Waterloo OKs BarrelYards vision
Region's largest development project to create brand new town in centre of city
WATERLOO (Jun 26, 2007)
Waterloo council gave the green light to the $250-million BarrelYards project, paving the way for the largest development project in the region.
Councillors unanimously approved changes to zoning requirements that will allow London-based Auburn Developments to build highrise luxury condominiums and apartments buildings, along with hotels, shops and offices in the old industrial heart of the city.
"We're creating a brand new town in the middle of our city," said Coun. Mark Whaley. "It's pretty marvellous."
Plans for the complex on about five hectares (12.7 acres) of the former Canbar lands at Erb Street and Father David Bauer Drive include:
-Two 25-storey condominium towers;
-Four apartment towers, two 21-storeys high, one 18 storeys high, one 12 storeys high;
-10 lowrise mixed-use residential and retail units;
-Two hotels with 280 rooms;
-230,000 sq-ft of commercial office and retail space;
-2,250 parking spaces, most of which would be in a two-level underground garage.
The project was the first major development proposal approved by the new council, which earlier this year supported plans to redevelop a parking lot at Waterloo Town Square into a public square.
The city scrapped a height and density cap
that would have restricted the apartment buildings and condominiums to no higher than seven storeys.
Instead, the developer is planning several highrise buildings along Father David Bauer Drive.
Yesterday's council approval signalled an end to a decade-long debate on the property between the city and residents who wanted to keep their low-rise leafy streets from becoming a crowded city core overrun with traffic.
In 1998, Canbar asked the city to change its zoning restrictions in order to turn the site, which once held its fibreglass and plastics manufacturing business, into a commercial and residential complex. The company hoped to sell the land to a developer that would build a series of highrise apartments, hotels and business space. But those plans were scuttled after residents balked at bringing Toronto-style development and traffic into the quiet suburban core.
The company scaled back its plans and Auburn Developments bought the site in 2005. The land had undergone an environmental cleanup and passed a 2003 Ministry of the Environment audit.
The BarrelYards is the largest project that Auburn has undertaken, said company president Jamie Crich. The company is also developing the Arrow Lofts in Kitchener.
Plans for the project were scaled up from original concept, which was for 750 apartments and condos in mostly low-rise buildings, a 120-room boutique hotel and mostly above-ground parking.
Construction could start as early as this fall and would take between four and seven years,
depending on how strong the market is for the project, Crich said in an interview.
But he said he's confident there is strong interest in a massive development in Waterloo and that his company has been flooded with calls from interested residents and businesses.
"You can't do everything overnight, but there is definitely a good strong market here. The city's done a great job with their Uptown and people are responding. They want to live there."
Local companies have long been pushing for a downtown Waterloo hotel and conference centre. Yesterday, Crich said the company is proposing both a long- and short-stay hotel, and would push for conference facilities.
Auburn has been getting as many as five calls a day from interested hotel chains since putting out a request.
The hotels would be built by the hotel chains themselves.
He wouldn't name the potential hotel operators, but Crich said they were "some five-star hotels
. Great brands have expressed an interest in being here."
Both the city and the developer said they would ask the region to make some road improvements, such as traffic lights and left-turn lanes, to Erb Street, said consultant Chris Pidgeon of GSP Group.
The developer isn't expecting the region to support the proposed changes, Pidgeon said, but they are critical to building the hotels.
The city is still negotiating to share the cost of about $100,000 in improvements to Father David Bauer Drive, such as landscaped medium and bike lanes on both sides.
John Shortreed, who lives on neighbouring Euclid Avenue, was concerned that the city was approving zoning changes before knowing the region would support road improvements to protect residents and pedestrians from an onslaught of new traffic. "It's a huge impact on a very small neighbourhood," he said.
Mike Hudson, who also lives on Euclid, was concerned the proposed highrise condos and apartments would destroy the natural skyline of Waterloo Park. "We should consider what it is about Waterloo Park that makes it special and try and see if that can be preserved," he said. "I don't think it can be preserved in its current form with very large office towers immediately adjacent to the park."
The proposal doesn't include any affordable housing, but a staff report said the developer plans to look into any low-cost housing opportunities and that creating luxury units would free up affordable housing elsewhere in the city.
Uptown Coun. Ian McLean said the project shows Waterloo is a leader in intensifying in its downtown
. "Because we're running out of land, we will continue to be a leader and show Kitchener and Cambridge and other parts of the region how to intensify in a way that respects our existing neighbourhoods and provides for our future," he said.