Located in the heart of Kitchener’s Innovation District, 607 King Street West is the redevelopment of a 3.28 acre site. The property has a future development potential of up to 550,000 square feet of mixed-use retail, office, and residential facilities. Located diagonally opposite to the Region of Waterloo’s future Multi-Modal Transit Hub and on the future Light Rail Transit line, 607 King Street West is expected to be an integral part of the continued transformation of the downtown core of Kitchener.
Light rail sparking redevelopment of King Street site
February 22, 2014 | Terry Pender | The Record | Link
Quote:KITCHENER — Don Zehr looks out the second floor window of his company's boardroom in Kitchener and sees a future with thousands of people on the sidewalks around a central transit station, a growing health-sciences campus and condominiums rising above parking lots.
The offices for his company, Zehr Group, are located at 607 King St. W. That's where the veteran developer is usually busy overseeing the design, construction, management and sale of real estate for a long list of clients.
In addition to all of that, Zehr is honing plans for his own property and the land around it — if he can acquire the land. Big changes are on the way and he wants to be ready.
Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2015 on the King Street underpass that will allow vehicles and light-trail trains to go under the railway tracks. Traffic will be disrupted for 15 or 16 months.
Light rail trains are scheduled to roll past his property in 2017. A central transit station is slated for the northwest corner of King and Victoria Streets, a five-minute walk down the street. There will be station platforms on the south and north sides of King Street at Victoria. Behind the platform on the north side is the future site of the multi-modal-transit hub.
A 19-storey condominium building is going up kitty-corner from the site of the future station. Across from Zehr's office is the Breithaupt Block — a collection of redeveloped factory buildings where Google recently signed a lease for 185,000 square feet of space.
Zehr's property at 607 King St. W. is representative of many along the route for light rail trains. It was built when the car was king. It made a lot of money for the owners. But the coming changes will spark the redevelopment of many of those properties.
Currently, the Zehr Group's 3.25-acre site, purchased in the early 1980s, has 40,000 square feet of space in a two-storey strip mall. There also is an empty building that used to house a Tim Hortons.
"When we bought it, it had been abandoned for a while, and back then we thought a strip plaza was the right thing to do," Zehr says. "We had great success with this site over the years. Downtown in the mid-1980s was bustling and hustling."
To prepare for light rail transit and a growing population, Kitchener rezoned the land along King Street West to allow for high-density, mixed-use developments. Large surface parking lots, drive-thru restaurants, car dealerships, car-repair businesses and gas stations are not allowed.
Zehr is planning three new buildings with 450,000 square feet of space, underground parking and retail-commercial-personal services at street level. The project has an estimated price tag of $100 million.
Timing is everything and it is complex. If new retail space is constructed before the King Street underpass is built, it may be difficult to lease the space. Currently, it is difficult to offer long-term leases because of uncertainty around the timing.
"Right now we are spending a great deal of time with our consultants on how we are going to deal with road construction," Zehr says. "We have been approached by a number of other developers who may potentially partner with us on this site. It is a fairly big development."
If Zehr can acquire the land around his property, the redevelopment plans will get much bigger and stretch into the next 15 years. Early-stage plans see room for thousands of residential units in several buildings with commercial units on the ground floor.
Zehr knows there is demand for urban living space in Kitchener. He owns two small apartment buildings in the core that have no parking spaces. The units are always rented out and command good rents. He believes demand for that kind of lifestyle will only increase in the future.
The Kaufman Lofts, One Victoria, the University of Waterloo's School of Pharmacy and the digital media mecca in the Tannery building all came about in recent years. The Breithaupt Block is all leased up. Hundreds of condo units are under construction and more are in the planning stages. Tech startups are moving out of the Tannery into downtown offices.
All of this puts pressure on Zehr to redevelop his plaza.
If the plaza property isn't redeveloped, "eventually you will start looking like the neglected, abandoned building because everything around you is going to have changed," says Alice Butt, Zehr Group's chief operating officer. "It is happening. It is happening all around us."
From his second-floor office, Zehr has watched his property and the area around it cycle through changes that included plant closings and suburbanization.
"And now the full circle again — and all of a sudden it becomes not only an incredible site for a strip plaza, it is going to be an incredible site for a dynamic, mixed-use property," he says.
For more than a year, Zehr has worked with urban planners, traffic engineers and architects. The boardroom wall is covered with maps and drawings that illustrate the changing landscape around 607 King St. W.
"This location is a poster child for location, location, location," Butt says. "The Innovation District — we are right in the middle of it."
Kitchener designated the area of the downtown that is within 600 metres of the future transit hub as the Innovation District. City planners say there is room there for 15,000 new residents and 4,000 new jobs to come to the district over the next 17 years.
"There certainly is interest in this area now," Zehr says.
Throughout the broader downtown, the city expects another 22,000 residents by 2031 with annual discretionary spending on $200 million. That's why Zehr is planning a mixture that includes office-residential-commercial and residential units.
"It's that work-live-play approach to things," he says.
The redevelopment of properties along the light rail transit line is expected to add millions of dollars a year to municipal coffers.
Property taxes from 607 King St. W. are currently about $150,000 a year. After it is redeveloped, the property taxes are expected to increase to about $1.6 million.
"Everybody says it (light rail) is going to cost too much, it is a fortune. But on the other side are waves of revenue coming in," Zehr says. "It is a game changer."
Noticed a sign saying King St Dental has moved from King's Crossing to Uptown. Hopefully this is a sign that things are progressing on the redevelopment of this site. However I think with the closing of King St for the underpass construction the likelihood of anything major happening here before that project is complete is unlikely.
02-25-2015, 12:56 AM
(This post was last modified: 02-25-2015, 12:56 AM by Lens.)
I would think now is as good a time as any to start on this project. If it were to start this year it would likely be finished late 2016-early/mid 2017, right as the work on the underpass would be wrapping up and not long until ION is rolling by.
This building reminds me of the Tetris tower that Shembri is building at 1 Columbia.
I used to be the mayor of sim city. I know what I am talking about.
(02-25-2015, 05:54 PM)Drake Wrote: This building reminds me of the Tetris tower that Shembri is building at 1 Columbia.
I have to say that bad as it looks, 1 Columbia was much worse in the renderings.
02-28-2015, 05:38 AM
(This post was last modified: 02-28-2015, 05:39 AM by tomh009.)
Even if the design (bright red? really?) isn't quite up my alley, I'm very happy to see Zehr Group planning to redevelop their current strip plaza, adding to the momentum the King/Victoria area has now. And it's a mixed development (I expect retail ground floor, office second-fifth floors and then condos in the tower) as it should be.
I'd hope for red or red-brown brick where that render seems to show bright red alucobond (or whatever it is).
I seen yesterday an advertisement for a restaurant to lease space presumably in the plaza. The advertisement faces King st.
(02-24-2015, 11:39 PM)rangersfan Wrote: Noticed a sign saying King St Dental has moved from King's Crossing to Uptown. Hopefully this is a sign that things are progressing on the redevelopment of this site. However I think with the closing of King St for the underpass construction the likelihood of anything major happening here before that project is complete is unlikely.
The site is accessible from Walter St. so this is not necessarily an issue, but if they are trying to rent the restaurant space this suggests they are not about to move on it.
Yeah that is what I was thinking, unless the advert was for some other location ( which I doubt that this is the case) .
I sincerely hope they do not go with that bright red facade. The orange in the smaller image looks a bit better, but that red...yuck.
There's enough brown or orangeish colour in the area now. Bright red would liven things up a bit. Everything doesn't need to be dull colour.
I am a fan of the red in the render. As anyone heard any news on this project recently?
Looking at the two images, I wonder if it's supposed to give the impression of red brick? Or if it'll maybe be bright red after all. Either way I'd be ok with that.