As many readers are aware, the City of Orillia has recently entered into negotiations with a preferred proponent for the much-anticipated Waterfront Development project. The waterfront redevelopment is a truly transformational development, one that will shape the character of our City for generations to come. Sustainable Orillia is very supportive of the project as we believe it leverages one of Orillia’s greatest natural assets, our Lake Couchiching waterfront. This re-development has the potential to revitalize the waterfront as a community gathering place and presents a once in a generation opportunity to bring together the best thinking in urban and environmentally responsible design.
In accordance with City of Orillia’s municipal procurement best practices, the identity of the preferred proponent remains confidential at this time. It is anticipated the successful proponent will be announced by late summer 2021. Background information on the City’s process, next steps, and projected timelines can be found at www.orillia.ca/waterfront.
Since the inception of this project in 2016, the City has sought community input. Most recently, elements of the two finalist proposals were released for review and comments from the public. Sustainable Orillia took the opportunity to provide input and our submission was forwarded to the Mayor and Council for consideration as part of their recent and future deliberations. Sustainable Orillia’s view is that the waterfront project is a defining moment for development in our City on many levels. However, given the mandate and mission of our organization, the main focus in our submission was to provide comments on the sustainability aspects of the proposed development and where we believe it could be improved.
A committee was formed under the leadership of Sustainable Orillia’s President, Stan Mathewson, and a thorough review of the two available proposals was conducted. The review culminated in a comprehensive submission organized to follow the City’s Request for Proposal (RFP) principles line-by-line. Although the City’s RFP required proponents to satisfy 12 distinct principles; as advocates for sustainability, we focused on Principle # 3 of the RFP, which read: “Demonstrate a ‘green’ approach: The development is to be part of a sustainable development program which integrates principles of sustainability in building design and maintenance, landscaping, energy efficiency and site design.”
Our vision for this project is that it must support the City’s stated strategic goal of reducing our environmental footprint and position Orillia as a leading municipality in addressing climate change. And that in doing so, the City will establish a precedent for net-zero sustainability development for all future projects of this nature.
It is Sustainable Orillia’s position that, although one proponent made a stronger case for sustainability, neither proponent has yet to meet the requirements laid out in Principle 3 of the original RFP. Based on the information available and the lack of assurance that both proponents appear prepared to prioritize sustainable, net-zero building practices beyond the minimum required, Sustainable Orillia recommended the following in our submission:
• That the City prioritize and require a ‘demonstrated sustainable and green approach’ (Principle 3) in their selection of a final proponent.
• That Sustainable Orillia receive assurance that at the appropriate time in the process, there will be opportunities to review and provide further input on both the need to ensure a net-zero development and how it can be realized with respect to this impactful project.
As mentioned earlier, Sustainable Orillia is very supportive of the proposed development opportunity. We appreciate its potential to strengthen and showcase Orillia’s waterfront as an appealing gathering place for our community. The project comes at an critical moment in Orillia’s evolution when the City can bring together all the social, economic and environmental elements to create an innovative and sustainable blueprint for this and all future developments
Furthermore, we appreciated the opportunity to provide input. A great deal of effort went into informing that input and ensuring that it was relevant and practical for both City Council and City Officials to consider in their negotiations. In addition to the tireless Mr. Mathewson, the team included Tim Adamson, Fred Larsen, Michael Jones, Jackie Ramler, Gord Ball, Roy Menagh, Sree Kurissery, Sophie Mathewson, Danny Epstein, Dave VanAlstyne and Susanne Laperle. Special thanks to them all for their tireless work on this critical file. This team, plus all of our Sustainable Orillia members and associates, will continue to monitor this project closely. As the city moves forward with their negotiations with the preferred proponent, we anticipate opportunities to inform and influence the most sustainable outcome possible for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the destiny of, and raise the sustainable bar for, future Orillians.