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From Councillor Etherington: Housing strategy won’t impact Kitchener’s changing skyline

2017 November 26
by Melissa

It’s unlikely Ottawa’s recent and overdue housing strategy will be in place when at least 10 major high-rise projects dramatically change Kitchener’s skyline during the next few years.
That approaching downtown construction frenzy is caused by a combination of inner-city intensification, Light Rail Transit and developers scrambling to benefit from a program of forgiven development-charge incentives worth millions of dollars that ends in 2019.
To help save our countryside from urban sprawl, I’m in favour of carefully managed intensification but I also support the protection of established residential communities, particularly heritage neighbourhoods.
And as someone who represents downtown Ward 9 and lives in the Victoria Park heritage area, I’m increasingly concerned about developments along King, Queen, Victoria, Charles and other major arteries cradling several established communities.
Recently I learned about plans to build a 25-storey tower beside the Tannery at Francis and Charles streets and another 20-plus-storey building at Victoria and Bramm streets. One positive part about the proposal alongside The Tannery is the possibility it will include the first downtown grocery store in the city’s west end
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, developers of what started as a 24-storey condo at Gaukel and Charles streets want to push it up to 31 storeys.
Additional projects are coming on other parts of Victoria Street and around the LRT terminal near King and Wellington while others will follow.
Which is good for the economy but what about the changing character of those established neighbourhoods that are expected to embrace enormous condo towers that do little to provide housing for other than investors and high-income homebuyers along the LRT route?
With existing city regulations, zoning and a recent tall-building policy, all we can hope for is that councillors and planners insist developers taking advantage of those cash incentives meet high standards of construction quality and architectural design in buildings that will be with us for decades. They should also research ways to make certain developments meet affordability and housing needs of all income groups.

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