East end Kitch­ener show­ing signs of re­newal

Ion stops at Mar­ket and Bor­den make area more at­trac­tive

Waterloo Region Record - - Local - CATHER­INE THOMP­SON cthomp­son@there­cord.com Twit­ter: @Thomp­sonRecord

KITCH­ENER — The east end of down­town Kitch­ener is see­ing the first signs of what could be a re­nais­sance, as de­vel­op­ers be­gin buy­ing up land and ap­ply­ing to de­velop what has been an un­der­de­vel­oped area of the city.

While much of the ear­li­est flurry of down­town re­de­vel­op­ment took place in the west end, cen­tred around the Tan­nery district and Vic­to­ria Street, there’s a sense of re­newed in­ter­est in the stretch of King Street East from Cedar Street to Ot­tawa, said Hi­lary Abel, the city’s man­ager of down­town de­vel­op­ment.

“I think it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing,” Abel said. “We are start­ing to see more (de­vel­op­ment) in the east end, and in Mid­town,” as avail­able land in Up­Town Water­loo and down­town Kitch­ener be­comes more scarce. Ob­vi­ously Ion and the im­pact of two LRT stops, Mar­ket and Bor­den, make it an at­trac­tive place to live in or to work, be­cause you can get there a lot more eas­ily,” she said. “In com­bi­na­tion with that, there is avail­able land.”

As well, ac­cess to the Con­estoga Park­way and the 401 are an easy drive down King Street.

The city and the down­town busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion held a work­shop ear­lier this week to hear from res­i­dents and busi­nesses about what they would like to see hap­pen in the area as it trans­forms.

“We had an­tic­i­pated get­ting about 50 peo­ple out, and we got over 100,” Abel said.

Peo­ple are pleased that growth could bring new busi­nesses and more cus­tomers for ex­ist­ing busi­nesses, Abel said. They also high­lighted the area’s as­sets: its walk­a­bil­ity, its ac­cess to nearby schools, green space and the Iron Horse Trail, the Kitch­ener mar­ket and its di­verse restau­rants and busi­nesses.

But the area is also seen as ripe for re­newal. Many prop­er­ties along King Street are va­cant or un­derused, and some busi­nesses, such as used-car lots and auto re­pair shops, do lit­tle to en­liven the street and aren’t invit­ing for pedes­tri­ans, ac­cord­ing to re­cent plan­ning stud­ies fo­cused on de­vel­op­ment near the LRT.

Ja­nine Ooster­veld, Kitch­ener’s man­ager of site de­vel­op­ment, said de­vel­op­ment in­ter­est is grad­u­ally creep­ing east­ward from down­town, but re­newal and in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion along King Street will take years to un­fold.

“The projects we’re see­ing now are close to the down­town,” she said. “There are def­i­nite op­por­tu­ni­ties along that cor­ri­dor avail­able. It’s go­ing to take some time.”

A num­ber of projects are in the works in the east end:

• Drewlo Hold­ings of Lon­don, Ont., is plan­ning an $80-mil­lion de­vel­op­ment in the block bounded by King, Charles and Cameron streets and Madi­son Av­enue. The project in­cludes two tow­ers of 19 and 23 storeys, with re­tail at street level and 488 rental units, in­clud­ing up to 10 af­ford­able hous­ing units.

• A $19-mil­lion project at 387 King St. E. would add an eight­storey build­ing with 60 res­i­den­tial units, and a two-storey build­ing with a gro­cery store at street level and of­fices above.

• Across the street at 388-400 King St. E., Vive De­vel­op­ment has plans to tear down two homes that have been con­verted to busi­nesses, and build a seven-storey, 72-unit apart­ment build­ing. In a re­port to the city’s com­mit­tee of ad­just­ment, city plan­ners said the pro­posal “will al­low re­de­vel­op­ment of a prop­erty that is run­down with new, mixed-use tran­sit-ori­ented, pedes­trian-friendly de­vel­op­ment that will help achieve the city’s ob­jec­tives for the cen­tral tran­sit cor­ri­dor.”

• An­other ma­jor project is in the works a bit fur­ther down King Street. Vive has been buy­ing up prop­erty in the block bounded by King, Ot­tawa and Charles streets and Bor­den Av­enue, and now owns close to two acres in the block, where it hopes to build 500 or more rental units, Stephen Litt, a prin­ci­pal at Vive said.

The de­vel­op­ment is in the early stages, but it will likely be built in phases over the next sev­eral years, Litt said. It could in­clude a gro­cery store as well as hun­dreds of apart­ments priced in the midrange. He sees the site as hav­ing great po­ten­tial as a gate­way to the down­town.

“It’s not very pleas­ant right now,” he said. “We hope to do some­thing mar­vel­lous there.”

Vive sees a big mar­ket for midrange ren­tals aimed at house­holds with in­comes of $70,000 or less, Litt said.

“Ev­ery­thing you see go­ing up right now is high-end con­dos. We see rental as be­ing an ab­so­lute crit­i­cal need,” he said.

Abel agrees res­i­dents are keen to see the area re­main ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple of all in­comes: “It’s im­por­tant to have that mix.

Signs of change are al­ready start­ing: Drewlo has cleared its site, while the re­gion has torn down sev­eral build­ings along Ot­tawa Street, be­tween King and Charles, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of work to re­pair and up­grade Ot­tawa in 2019-2020. The de­mo­li­tions have left a tat­too par­lour in a small is­land sur­rounded by va­cant lots.

MATHEW MCCARTHY WATER­LOO RE­GION RECORD

The Ex­otic Skin Tat­too Shop sits alone in front of an empty lot on King Street at Ot­tawa Street in east Kitch­ener, where more de­vel­op­ment projects are fast ap­proach­ing, as land else­where in the city and Water­loo dwin­dles.

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