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Developer Vows To Fix 10-Storey ‘Mistake’ In Student Area

  • 05/31/18
  • |          Waterloo

A developer has vowed to work with the city to fix a decade-old “mistake” in Waterloo.

The city heard details about the redevelopment of 316 King St. N on Monday night and while the developer is asking for variances to zoning regulations, the company said it’s for the benefit of the city, community and himself.

“It is an eyesore and it is on a main street,” said Obie Mujawaz of Milestone Developments. “This building was a mistake.”

That “mistake” came during the design process of the student-geared apartments. Back in the mid-2000s, the city had no control over the amount of bedrooms in a specific development, only the amount of units. Because of that, the 10-storey structure at 316 King St. N was developed with 25 five-bedroom units, totalling 1,234 beds per hectare. By comparison, the city’s official plan says that no more than 924 bedrooms can be built on the site.

The developer’s current plan is to leave the current building, but renovate all the five-bedroom units into two-bedroom condos and freshen up the facade with some balconies and design features.

On the same property, Mujawaz is proposing to build a second, 15-storey tower with 80 two-bedroom units. Units in both towers would be sold as condominium units for either live-in or investment purposes.

That tower will also include commercial space on the base level.

But, with the added density comes some requests that deviate from the city’s regulations.

The requests include:

  • Reducing residential parking rate from one per unit to 0.66 per unit
  • Reduce surface parking from 10 to 5.4 per cent
  • Reduce the requirement for loading spaces
  • Four metre setback in front yard (requirement is five metres)
  • One metre setback on south end (requirement is three metres)
  • 1.5 metre setback in the rear yard (requirement is 7.5 metres)

In terms of total density, the development has 987 bedrooms per hectare, 63 above the maximum that the official plan dictates.

The developer is proposing density bonusing, meaning it would have to fund or gift something to the city in exchange for the extra density. The value of that gift is determined by the total value of the added density, to be determined by city staff.

Coun. Melissa Durrell expressed some concern about the canyon nature of King Street along that stretch.

“This is one of the black eyes we have in this city, the area between here and Columbia,” said Durrell. “How do we make it not a cavern?”

Laura Dewar, a development planner with the city, said the city has learned a lot from the development of the area and it will have to take a different approach moving forward.

“We can maintain a consistent streetscape through a consistent setback,” said Dewar.

Access to an above-and-below-ground parking garage would be by car lift, marking the first time that technology has been used in Waterloo.

Mayor Dave Jaworsky asked about the parking elevator and how it could affect municipal services such as fire rescue.

“It’s challenging because it’s sort of precedent setting,” said Dewar. “We need to look at the challenges that other municipalities may or may not have with these.

“Permitting this may mean permitting more of these in Waterloo.”

Mujawaz made it clear to city council that Milestone Developments sees this as more of a partnership with the city than a request.

“We are working to make sure this is no longer an eyesore and to remove this mistake from the city,” said Mujawaz, adding that both he and his team sees it as a joint venture with the City of Waterloo. “Win for the city, win for the community and win for us.”

Mujawaz noted that since the building is full of five-bedroom units, it appeals to no one but students. If and when the project is complete, it will be sold off as condo investments or live-in condos for non-students.

“The way that we’re building it, it’s going to cater to anybody,” said Mujawaz. “This will be a building with that stigma removed.”

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