The new owner of a downtown heritage building plans to introduce office condominiums to downtown Kitchener when it redevelops the former Economical Mutual building with a modern addition.
Kingridge Developments of Oakville bought the red brick building at 10 Duke St. W., at the corner of Duke and Queen streets, in March.
It plans to add almost 60 per cent to the floor space of the distinctive Colonial revival building, built in 1949 by Economical Insurance, which occupied the building until 1989.
The plans, which the city’s heritage committee will consider Tuesday, would add a modern three-storey metal and glass addition atop the 3½-storey building. The addition, by Waterloo architect ABA Architects, would add about 21,400 square feet to the building’s existing 37,480 square feet.
The proposal would also expand the supply of office condos, which are relatively rare in the region but are a growing trend in offices, as small and medium-sized businesses look to own their own office space, said Darren Shaw, a vice-president in the Waterloo Region office of real estate firm Colliers International, which represented the sellers.
“They’re proposing this as office condos,” Shaw said. “That’s unique in our marketplace.” It’s a growing trend in the office market, particularly in markets such as Toronto and Vancouver, as businesses seek an alternative to simply leasing office space.
“This is literally an offering that really doesn’t exist downtown,” Shaw said. Office condos offer another option for businesses, he said, and can be appealing particularly to small and medium-sized businesses that want to own their own office space. “People like ownership,” he said. “They can invest in their own real estate. Financing has continued to be attractive, interest rates remain relatively low. It’s the opportunity to kind of pay themselves.”
The new owner, Kingridge Development Corp., has been involved in at least two office condo projects in Oakville, according to its website.
There was quite a bit of interest when the building went up for sale last fall, with multiple bids for the site, Shaw said. It’s part of a growing interest in developing more office space downtown, he said.
The building, which features a marble lobby and brass railings, is listed as a property of heritage interest, but isn’t a designated heritage property. But a study done for the new owner by heritage consultants McCallum Sather says it is worth protecting.
“While not particularly unique, it is a sturdy, handsome building,” the study says.
The building also warrants protection because of its association with Economical, founded in 1871 as one of the first insurers in the area, and with William Euler, Economical’s president when the building was built, who also was a former mayor, MP, cabinet minister and senator.