The “Tannery Project” has a long history and this needs to be understood before going further. There is a lot of misunderstanding about both its scope and practicality – but at the next Committee of the Whole (CoW) Council meeting, Rob Franklin, Manager of Long Range Planning, will ask council to give final approval for an enabling By-Law. If passed, the Official Plan and Zoning will then be modified to enable the Master Plan for the Area. The first thing to know is that the Master Plan covers an area much larger than just the vacant Tannery land; secondly, there is still pollution on the property and thirdly, there is no indication that any developer is interested in creating the Master Plan’s vision of a sustainable development – which supposedly includes affordable housing.
But first, let’s look at the history of the property (see Resources for sources of this info):
History of Tannery Land
- Originally site of Crossen Car works – a very successful factory used to manufacture railway carriages in the 1800’s. Details here at Cobourg History site.
- The Crossen factory closed in 1915, and Dominion Wheel & Foundries Limited took over just two years later. A tannery was first established on the Alice Street property in 1926.
- The plant was abandoned in 1988 and the building demolished in 2007. The Town held two tax sales – most recently in 2012 – but they failed (no-one was interested. No details were ever released – the grapevine tells me offers were received but not accepted).
- Environmental assessments revealed contamination consistent with operation of the Tannery. The only good news was that “Interpretation of these results indicate that the contamination on the site is stable and slowly dissipating”.
- In 2009, a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) was prepared for the area and “the Town held a design charrette to explore planning and design features to maximize the environmental sustainability of future development within the Tannery Site”.
- The Town took ownership of the property in July 2014 and issued an RFP for development but there was no interest.
- In 2015 Council asked staff to prepare a Secondary Plan for the Area.
- In March 2018, a master plan was presented to the Public. This covered an expanded Area.
- There were public meetings on the project in 2017, 2018 and 2021.
The Master Plan focused on creating a sustainable community which “envisions the Tannery District as a unique, healthy, vibrant and sustainable neighbourhood that promotes innovative development typologies and encourages diverse economic development opportunities.”
At the public meeting in 2021, we were told that the plan would be implemented in phases with the first phase limited to the Town-owned land. This would be a housing development with some “park” area and a goal of 25% “affordable”.
The image here is “the Demonstration or Concept Plan for one possible scenario for how development might occur.”
If it happens it would be a model community. The Town says: “The Tannery District can become a showcase for Cobourg as a sustainable, transit-oriented mixed-use community and employment node that prioritizes the reduction of environmental impact, increases cultural and social connectivity and the creation of economic opportunities for the community and the region.”
Since 2021, the project has been on hold but now, the final master Plan is published and Council is being asked to approve enabling changes to the Official Plan and Zoning. Although the area covers from the Railway line to University, and George to Ball/Victoria Streets, there is no plan to ask or even encourage existing businesses to close – the planned Spring Street extension would go right through the GM Dealership on University. So it really is a LONG RANGE plan – only when businesses want to re-sell their property, would it come into effect; the new owner would be bound by this plan.
Meanwhile, the vacant land stands undeveloped with no interest from developers – probably because of the contamination. Don’t hold your breath waiting for affordable housing to be built here.
Articles and information on Cobourg News Blog
- Memo from previous CAO (Steven Peacock) re project History – includes some detail on contamination. Dated February 2015. PDF
- Tannery Master Plan Public Meeting – 30 March 2018
- Tannery Master Plan Once again before Council – 22 August 2021
- Tannery District Public Meeting November 2021 – 30 November 2021
- Cobourg Museum – Tannery – pdf
- Brownfield Research Lab – May 2021 – pdf
- Northumberland News re 2009 Charette – 25 June 2009
On Town Web site
The Town’s web site is currently really bad (many broken links, information missing, poor navigation, no search) although one section is good: the escribe pages with council meeting info. But surprise! Last I checked, these links worked:
- Town web site page for Tannery District Master Plan
- Tannery Community Improvement Plan – Enables subsidies from the Town for this project – dated 2009 – PDF.