Kitchener sees banner year in growth and development in 2021
Single highrises, multi tower complexes and infill projects were all part of the city’s housing boom
By Liz Monteiro Record Reporter
KITCHENER — Two words that could easily describe Kitchener in 2021 are growth and development.
It was a banner year in development proposals before City of Kitchener planners — from proposed highrise towers along the light rail transit corridor, to infill projects in neighbourhoods and multi-tower developments around the core and along major roadways.
Some of those development proposals are expected to come before city councillors in 2022 where formal approval is needed to get work started.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said the region is a desirable place to live and work.
“What will be important as we continue to see that growth is that it happens where we ensure we are an inclusive community and opportunities for everyone so no one is left behind,” he said in an interview Sunday.
Vrbanovic said the pandemic also saw more people moving from large urban centres to cities like Kitchener.
“Economically, the region has done very well and resulted in us being one of the most sought-after areas to live in the province,” he said.
This past year also saw the city approve a new bylaw for additional housing units in April. The bylaw allowing tiny homes bylaw is the first in the region.
Rules for backyard homes include minimum width sizes, setback requirements and a building height of 1.5 storeys. The house must not exceed more than half the size of the main house on the property.
The building growth is expected to change the city, dotting the downtown with sky-high towers. Some residents feel the lightning speed pace of intensification will negatively impact their neighbourhoods with added traffic and higher density that they aren’t ready for.
But others say more development, from low-rise projects to high-density towers, will help address the lack of housing stock and relieve affordability issues. It will also reduce dependency on cars.
The growth can also be an attractive market for speculators to invest, especially in the many condos popping up in Kitchener.
Some say more care must be taken for what is lost in a building boom — housing for the “missing middle” such as townhomes, triplexes in established neighbourhoods and housing for those with low incomes.
The tower projects often feature one and two-bedroom units which can’t accommodate bigger families or families who need assistance with housing.
The following is a partial list of the some of the tower projects that came before city officials in 2021:
- A condo highrise — the region’s proposed tallest tower — is planned for Francis Street South and Charles Street West. The tower will stand at 44-storeys with 532 units.
- A 25-storey highrise at King and Pine streets across from Grand River Hospital. The rental tower is slated to have 231 units with a three-floor podium base with retail and office space.
- A development proposal expected to come before councillors in 2022 is Vive Development’s two 23-storey rental towers project on King Street East, on the former Schwaben Club property. It will have 616 units.
- A large-scale “campus-style” development with five buildings, three of them towers — one up to 26 floors — is being proposed for Lancaster Street West near Bridgeport Road.
- Another large development with a mid-rise building and two towers that came before city planners is proposed for King Street East and Sportsworld Drive in the southeast end of Kitchener near Highway 401. The towers will be 30 storeys and 18 storeys.
- Local developer Zehr Group is proposing two condo towers for the Crosby Volkswagen property on Weber Street East and Franklin Street North. The buildings are expected to be 15 and 18 storeys in height. The same developer is also behind an 11-storey highrise project in Belmont Village.
- Toronto-based Dov Capital Management Limited wants to build three towers at 25, 36, and 38 storeys at Park and Victoria streets. The project will have 1,150 units. Ground-floor commercial space is planned facing Victoria Street South.