Apartments planned for former Breithaupt mansion site in Kitchener

KITCHENER — A downtown developer has plans to build a 112-unit apartment complex on vacant land that was once the site of W.H. Breithaupt’s mansion.

Vive Development Corp. is proposing to build a six-storey, 94-unit apartment building on land fronting Victoria Street North, and a 2 ½-storey 18-unit building on the site of the former mansion at 64 Margaret Ave.

The smaller building along Margaret Avenue would be built in a style reminiscent of the mansion that once stood there, said Vanessa Hicks, a heritage planner hired by Vive. The stucco and limestone building would be designed to look like a large home from the street and would have a roofline and tall, eight-paned windows reminiscent of those on the original Breithaupt mansion, which was demolished in 2003.

Hicks is also recommending the developer put up a plaque explaining the history of the site and the reasons the building is built in that architectural style.

“Someone walking by might easily recognize that building as an interpretation of what the original house would have looked like,” she said in a presentation this week to Kitchener’s heritage committee.

The larger building on Victoria is a more modern design. Four homes, from 217 to 229 Victoria St. N., will be demolished to make way for the six-storey building.

The development doesn’t require council approval or zoning changes, though it needs a minor variance. If all planning approvals go ahead, Vive hopes to start construction this fall or next spring, with occupancy about a year after construction starts, said Stephen Litt of Vive.

Vive has been involved in other rental developments, including the renovation of 48 Weber St. W. in Kitchener and 154 Erb St. E. in Waterloo. But this $30-million development is bigger than those projects, which were each around 40 units.

Vive decided to go with a design similar to the former mansion for the Margaret Avenue development, which, unlike the portion of the development along Victoria, is within the Civic Centre heritage district.

Margaret Avenue acts as a sort of gateway into the heritage district, Litt said. “There are a number of heritage properties nearby. … This is just more contextually appropriate, given the beautiful homes and the eclectic architecture.”

“I think it’s a good design,” said Coun. Paul Singh, who sits on the heritage committee. “It does set a good standard for the other development that will take place in the neighbourhood.”

The Margaret Avenue site has a rich history, though there is little trace of that now. The mansion was built by prominent industrialist and engineer W.H. Breithaupt, who lived there until he died in 1944.

Breithaupt, an engineer, was involved in his family’s business concerns, such as the Berlin and Waterloo Railway and the Berlin Gas Works. He was active in civic life, and was the first chair of the city’s planning commission and first president of the Waterloo Historical Society. He helped secure Carnegie Foundation funds for the city’s library and was instrumental in getting the Pioneers’ Memorial Tower built.

The Vive development is just up the street from a stretch of vacant land at 30 Margaret Ave. that has sat empty since 1988, when a number of stately homes, including two mansions built by the Kaufman family, were demolished. A plan to build two six-storey condominiums was advanced in 2013, but has since been put on hold. , Twitter: @ThompsonRecord