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Demolition of Alma Street houses a step towards commercial development

Demolition crew - Demolition has started on four of five houses on Alma Street in Rockwood to make way for a proposed commercial development.  Photos by Jaime Myslik

Demolition of Alma Street houses a step towards commercial development

by Jaime Myslik

ROCKWOOD - Two new drive-thru style restaurants could soon be in Rockwood.

Last week Vesterra Property Management Inc. started demolishing the houses from 204 to 250 Alma Street, opening space for a proposed new commercial development.

President and director of Vesterra Robert Eilers told the Advertiser there are five buildings planned for the Alma Street site.

Two of the buildings will be drive-thru-style restaurants, one a grocery store, another a two-storey building with retail space on the ground floor and office space above, and the last will be a pad-style building that Eilers said could be a restaurant.

He estimates the new plaza could offer between 350 and 450 ongoing jobs.

“We have multiple letters of intent for each one of those buildings so we’re in a position where we can choose our tenants and we will choose whichever tenant, in our opinion, has the best combination,” Eilers said.

They’ll be looking for the best lease rates and what’s best for the community.

“We have a large number of other criteria,” he explained. “For example, we’re asking them to make proposals on sponsorship for local sports teams.”

He added the letters of intent also identify how many jobs the business will create, the hours of operation and what the environmental footprint will look like, to name a few criteria.  

However, the company requires numerous approvals before construction can begin, and even at that point Eilers said they may not have confirmed tenants.

“What we’re finding is a lot of commercial tenants want to be in Rockwood because they see the population and they see the growth of Rockwood,” he said.  

“This is the only site in all of Rockwood where you can do anything of this size anyways.

“So either they get into the site or they just don’t open up in Rockwood and that’s nice for us because ... we’re not looking for tenants, we’re not begging for tenants; it’s more they’re coming to us and asking to be on the site.”

The first approval Vesterra is looking for is the Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) site alteration permit. Once it’s received the company can modify the site and build a retaining wall, level the property with fill soil and prepare for construction.

“The MTO just looks at it, makes sure that everything’s okay and that it doesn’t impact them,” Eilers said.

Included in the site modification will be the former Division Street road allowance, which Vesterra bought from Guelph-Eramosa Township in December.

The stretch runs from behind 250 Alma to Inkerman Street, parallel to Alma Street.

“The road allowance [is] typically 66 feet wide and so it allows us to go back another 66 feet along the entire back edge of the property,” Eilers said. “And it gives us access to Inkerman Street.”

Vesterra is also obtaining a highway access permit.

“We know exactly what [MTO] want from us so now we just start doing engineering,” he said.

The plaza is designed with two entrances; one from Pasmore Street and the other  off Inkerman Street onto the former Division Street allowance.

At the municipal level Eilers said the company is aiming to begin the formal Guelph-Eramosa site plan approval process in the next few weeks.  

However, the first requirement was removing the Alma Street homes. While four of the five houses between 204 and 250 Alma will be demolished as soon as possible, Eilers said they’re saving 210 Alma until it is absolutely necessary to remove it, as a tenant is living in the home while he builds another.  

“I’m not going to kick him out just out of principle,” Eilers said.

For plaza construction Eilers said the company will use the most environmentally friendly methods possible. For example, there will likely be solar power, electric car charging stations and rain water harvesting for toilets and fire sprinklers.

“Not everyone is going to be ... positive (about the development), obviously,” Eilers said.

“Some people are going to be against this but I think overall ... we are trying to do the right thing and we are trying to do it in a positive way for the community.”     

March 17, 2017


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