the power station could take nine to twelve months.

Remnants of the Little Folks Buildings

Several studies were already completed in preparation for the Drimmie Dam construction and that could expedite the assessment process.

The studies that have been completed recently for the Class EA Environmental Assessment for the Drimmie Dam reconstruction, include:

  • fish and fish habitat existing conditions assessment by Stringer’s Environmental Serivices;

  • Existing Life Sciences Conditions Assessment by asiOtus and ;

  • A Heritage Report by Philip Goldsmith.

Elora Mill and Remnants of the Old Piers

Additionally the following studies have been completed for the proposed project and adjacent lands:

  • Fish and Fish Habitat Impact Assessment by Stringer’s Environmental Services;

  • Archaeological Assessment by Parker Archaeological Consulting;

  • Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment by Parker Archaeological Consulting;

  • Fish and Fish Habitat Impact Assessment by Stringer’s Environmental Services;

  • Heritage Impact Assessment for Little Folks Property by ERA Architects;

  • Environmental Impact Study by Dance Environmental;

  • Environmental Impact Study by Natural Resources Solutions Inc.;

The proposed site was previously used for a similar purpose as part of a Woolen Mill constructed in 1843. Flume for the original Mill was originally constructed of wood in 1844 and rebuilt of concrete in 1911. Several industries utilized this facility and adjacent lands. A concrete wall used for the flume still stands today and is planned to be reused for the proposed station. Three buildings or (remains of the buildings) exist on the adjacent property including the former Walser Brush building located on the river near the piers that supported the Victoria Street Bridge. The Little Folks Administration building located directly across Ross Street from the Walser building, and the former Kiddie Kar ruin located south of the proposed location of the powerhouse.

History of the Woolen Mill

Since before Confederation, hydroelectricity has helped fuel the development of Ontario as Hydroelectricity was the first source of electricity in Ontario and is a renewable source of electricity. Hydroelectricity requires no chemicals or heat in the generation process and no water is consumed. No gaseous emissions such as carbon dioxide result from the plant operation. It is one of the most efficient forms of electricity generation. New stations can be designed to be more than 90 per cent efficient. In comparison, fossil fuel generation varies from 35 to 70 per cent efficiency and nuclear power at about 24 per cent efficiency.

The Drimmie Dam was constructed in the 19th century to control flow for operation of the adjoining mill, which is now the Elora Mill Inn. The dam has been owned by the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) since 1984 and in 1984 a micro-hydro generation station was constructed at the site to provide power to the Elora Mill Inn.

Through the Trees from the Little Folks Property

Bridge Into Elora From Little Folks Property

A dam safety assessment study was completed by Sanchez Engineering Inc. for the GRCA in 2008. The study confirmed that the dam was in poor condition and that there were several deficiencies associated with the dam’s stability. The results of the DSA study indicated that the existing dam required remedial measures or it should be removed.

The $1.2-million project that is currently underway is designed to replace the 112-year-old dam with a new concrete structure. It will sit slightly lower than the original, creating a shallower pond that will be just as wide as the current one. The lower profile of the new dam will allow more water to pass through the town and reduce the potential for flooding during periods of high flow. It will also feature a control gate that will provide an additional water management tool.

According to the GRCA during construction:

  • An access ramp will be built from the Little Folks property down to the river bed.

  • A section of the dam near the north side will be removed to allow water to continue to flow downstream during construction.

  • A water-filled coffer dam will be installed just upstream of the dam, to create a dry workspace around the southern half of the dam. The southern half of the old dam will be removed and replaced. The new section will also include a gate to control water levels.

  • The water-filled coffer dam will then be moved to the northern half of the dam. That section will be removed and replaced. Water will continue to flow downstream through the new gate on the southern end.

The cost of the project is being split three ways: The GRCA is paying about $400,000, the township of Centre Wellington is paying $200,000 and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is paying about $600,000 through its Water and Erosion Control Infrastructure Program.

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]