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Guelph’s Baker District Canada’s second One Planet Living site

Windmill Developments and the City of Guelph have received One Planet Living endorsement for the...

IMAGE: The Baker District in Guelph will be a joint venture between Windmill Developments and the City of Guelph. (Courtesy Windmill)

The Baker District in Guelph will be a joint venture between Windmill Developments and the City of Guelph. (Courtesy Windmill)

Windmill Developments and the City of Guelph have received One Planet Living endorsement for the city’s downtown Baker District development. It is the second project in Canada to receive such an endorsement, and the third in North America.

The One Planet Living Framework was created by Bioregional, a U.K.-based non-profit organization “which promotes a better and more sustainable way to live” according to the announcement.

One Planet Living recognizes the negative environmental and social impacts stemming from the way cities are designed, built and utilized. It encourages developers to minimize those impacts through sustainability and wellness practices throughout the development and occupancy cycles.

Baker District is a mixed-use development which will transform a downtown parking lot into a environmentally-conscious community anchored by a central public library.

“Baker District strongly aligns with the city’s aspirations, with an acute focus on zero carbon, sustainable food production and sustainable transportation,” said Alex Speigel, a partner with Windmill Developments, in the release. “Following in Guelph’s green tradition, the transformative redevelopment of the Baker District will be a model of urban intensification, showcasing sustainability and civic participation in an effort to reshape Guelph’s downtown.”

Baker District a mixed-use development

Anchored by the new central library designed by Diamond Schmitt architects, Baker District will include residential, commercial and institutional space and public parking, plus a series of public spaces by DTAH.

“We’re really impressed with Windmill’s leadership in making sustainability a priority for the Baker District redevelopment here in Guelph,” said Kealy Dedman, deputy CAO at the City of Guelph, in the release. “Sustainability was a critical factor in identifying the right developer to make this landmark city-building project come to life, and the One Planet Living Principles will help us deliver on the city’s strategic priorities as well as those of our community.”

Part of the funding for the development will be provided by The One Planet Living Fund, a newly launched partnership between Windmill and Epic Investments. No other financial details were released.

Windmill is no stranger to One Planet Living, nor to sustainability initiatives. The Ottawa-based company initiated the massive $1.5 to $2 billion Zibi development on the Ottawa River in Ottawa and Gatineau, which was the first project in Canada to earn the One Planet Living designation.

Windmill is no longer directly involved at Zibi, though former executive Jeff Westeinde’s company Theia Partners remains a minority owner, with Dream Unlimited now leading that development.

One Planet Action Plan created

At Baker District, Bioregional verified the outcomes, targets, and strategies included in the partners’ One Planet Action Plan, which will guide the development toward becoming one of the world’s most sustainable communities.

“We are impressed by the commitment to revitalizing a brownfield location to create a community where sustainable living is the norm and nature can thrive. Its approach to transport and food is especially impressive,” said Ben Gill of Bioregional in the release. “There are some areas that require further detail before construction begins in 2021, including its approach to embodied carbon and how it will achieve a community engaged with sustainability.

“But with a clear commitment to develop these strategies in timely fashion, we’re confident that Baker District will be an exemplar for achieving One Planet Living in a smaller city.”

One Planet Living encourages projects to consider sustainability from a triple bottom line perspective – people, planet and prosperity. It applies across all project phases; design, construction, operation and community living.

Guelph pledged to become net-zero carbon

Baker District is a key aspect of the City of Guelph’s goal of becoming a net-zero carbon city by 2050. It’s first development of its kind in Canada to use ecological footprinting to minimize the overall impact of the project.

“By understanding the ecological footprint of Guelph, we can better determine what it takes for residents of the Baker District to truly achieve One Planet lifestyles,” said Jenny McMinn, managing director of Urban Equation, which helped formulate Baker’s One Planet Action Plan. “It’s how we ended up with a focus on local and sustainable food as one of our priority principles for Baker District.”

This aligns with Guelph’s smart city initiative, Our Food Future, which seeks to create the first circular food economy in Canada. The project will leverage local resources to make the Baker District a hub for urban agriculture and food responsibility.

To meet the specific targets under each principle in the framework, Windmill has identified performance requirements for the design of Baker District once the Urban Design Master Plan is approved.

Windmill Developments was selected by the city in 2018 to lead the Baker District project. Windmill will own and develop the residential and commercial components of the project and partner with the city on the public components.

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