ACO North Waterloo Region Blog

Posts on this blog are meant as a forum for ideas and issues surrounding heritage architecture.  They do not necessarily represent the position of ACO North Waterloo Region Branch.

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An Index to all posts can be found here

Sketch of 16-20 Queen Street North, Kitchener

ACO-North Waterloo Region branch asked KW Urban Sketchers to record their impressions of 16-20 Queen St N as it is today, to help raise awareness before demolition and inalterable changes occur to this important part of our history.  Watercolour artist and teacher Candice Leyland provided this lovely studio image.  Check out her beautiful watercolour below.  16-20 Queen Street North, Kitchener in 2021


Heritage Can Work with Development

Note: The views expressed below are my own.

Gail R. Pool

I got involved in heritage restoration because I had retired and had the opportunity to fix up a 100-year-old house and needed information on how to do so properly.  The previous owner had photos of the house and so it was a great opportunity to do it right. I was able to do the work with advice from various heritage practitioners and groups.

However, as an advocate for social justice, it seemed that there were many buildings going up near me that did not serve the working people of our city.  So, while I advocated for heritage preservation, it was difficult to hear people say that heritage conservation was contrary to housing needs.  So, when the Social Development Centre of Waterloo Region conducted a study of social displacement, it was clear that many of the properties also involved the demolition of heritage properties.  Some people have suggested that heritage preservation got in the way of affordable housing.  So, the question is:  does heritage conflict with our responsibility to provide housing?  Does it conflict with our need to have more density in the urban area and preserve farmland?

The short answer is No. Heritage advocacy does not conflict with affordable housing. Some have said that high rise buildings provide housing.  True, but for whom? When heritage is demolished for a highrise, it does not lead to any additional affordable housing.  There are jurisdictions where affordability is a condition before development is approved.  In many jurisdictions, a certain percentage of any new builds must be a certain percentage below market value. Fortunately, the City of Kitchener is planning on making affordability more of a reality to people on a lower income.

In reflecting on the question of heritage vs affordability, there have been a number of developments where affordable housing was lost.  The lowrise heritage buildings on Mill Street housed as many as 20 households.  Yet, when the developer wanted to build a 12 storey building, they did not intend to provide affordable housing until they were challenged by the neighbours and heritage advocates.  The home of Jacob Baetz, an important figure in Kitchener’s history was lost.  He built as many as fifty homes a year in the early part of the 20th century.  He built the old Kitchener market, St Andrews Presbyterian Church, St. Matthews Presbyterian and the Victoria Public School.  Although he is a member of the Regional Hall of Fame, we do not even have a street named after him.  The home he build on Mill street could have been incorporated into the development but the developers refused.  In fact, that development now will provide much need town houses for families who cannot afford a detached home.  Even though heritage was lost, the current development is preferable to the condo units initially proposed.

There is another issue that concerns me, however.  That is the idea that heritage does not mean very much to the wider community.  In trying to preserve heritage, I am seen as being someone who hangs on to the past and anti modern.  Many people think that heritage advocates are elites who feel that the past overrides the housing needs of today and the future. In short, heritage advocates are elitist.

When I think about it, it seems that if anybody is elitist, it is those behind the real estate investment trusts (REITS).  REITS frequently demolish heritage in the name of more housing and even affordable housing but what do they really provide?  Other elites buy condos and do not live in them.  Rather, they rent the condos out at a cost which is profitable for them. The city has no mechanism to enforce low-cost units nor can it require a development be rentals rather than condos.  The very idea of an affordable condo is a false one.  The very cheapest one-bedroom unit of about 600 square feet costs $300,000 and then there are monthly condo fees and taxes that put these developments out of the reach of low-income people.  I am not sure that a person on minimum wage could even afford the fees and taxes, much less the cost of the initial investment.

But let me address the question in another way. Heritage can and has in the past work hand in hand with affordable living in this city.  Here are some examples.

1) The Registry Theatre on Frederick Street, originally the region’s registry office, was converted over a number of years and now is a venue for live events attractive to a wide variety of audiences that include plays, dance, folk music, jazz and community events.  Prices are low for events, often at $20 per ticket.  The Registry Theatre is available for children’s groups, presentations, conferences, recitals, literary readings and anything else for $350 per night. There are few venues which provide a space like the Registry Theatre for such a small amount.

2) The Victoria Public School was at risk of demolition in the 1980s.  Many people were opposed to the demolition because it had quality architecture but also because they had memories of attending school.  There were interventions from prominent politicians as well as mass demonstrations to oppose the demolition.  It was built in   1910 and opened as a school. The City of Kitchener bought the building in 1989 and renovated it, also adding new buildings on the site to create 116 affordable rental units. Many original interior elements were retained, including the stairwells and terrazzo floors. The heritage exterior has survived largely intact, from the foundations to the original slate roofs.

3) St Mark’s Lutheran Church at 825 King Street near Grand River Hospital is an example that deserves praise for combining significant heritage architecture with affordable housing.  In that case, the charity Indwell plans to work within the building’s footprint by adding several floors above the church hall to create 40 rental units. The sanctuary, a spectacular space with significant architectural value, is to be repurposed as community space, something that is not present in the immediate area.  A community space at this location is much needed for local arts and cultural events, a drop-in space or anything else that residents may wish to have.

Investors can still make money and preserve heritage. Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust owns the Lang Tannery and has kept that building intact and have improved it.  A number of tenants, including startup companies at Communitech, now occupy downtown spaces to do their innovative work.  The same real estate trust owns the Google building on Breithaupt, which has a modern portion and a large older section.  Allied Real Estate Investment Trust also owns the former Interior Hardwood Company factory – one of the first brick-and-beam factory conversions in downtown Kitchener factory at Victoria and Joseph.  All of these buildings are on Kitchener’s municipal heritage register.  These are multimillion-dollar investments and the buildings have been modified so they can be used by companies to create new technologies that create wealth for our community… and taxes for keeping our community a good place to live.  In short, heritage, innovation and a dynamic economy can co-exist.  It is not a choice between the past and the present and allowing a good mix will serve us well into the future.

Development Proposal for 22 Weber Street West

The Architectural Conservancy Ontario (ACO) North Waterloo Region branch would like to share a few thoughts on the development proposal for 22 Weber Street West in Kitchener.

Heritage Conservation Districts (HCD) are created after much consultation with area residents, plus expertise from City planning staff and paid consultants.  Boundaries are carefully and thoughtfully delineated to preserve our built heritage and provide stability for an area deemed worth protecting, often one thought to be under threat in future.

The Civic Centre Neighbourhood HCD is of significant cultural heritage value given the heritage attributes found within its architecture, streetscape and historical associations.  The designation of the Civic Centre Neighbourhood as a HCD was meant to protect and preserve the heritage assets and character that exist in the area.

The Civic Centre Neighbourhood HCD Plan provides clear direction for new construction, including new buildings on Weber Street West.  The Plan indicates that potential infill or redevelopment along Weber could have a negative impact on the heritage character of the area if not undertaken in a sensitive manner, particularly as this street contains nearly half of the oldest buildings in the District.

The Plan states one of its goals is to provide policies and design guidelines to ensure new development and alterations are sensitive to the heritage attributes and details of the District.

Policies include, maintaining residential streetscape character through the use of appropriate built form, materials, roof pitches and architectural design. Where redevelopment is proposed on vacant or underutilized sites, new development shall be sensitive to and compatible with adjacent heritage resources on the street with respect to height, massing, built form and materials.

Design Guidelines provide assistance in the review and evaluation of proposals for new buildings to ensure that new development is compatible with the adjacent context. These include the requirement to match setback, footprint, size and massing patterns of the neighbourhood, particularly to the immediately adjacent neighbors; and the use of materials, colours and traditional details that represent the texture and palette of the Civic Centre Neighbourhood.

When proposals come forward that could destroy the very thing that Districts were meant to protect, area residents have good reason to wonder about the future of their neighbourhood.  It has the result of introducing instability into an area.  This negatively affects neighbouring properties, creating a domino effect, reaching well beyond the boundaries of the redeveloped property.

ACO believes the development proposal for 22 Weber Street West will have a negative impact on the heritage character of the Civic Centre Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation District; it will not be sensitive to nor compatible with adjacent heritage resources; and it does not attempt to match setback, footprint, size and massing patterns of the neighbourhood, particularly to the immediately adjacent neighbors, nor use materials, colours and traditional details that represent the texture and palette of the Civic Centre Neighbourhood.

Thank you for your consideration,

Marg Rowell

President, ACONWR


ACO Written Submission to Kitchener’s Planning and Strategic Initiatives Committee

Below you can hear 1) the presentations on the Zone Change application for 19-41 Mill Street; 2) the written submissions to the Planning and Strategic Initiatives Committee on February 8, 2021

The ACO oral presentation starts at minute 47:50.

If you have time, please listen to the other submissions.  First you hear from the developers, but other delegations were strongly opposed to the development for reasons other than heritage. If you are opposed, write your councillor and mayor (see list at the end).


ACO Submission on Mill Street to PSIC Feb 8, 2021

Bil Ioannidis <>,
Christine Michaud <>,
Dave Schnider <>,
Debbie Chapman <>,
John Gazzola <>,
Kelly Galloway-Sealock <>,
Margaret Johnston <>,
Paul Singh <>,
Sarah Marsh <>,
Scott Davey <>
Barry Vrbanovic<>

Mill Street Presentation by ACO to the SPIC Committee, February 8, 2021







The ACO will be presenting on the development at 19-41 Mill Street on Monday February 8 at 7:00pm.

Elsewhere on this blog you can see additional information. The full 26-page presentation is at the bottom of this post.

The ACO has made presentations before in the case of Mill Street. Summaries of presentations by Marg Rowell, Sandra Parks and Gail Pool at Heritage Kitchener are copied below.

We hope that you will be able to attend the meeting to add your presence and show your concern:

Monday, February 8, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.
(live-stream video available at

Past Presentations

Ms. M. Rowell, Architectural Conservancy Ontario – North Waterloo Region, addressed the Committee in opposition to the proposed development at 19-41 Mill Street. She indicated in her opinion, the houses at the properties municipally addressed as 19 and 25 Mill Street are worthy of heritage conservation. She provided an overview of the physical and contextual value of each of the properties, stating they should be at minimum on the MHR, if not considered for Part IV heritage designation under the OHA. She stated the proposed development is directly adjacent to 45 Mill Street, which is designated under Part IV of the OHA and may have adverse impacts on that property. She further advised a development of this size and scale is inappropriate in comparison to the other properties on Mill Street. Ms. Rowell stated in her opinion, developers should not be permitted to change heritage neighbourhoods that residents work hard to conserve.

Ms. S. Parks addressed the Committee in opposition to the proposed development, stating the regulations within the OHA do not consult other Planning regulations, such as the Official Plan or Zoning By-law when providing guidance as to whether a property is of cultural heritage or interest. She stated the regulations provide clear understanding of what is worthy of heritage conservation and protection. She indicated although 19 and 25 Mill Street were previously evaluated through the 4-step listing process and were not listed on the MHR at that time, there is currently no process for re-evaluating those properties. She stated in her opinion, when planning applications are submitted, they present an opportunity to re-evaluate properties for heritage conservation. She noted as the Terms of Reference for the HIA were scoped, and there is not a clear understanding as to whether a heritage resource is proposed to be demolished. She requested in future, a full HIA is completed when a planning application deems that an HIA is required, to ensure the City is preserving its heritage resources.

Mr. G. Pool was in attendance in opposition to the proposed development at 19-41 Mill Street. He expressed concerns with the potential impacts on the Iron Horse Trail, as well as on 45 Mill Street. He stated in his opinion, the homes at 19 and 25 Mill Street should be listed on the MHR, stating there is no other home within the Region similar to 25 Mill Street. He noted the VPAHCD identified potential redevelopment sites and Mill Street was not identified in the Plan. He requested further consideration be given to: protecting 19 and 25 Mill Street, stating they are unique and have historic, contextual and associate value; protecting the Iron Horse Trail, a valuable cultural heritage landscape; and, reducing the negative impact on the Mill Street heritage neighbourhood as the proposed building is incompatible in size and design. He further requested the Mill Street facade be changed to reflect the unique heritage of the area.

ACO Submission on Mill Street to PSIC Feb 8, 2021

The Case for Older Windows

Shannon Kyles is a recognized expert on the value of older windows.  This article was originally published in the ACO North Waterloo Branch Newsletter in the Fall of 2019, pp. 6-7.

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