Proposed Rockwood plaza in limbo; awaiting MTO approval

Excerpt from Wellington Advertiser’s Oct. 14, 2016
By: Jaime Myslik

ROCKWOOD – Despite recent changes to the property surrounding the Esso station on Alma Street (Highway 7) here, the owner says plans are still in limbo.

“There’s been a lot of speculation out there regarding the tenants,” said Robert Eilers, president and director of Vesterra Property Management Inc.

“There’s people who claim to know that Tim Hortons is coming, that a Sobeys is coming or a Giant Tiger is coming …

“And all I can say … is that we have talked to pretty much everybody out there and there is a significant interest … to come to Rockwood…”

However, Eilers explained the property is “on a public highway,” which means any changes are subject to   (Ministry of Transportation) MTO approval.

“Until we know … the MTO stance on it we don’t have a time frame – and as long as we don’t have a time frame we can’t even talk to anyone and move to anything above and beyond … expressions of interest,” he told the Advertiser.

The company, which  owns properties from 210 to 250 Alma St., as well as 204 Alma St., has submitted preliminary traffic studies and site plans to the MTO and is awaiting feedback.

“Anything that gets built along a provincial highway requires permits and approval from the MTO,” Eilers explained.

In terms of the Wellington County Official Plan and Guelph-Eramosa Township zoning, the site is ready for development.

“Simply what we need to do is we need to get MTO approval and then we have to go through a site plan application process,” Eilers said.

The entire property is 18,234 square metres (4.5 acres) Eilers explained.

Though the original plan in 2007 was to put in a Tim Hortons, that deal was too expensive and Vesterra Property Management Inc. is now looking for a grocery store to occupy one building in the proposed plaza, ranging between  7,620  and 9,144m2 and (25,000 to 30,000 square feet).

The site could also hold a 4,572m2 (15,000 sq.ft.) two-storey commercial building and two pad buildings about 914m2 (3,000 sq.ft,) in size.

Eilers said the plaza would benefit the entire community by providing a large grocery store.

“If this whole thing works, we’re looking at anywhere between 350 and 450 jobs,” he said.

“Think about the youth, think about the kids in Rockwood.

“I think this is something that’s going to support all the other business in Rockwood.”

While Eilers said it was too early in the process to discuss specifics, he did indicate the new plaza would likely have an environmental focus.

“What our plans currently foresee is a lot of green areas in there, especially in the front of the property,” he said.

“Typically … we put solar panels on the roofs, we put in rain water harvesting, which basically means we run all our toilets and sprinkler system off rain water.”

The company is also considering electric car charging stations.

“We’re going to make sure that this is going to be very, very green-orientated,” he said.

Before any construction can begin, structures currently on the sites need to be demolished, including houses at 204, 210, 216, 222 and 250 Alma St.

“Of those houses three are currently empty and the other two are occupied,” Eilers said.

Though all the houses will be removed eventually if the development moves forward the tenants in 210 and 216 are not affected at this time. However, in the near future the three empty houses will be demolished.

The company has donated the three empty buildings to the fire department for training exercises in October and November.

“So every Monday night from what I understand they will be conducting training exercises on the three houses,” Eilers said. “When the fire department is done with them then we’ll be taking down those buildings.”

The fire department will have access to a one-storey building at 204 Alma St., an apartment building at 222 Alma St., and a two-storey building at 250 Alma St.

“It comes back to doing the right thing for the community and I know this much, I’d rather give them the opportunity in these buildings because if my house burns down, I know they’ll be trained,” he said.

Eilers also stressed demolishing the houses “does not mean that we are any closer to this development.”

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