Downtown Guelph is Full of Opportunity

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Downtown Guelph has no shortage of heritage buildings finding new life in a growing city.

“It’s a very entrepreneurial city. We have a strong and vibrant downtown already and it’s just getting better,” said Julia Grady, co-founder and executive director of 10 Carden Shared Space Inc., which will soon shift its operations into 42 Carden St., the former Acker’s Furniture.

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The four-storey property will offer shared work and event space for social enterprises. The purchase was financed through traditional funding and community bonds, which have raised $825,000.

“There is a magic about Guelph that is really hard to define. But volunteering and non-profits are a large part of that,” said Grady, who moved to Guelph 22 years ago.

Downtown Guelph is an impressive story, says Peter Whatmore, executive managing director for southwestern Ontario for commercial realtor CBRE. “There are not a lot of vacancies, it’s vibrant with restaurants and bars, and there is a robust condominium market there.”

No one need convince Kirk Roberts about what the Royal City has to offer. He’s a partner in Tyrcathlen Partners, which is now working on its fourth adaptive reuse project in the city. The 14,000-square-foot A.B. Petrie Building had been on Heritage Canada’s 2014 most endangered list. It’s considered the most complete remaining example of a stamped metal building in the country.

Soon, an ale house and Mediterranean restaurant will move into the ground floor and a bridal boutique will take up space upstairs. Three commercial suites remain available.

“So far, most of our tenants have chosen to start a business in Guelph or are relocating from another city,” said Roberts. The residential push, especially infill developments downtown, are creating both a more liveable city and a market for small businesses.

“It’s definitely a downtown in transition. There are a lot of opportunities to get in, maybe not on the ground floor, but certainly on the middle floor, for people with foresight.”

Digital marketing and tech company Inbox Marketer Corporation bought the former King Edward Hotel at 2 Wyndham St. It will allow the company to consolidate two locations in Guelph and allow for anticipated growth, says owner and CEO Geoff Linton.

“My vision is to create a hub to connect businesses looking for innovative ways to grow their business. The hotel was a real hub for community activity in Guelph. It was always a gathering space and we’re picking up on that history and vibe and creating something new out of it.”

The four-storey 1860s building has retail on the ground floor while the 17,000 square feet on the upper floors is tranforming into office space for Inbox Marketer’s 81 employees.

“Guelph is the perfect place for us to be,” said Linton, who co-founded the company 14 years ago. “It’s at the epicentre of a great innovation ecosystem along the Waterloo-Toronto corridor with a newly revitalized transportation hub across the street. The City’s commitment to building a vibrant and diverse downtown was a key consideration in our decision to purchase the property.”

Two other major downtown adaptive reuse projects underway are Budds department store, and the Guelph Mercury building. Both are owned by Guelph businessman Serge Moraca and both will be mixed-use developments.
“He is doing wonderful things for the downtown,” said realtor Ted Davis, broker of record and managing director of Avison Young. “These projects are changing the landscape.”