Galt Core Heritage Conservation District Project

Project overview

On July 28, 2020, Council initiated a Heritage Conservation District Study for the Galt Core Area in the City of Cambridge. This page is intended to provide information about the ongoing study process, highlight opportunities to get involved, and serve as a resource on heritage conservation districts. Updates will be posted to this web page throughout the duration of the project. To receive an email when an update is posted, click subscribe at the bottom of the page.

Heritage Conservation Districts (HCDs) are areas protected by a by-law passed under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act. HCDs are usually groups of buildings or structures, such as neighbourhoods, which have a unique historic character. District designations are put in place to help conserve and enhance historic areas, guide future development so that it has a positive impact on local areas, and help maintain a sense of place and pride in our unique communities.

There are two phases of work required to designate an HCD in Ontario. The first is a heritage conservation district study phase which examines the history and character of the area and its buildings and structures. The study makes recommendations as to whether the area should be designated as a district and what its boundaries should be. If the study recommends designating the area as a district, the second step is a heritage conservation district plan. The plan is developed, in consultation with the local community, and includes policies policies for conserving and enhancing the district's character.

The Galt Core Heritage Conservation District project is currently in the plan phase.


  • Galt City Centre has been identified as an area with heritage significance within the City of Cambridge since at least the 1980s. In 1985, the Main Street Heritage Conservation District was designated, recognizing the significance of a block of commercial buildings on the south side of Main Street between Ainslie and Water Streets.
  • In 2008, The City of Cambridge Heritage Master Plan recognized Galt City Centre as a heritage “character area” and recommended further evaluation.

  • In 2013, the City adopted Downtown Urban Design Guidelines which recommended that the existing Main Street Heritage Conservation district be expanded to encompass a greater area. Main Street Urban Design Guidelines that recognized the special heritage character of Galt City Centre were also adopted at this time.

  • Through 2018, consultation was conducted to determine public support of a potential Heritage Conservation District Study for Galt City Centre and to establish study area boundaries. This consultation indicated public support for a Heritage Conservation District Study.

  • On October 9, 2018 The City of Cambridge Planning and Development Committee approved the commencement of the Galt Heritage Conservation District Study in 2020 subject to future capital budget approval.

  • On 28 July 2020, Cambridge City Council directed staff to begin the Galt Core Heritage Conservation District Study and conduct it concurrently with the Galt Core Area Urban Design Height Guidelines, Growth and Intensification Study, and city-wide zoning bylaw review to prepare an updated, coordinated planning framework for the Galt Core Area.

  • The Galt Core Heritage Conservation District Study was completed in July 2021.
  • On October 5, 2021 Council endorsed the Galt Core Heritage Conservation District Study and approved work to begin on a Heritage Conservation District Plan.


Heritage Conservation District Process

Designating a heritage conservation district under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act requires two phases of work, a heritage conservation district study and a heritage conservation district plan. 

Heritage Conservation District Study

A heritage conservation district study involves detailed research of an area to understand whether it holds heritage significance, and what makes it significant. This process includes:

  • Conducting historical research to uncover historic themes and events that have shaped the area over time;
  • A property survey evaluating the area’s architecture, distinctive property features, views, streetscapes, and topography;
  • Evaluation of the existing policy framework and heritage protection for the district;
  • Public consultation sessions to receive input from the community about why the area is significant to them.

The study must use this information to make key recommendations including:

  • Whether the area holds enough significance to be designated as a Heritage Conservation District;
  • A draft statement of significance explaining why the district is significant;
  • A draft district boundary; and,
  • Draft objectives for a Heritage Conservation District Plan.

The study is then presented to the municipal Council to decide if a Heritage Conservation District Plan should be prepared. 

Heritage Conservation District Plan 

A heritage conservation district plan is prepared to help manage change in the district to ensure that the district’s significance is conserved and enhanced. The plan must contain:

  • A statement of objectives to be achieved in the designation of the area as a heritage conservation district;
  • A statement of the district’s cultural heritage value or interest;
  • A description of the district’s heritage attributes and those of properties within the district;
  • Policy statements, guidelines, and procedures for achieving the stated objectives and managing future changes;
  • Description of alterations that are minor in nature that an owner can carry out without obtaining a permit.

The plan will be designed to conserve and enhance the value that was identified by the heritage conservation district study. Draft policies and guidelines are refined through public consultation. 

When a Heritage Conservation District Plan is complete, a statutory public meeting is held at which the public can provide comments on or objections to the plan. 

Council may then pass a designation by-law under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act which puts the plan into force.


The Heritage Conservation District Project will be divided into two Phases: A Study Phase (Phase 1) and a Plan Phase (Phase 2). 

The Study Phase was completed in Summer 2021 and City Council directed staff to begin preparing a Heritage Conservation District Plan for on October 5, 2021. The Plan Phase is scheduled to be completed by summer 2022. 

The purpose of the Plan Phase is to create a document outlining objectives and detailed guidelines to help promote development that conserves the heritage values identified during the Study Phase. 

Progress to date 

  • The Galt Core Heritage Conservation District project was initiated in July 2020
  • Consultants, ASI, Fotenn Planning and Design, and Stevens Burgess Architects were retained in January 2021 to undertake the Study and, if approved, prepare a Heritage Conservation District plan.
  • The Heritage Conservation District Study was completed in June 2021 and was endorsed by City Council on October 5, 2021. The Study recommended that Council prepare a Heritage Conservation District Plan for Galt Core.

Upcoming work

  • The Project Team is undertaking consultation and preparing draft policies for the Galt Core Heritage Conservation District Plan.

Study area

The area that was evaluated as part of the the Galt Core Heritage Conservation District Study included all of the lands east of the Grand River, south of Park Hill Road, west of Wellington Street and north of Concession Street. After being evaluated, the authors of the study recommended a revised boundary for the proposed district that excluded the lands north east of the intersection of Ainslie Street and Thorne Street, and those south east of the intersection of Water Street and Thorne Street. The recommended district boundary and the original study area boundary are mapped below. This boundary was chosen because The recommended boundary outlined below was chosen because it includes an expression of:

  • Key portions of the river valley edges;
  • A cohesive collection and grouping of the area’s civic, institutional, industrial, religious and residential buildings, landscape features, structures, and streetscapes that together tell the story of Galt’s early nineteenth-century development, later growth and community solidification in the early twentieth century as a picturesque community, regional hub in Waterloo County, and important industrial centre on the Grand River corridor and Grand Trunk Railway network.
  • An excellent combination of features that together establish an important setting for the downtown through its inclusion of landmark buildings, exceptionally high quality and unique stone masonry structures, open spaces and public squares, streetscapes, long-range views, and circulation networks.




Current Engagement Opportunities

Get involved

Public engagement is an important part of the designation of a heritage conservation district because it helps ensure that the heritage conservation district plan reflects what the community values about its heritage. You are encouraged to get involved in the plan process.

Please be aware that in an effort to continue physical distancing and keep our community safe, we will be holding many of our community engagement activities online. If you are not able to access online materials, please contact us for alternate formats. Information about our public engagement sessions, resources, surveys and more will be posted below for you to access. Check back often as this page will be updated regularly as the plan progresses.

We will conduct Public Information Centres throughout the plan process. All residents, property owners, business owners, developers, and any other interested parties are invited to attend and participate in open houses to ask questions, share information, and provide feedback on the study. Public Information Centres are your opportunity to help shape the future development of your area. Information about the time, date, and location of public meetings will be posted here as they are scheduled.

Galt Core Heritage Conservation District Plan Open House #3

On October 5, 2021, Cambridge City Council endorsed the findings of the Galt Core HCD Study and directed staff to begin preparing an HCD Plan for the Galt Core Area with the assistance of ASI in collaboration with Fotenn Planning and Design and Stevens Burgess Architects. Public meetings were held in January 2022 and April 2022 to share in-progress work completed as part of the HCD Plan phase and to receive input and feedback from the public on draft Plan objectives and sample policies and guidelines. An on-line survey was hosted by the City in April 2022 to receive specific feedback and input on potential heritage permit processes to be integrated into the HCD Plan. A draft HCD Plan has now been compiled and the City is seeking feedback from the public, property owners, and other stakeholders as part of this Open House. Once the HCD Plan is finalized, Council will vote on whether or not to designate the district under the Ontario Heritage Act and put the plan into force.

The purpose of an HCD Plan is to provide policies and guidelines to help manage change in the area and to ensure that its heritage values is conserved and enhanced. The policies and guidelines will be developed based upon the findings of the HCD Study, public input, and the existing and future land-use planning context and associated guidelines and policies. Please note that the recommended boundary for the HCD was determined based on work conducted as part of the HCD Study phase. The recommended boundary is smaller than the study area which was assessed during the Study phase (see included boundary map).