CRA makes bid for business park

The biggest battle in Contestoga-Rovers’ plans for a new head office building will be getting Woolwich councillors to cross the line – the countryside line.

The consulting firm this week unveiled an ambitious plan to develop a business park near the intersection of King and Bridge streets, encompassing what is now much of the Kuntz gravel pit. The big hitch? The development would overstep the hard boundary between the City of Waterloo’s urban space on one side of Bridge Street and the protected rural area that is Woolwich’s territory on the other.

news1In a presentation to township council Monday night, senior partner Jim Kay said Conestoga-Rovers and Associates (CRA) wants to consolidate its six Waterloo locations into one new head office to house its 500 local employees. Some 107 acres of land would be developed as a potential high-tech business park that, once built out, could provide employment to thousands of workers and deliver more than $800,000 a year in tax revenue to Woolwich coffers.

The location – close to services from Waterloo, the expressway and Waterloo Region’s proposed new transit corridor – makes the land ideally suited to development, he argued, adding there would be few infrastructure demands on the township because of the proximity to Waterloo.

Woolwich, however, has historically taken a hard line on boundary issues. Councillors showed little appetite for the CRA plan, though put off formal discussion until planning staff has had time to review the plan.

While calling it a “very tempting proposal,” Coun. Mark Bauman said the company should be encouraged to look elsewhere in the township for its new office space.

“Moving the countryside line along Martin’s Creek, toward the north part of their property, if we were to do that, I think we would need to put a revolving door onto the planning department because there are numerous properties that back onto Martin’s Creek … and I’m sure there would be great proposals that would come in for those properties,” he said, anticipating a slew of other bids for exemptions from the hard boundary currently in place.

In a later interview, Kay said the idea has in fact met with a “mixed” reception from planners at Waterloo Region, the township and City of Waterloo. But given how well the plan fits the development model, an exception should be granted.

“Times and circumstances have changed,” he said of the countryside line. “We’re hoping that common sense would prevail at the end of the day.”
The company has spent two years looking for a suitable spot, to no avail. It requires 15 to 20 acres, but Kay said there is a dwindling supply of industrial land in Waterloo, and what’s available isn’t suitable or is just too cost prohibitive.

The plan would be to build 150,000 square feet of office space to allow for consolidation at one site; CRA employees currently occupy about 125,000 square feet in six different locations.

By building on the Woolwich site, CRA would keep to its local roots, having started in Waterloo. Today, the company has 2,900 employees worldwide.

But if the project was ever to be considered, it would be as part of a comprehensive review of all such boundary issues, director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley told the Observer.

“We don’t want to do anything on a one-off basis,” he said, noting the township has been adamant in its support for the separation of urban and rural spaces.

“Council has been clear that we support the countryside line, a hard urban boundary. We don’t see a lot of reasons for changing things just because of the CRA request.”

Planning staff will study the proposal before coming back to council with a report at a later date. The CRA bid is also likely to be discussed at the region as it deliberates the final draft of its new official plan.

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  1. Brenda,

    From what I understand this is not a housing issue. Nor is it about Orangeville.

    It’s about about the Conestoga Rovers(CRA), a company, that provides engineering and ‘environmental’ consulting to bigger more aggressive companies. Companies that have been trying for years to develop that land.

    If the CRA can get a toehold in the country line, these other companies will quickly be able to follow suit. Then in an eel like fashion they will slide all over our rural farmlands. Forcing the agricultural population to move because it really is impossible to run even a small dairy farm when you’re surrounded by four lane highways.

    The CRA can despite their whinging easily adapt their ‘headquarter’ plans to re-develop in urban areas that ARE available. The cost effectiveness that they mention should not include the clients bonuses from companies that are packing their bags preparing for further development once the country line has been crossed by the pioneering rovers.

    How many 10 floor or higher buildings can you name in KW?

    You are right in one thing Brenda. The buildings that ARE going up up up (10 or more floors) are all apartment buildings, while the corporations in the area are more inclined to sprawl (have you visited the RIM infrastructures recently?) We need to re develop the inner city with our juggernaut corporations not bulldoze the agri-population.

    We have a lot of local power heads we should be very proud of.. but they should stand tall at the heart of the city and stop laying about on the fringes.

    It’s far too important to me to have locally grown produce available to me in the grocery stores and farmers markets than have unripened “fresh” produce imported from away.

    To maintain these vital productions and really support the backbone of what is Waterloo Region we need to protect our farmland and it’s custodians.

    It’s the difference between paving all of paradise for a parking lot or paving a corner of it for a 10 story parking garage.

    (no I don’t wear birkenstocks nor eat granola as often as I should)

  2. Kim… do u live in a condo? If so, what right do you have to force people to live your way … and if you dont and live in a house then you’re one big hyprocrite…although brownfield development needs to happen not everyone wants to live in condos… although this is industrial the region needs to make sure it has enough land for housing … plus we need to spread the growth out to Orangeville etc

  3. Pah.
    Conestoga Rovers indeed.

    I hope the planning staff can nip the roving Rovers in the bud before they rove too far and the countryside line needs to be renamed urban line.

    The CRA’s environmental footprint is getting far too big for it’s socks if you ask me. And it’s time they learned to wipe their feet on the mat at the door instead of tromping all over the rural rim.

    How can they justify building OUT. When the inner core of KW is in dire need of building UP.

    It would be far more responsible simply to regenerate what you’ve already destroyed instead of stretching out and shoving the rural areas around with your “cost prohibitive” nonsense. That’s a whole bucket load of bull pucky if you ask me.

    *goes off to hug a tree*

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