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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A hard stop to new development in heritage areas

Presented to:

Planning and Strategic Initiatives Meeting, City of Kitchener

December 9, 2019

by Adam Smit

Lonely Planet recommends to its readers to “just pass through (Kitchener) on your way to Elora and Fergus, St Jacobs or Stratford” (1). Why not visit Kitchener? What do people want to see? When we look at Paris, France, Lonely Planet first mentions “Paris’ monument-lined boulevards, museums, classical bistros and boutiques…” (2). Its heritage architecture and charm is how Paris has become the world’s second most visited city in the world (3). Of course, the city didn’t get there overnight. For one-and-a-half centuries, it has strictly regulated its Hausmanian architecture, requiring owners to keep up their buildings and to renovate them according to stringent guidelines. Likewise, if Kitchener wants to be recommended as more than a “pass through” for visitors, Kitchener should put a hard stop to new development in heritage areas — going so far as to require owners to keep up their houses and to even expand heritage areas.

Economically, heritage features are attractions for visitors, bringing in financial benefit to communities. According to U.S. News, 18 of the top 20 sights in Paris were historical sites. (4) Overall, in France, “9.7% of the GDP is contributed by the travel and tourism sector” (5). Here in Kitchener, we have a golden opportunity to develop these opportunities for our economic benefit. Our historic downtown and Victoria Park neighbourhoods are the milieu for the “best time to visit…festival time” (6) It is not just the festivals that can draw people here, but the historic character of our downtown neighbourhoods. But how do we maintain them?

In Paris, people fall in love with the Hausmanian architecture: 5-6 stories, limestone buildings, mansard roofs, period features, and consistency across the city. Considering these buildings were built from 1853 to 1870, we have to ask how the city has preserved these buildings so well as to attract so many visitors? The city has strict building codes requiring owners to keep up their buildings as well as renovate them according to heritage features and requirements.

Likewise, Kitchener should uphold strict preservation criteria for its heritage neighbourhoods and downtown districts. In contrast to current trends, where the city allows properties at the fringes of heritage areas to be torn down and rebuilt in whichever fashion, the city should be demanding that property owners rebuild to the standards of the era (where, of course, choice was and should continue to be allowed: queen anne, victorian, edwardian, berlin vernacular,…) Currently, properties at the edges of the Victoria Park heritage district are being torn down and modern developments are being allowed to be build, encroaching upon our historic neighbourhood. This is not preservation! This is not heritage! Rather, delinquent owners need to be required to rebuild  buildings in the style of the era…the two houses recently torn down on David St., Bara castle, the current proposal on Mill St. (the current houses should stay!), Joseph & Water. Modern developments should not be encroaching into our heritage areas, but instead have their place everywhere else in the city.

If we have the vision and the courage of our convictions, we can improve upon and even expand our heritage area by protecting our properties and enforcing historical architecture. Instead of our heritage areas getting squeezed by modern buildings, we could push to expand current heritage areas. At the very least, if we can’t save them because of their beauty or their defining contribution to our identity, we could at least save them for the economic benefits they will help attract to our city.








Presentation to Planning and Strategic Initiatives Meeting, City of Kitchener by Gail Pool

The City of Kitchener is undertaking a review of the Secondary Plans for the Central Neighbourhoods:

    1. Cedar Hill and Schneider Creek
    2. Civic Centre
    3. King Street East
    4. K-W Hospital/Midtown
    5. Mill Courtland Woodside Park
    6. Rockway
    7. Victoria Park
    8. Victoria Street

The meeting on December 9th was to inform residents of changes to their zoning and to hear from residents about the changes.  Over 4,000 letters were sent to residents who were informed that they needed to provide written comments by December 9, 2019.

The Council Chamber was packed to overflowing and about 30 delegations presented their views.

Below are the slides and speaking notes presented by Gail Pool


I am a resident of Victoria Park inside the Heritage Conservation District

SLIDE 2: Covers of Design for Central Neighbourhoods

The document presented in February for a design charette was entitled: Design for Central Neighbourhoods (dated February 14, 2019)

A revised title appeared a few days later: Design for Residential Infill in Central Neighbourhoods

 The word “infill” was added by Planning Staff, suggesting a direction for our neighbourhood.

We in Victoria Park worry that infill and high rise developments surrounding us will have very negative impacts.

SLIDE 3: Image of Central Park

The re-named document states that we will have “pockets of low-rise, historical residential neighbourhoods” around the city centre.

(Design for Residential Infill in Central Neighbourhoods, p. 1)

SLIDE 4: Map of Central Kitchener (Urban Design Manual, Downtown, p. 10)

I am concerned with the phrase “pockets of low-rise… neighbourhoods.”

The core is surrounded by low-rise neighbourhoods dating back to the 19th century — everywhere on this map in light green.

If there is a pocket, it is the downtown core.

It is essential to have buffers to protect the low-rise historic districts.

Two houses were demolished next to Schneider Haus and six houses on Mill Street have no protection despite meeting criteria for heritage status under Reg. 09/06 of the Heritage Act.

Low rise, historic districts near downtown Kitchener are valuable because they give a sense of who we are and our history.

And our history attracts tourists from all over.

 Following discussions with residents of Victoria Park, we need:

  1. Protection within and adjacent to the Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District
  2. Transitions between the high and low density areas
  3.  Adequate park and open space

SLIDE 5: Image of area at David and Joseph

Specifically, the area at David and Joseph is at risk. Proposed zoning is MIX 2, allowing a 6 storey building.

Currently, there are low-rise homes and a parking lot owned by the city. Here is an opportunity to downgrade the area to Low Rise Residential Limited, in accordance with Section 16 of the Draft Secondary Plan Land Use Policies.

Alternatively, it could be zoned OR-1, or park space, which we need more of in light of the many new condos being built nearby.

SLIDE 6 View from Park with high rises

Do we want the park to look like this?

SLIDE 7: High rises at Charles/Gaukel/Joseph and Ontario

Page 11 of the Urban Design Manual, Downtown, shows five high-rise buildings in the Charles and Gaukel area.

We need to protect zones close to the park, not build on them.

The former bus terminal could be turned into a plaza or an extension of the park.

Another example is on Michael Street.

SLIDE 8: Image of Ukrainian Catholic Church and Centre

Here, the Ukrainian Church and Catholic Centre are at risk.

Currently zoned I-1, Neighbourhood Institutional, it is proposed to be MIX 3, allowing an 8 storey high-rise.

This is inside the Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District!

High-rises should not be built in heritage districts.

Rather, this could be a parkette for the three high-rises built or under construction right across the street.

SLIDE 9: Image of Homewood/Iron Horse Trail

Another area of concern is Homewood street, which currently has no protection because it is outside the Heritage District.

Some homes here have 300-foot lot depths.

A few houses could be bought and a high rise put there….

As is proposed on Mill Street.

We need to be very cautious planning within and around old neighbourhood districts.

SLIDE 10: List of Victoria Park Issues

Finally, Victoria Park residents engaged in a design charette in February organized by the City of Kitchener.

Here are some of their ideas.


  1. What I am suggesting is a plan that better protects low-rise established neighbourhoods and provides essential park and open space for all residents.
  2. In short, only four storey building should be allowed in established neighbourhoods.

Demolition of 25 Mill Street for Proposed Development

A development at 19-41 Mill Street in Kitchener proposes the demolition of two late 19th century homes.  One of these was the home of Jacob Baetz, an early furniture manufacturer and city councillor in the 1890s.

There are two documents below.

The first is a statement of significance from the heritage planning staff at the City of Kitchener.   Planning staff asked residents to comment on the proposal.

The second is a response to the City of Kitchener Planning department from Gail Pool and Frances Stewart about the proposed development.  They do not necessarily represent the position of the ACO.

Note that the documents in boxes are several pages long.  Click anywhere inside the boxes and use the arrows at the bottom to scroll through the pages.


25 Mill Street Statement of Significance 

25 Mill Street_Statement of Significance_2009 October 27


Response from Gail Pool and Frances Stewart

19-41 Mill Street Property Comments Gail Pool and Frances Stewart

ACO Presentation to Heritage Kitchener re: 30-40 Margaret Street Development

The ACO was asked by The Olde Berlin Town Neighbourhood Association to help them understand how the development at 30-40 Margaret might affect the Heritage Conservation District.


The basis of our presentation is (1) the Civic Centre Neighbourhood District Plan should be more closely adhered to than is proposed by the developer because of how important this site is to the character of the District; (2) the proposed building stepbacks are not adequate to meet the requirements of the site specific policies and guidelines, including the possible isolation of 54 Margaret.


The pdf document below explains what we felt would ensure that the character of the District is conserved.  We believe that the role of the ACO is to have public discussion of the issues that affect built heritage.

For more see Submissions to the 30-40 Margaret Heritage Impact Assessment Review on the Olde Berlin Town Neighbourhood Association’s blog.

Note: Once the pdf document loads, you will see only the first page.  Click on any text on this page and you should see in the bottom left corner that there are 8 pages.  Use the down arrow for the remaining part of the document.


ACO Presentation to Heritage Kitchener, June 4 2019

We Need Your Help!

The ACO Provincial Policy Committee wants you to respond to the call for comments from the Provincial Government on Bill 108. The Government of Ontario has proposed changes to the Ontario Heritage Act through Bill 108.

Part of Bill 108 proposes changes to the Ontario Heritage Act. We need to speak out against this flawed proposal right away.  June 1 is the deadline for comments and the government wants to pass the Bill by June 11.

Our concern is that Bill 108 would take away local communities’ right to say what is important to them, and what parts of the past the community values and wishes to pass on to future generations.

It would give this authority to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), who can undo the work of democratically elected councils — and the Municipal Heritage Committees and trained heritage planning staff who support them. LPAT will have the final say on approving, revoking or amending heritage protection bylaws.

Compounding the problem: No current LPAT members have any background in heritage. Nor are they required to have heritage expertise or an understanding of the values of the community they are judging.

We don’t need this radical departure. The current regulations 9/06 and 10/06 work. They provide criteria that help ensure decision made by communities on heritage properties are objective and consistent across Ontario. The specialist Conservation Review Board (CRB) reviews municipalities’ work and provides an expeditious, low-cost alternative to lengthy LPAT appeals. Don’t change a rule book that’s working.

What’s the rush? Take time to properly consult with the heritage and municipal sectors and get this right.

Take Schedule 11, Ontario Heritage Act, out of Bill 108.

What you can do:

  • Review an unofficial blacklined version of the Ontario Heritage Act, with the proposed amendments, prepared by Osler Hoskin Harcourt LLP.
  • Leave an officially registered comment through the online consultation of the Environmental Registry of Ontario. But hurry! The deadline for comments is June 1.
  • Express your concern about these arbitrarily imposed changes to the Ontario Heritage Act to your local MPP.  Check here for your local MP’s contact information.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.

Thank you –  if you have questions, please contact Alex MacKinnon at

For a plain language description of Bill 108, click here.

Kitchener’s Urban Design Manual: Charette for Victoria Park Secondary Plan

By Gail Pool

The City of Kitchener is undertaking a large-scale revision of its Urban Design Manual.  As part of the process, the planning staff is meeting with various groups on Secondary Plans.

On February 20th, an urban design Charette was held for the Victoria Park Secondary Plan.  About 10 people were present.  Most of us, including myself, are residents of the area.

In order to help me understand the direction of the plan and give voice to the participants, I decided to write up some comments while it is fresh in my mind.

My own views

The document that was examined, Design for Residential Infill in Central Neighbourhoods, is a key document for the areas around the Urban Growth Centres (areas in light green below).  An earlier version of the document left out the phrase “Residential Infill,” which suggests a change in direction. 

Adding “infill” to the title infers that what the Victoria Park Secondary Plan needs is residential infill.  What if we are happy with what is now there and just want to improve the character of the neighbourhood? Infill can mean many things and is seen as a way of increasing density. Some jurisdictions do that by changing zoning so that low rise residential can have 4 to 6 units rather than single or duplex units.

While the Victoria Park area can’t be “frozen in time”, the revised title suggests that the direction is to relax the restrictions in the Victoria Park area.  Is thaw the right word here? As nearly every participant at the charette suggested, there is a fear that nearby highrise buildings will overwhelm the Victoria Park area.  There are also concerns that the regulations that restrict high rise development inside the residential zone will be built.  In my view and that of others, we need to not only continue to prevent high rise development inside the Victoria Heritage Conservation District (VPHCD), but also have buffer zones near it.  That way, we can really protect the low-rise historic district rather than infill it. Given that we have seen recent incursions into the Conservation District on Queen Street, with two houses destroyed and two others put at risk, the design needs to be very strong in the face of density pressures. So, rather than promoting infill, why not reinforce the statement that built heritage shall be preserved in the VPHCD? Maps and detailed panels of the Victoria Park Secondary Plan are available here).  Here is one map of the broad zones.

The Secondary Plan boundaries extend beyond the VPHCD but the rules on heritage conservation, e.g., heritage shall be preserved, are still in place.

The panels do not adequately describe the design proposals. However, the Design for Residential Infill in Central Neighbourhoods (p. 1) suggest that:

Kitcheners Central Neighbourhoods have character, historical significance, and provide contrast to the current and future intensification of the Downtown and Major Transit Station Areas (MTSAs). They represent a variety of eras and styles, and if properly planned and conserved, can contribute toward a unique and desirable condition: pockets of low-rise, historical residential neighbourhoods within walking distance of the city core and light rail transit.

I am very concerned with the phrase “pockets of low-rise… neighbourhoods.” There will be many high-density buildings around Victoria Park (some underway and some to be built) in the Urban Growth Centre and they will add thousands of residents and jobs to the area.  I would suggest that you examine the images in the Urban Growth Centres design, where there are many high rise buildings sketched in.  Here is an example of the vision:

While this image is hypothetical (only Charlie West is under construction), it is a design guideline and developers will take notice of such images and say: Look at what they are suggesting, right next to Victoria Park!

Do the residents and citizens of Kitchener really want that?  It is sometimes suggested that Gaukel street be made into a pedestrian/cycling promenade from City Hall to the Park.  Do we really prefer to have five high rise buildings there?

My question is: Can we sustain the beauty of our established historic neighbourhoods and Victoria Park itself, which are very much enjoyed by all residents of the region and beyond?

In my view, we have two very extensive heritage conservation districts on either side of the core. These are not pockets. They appear to be larger than the areas targeted for high density development. I am not opposed to higher density. We are being asked by the Province to increase density in order to save our farmland, (Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe) and targets are not always being met. They should be. Rather there needs to be an understanding that the low-rise neighbourhoods are an attractive and important feature of Kitchener’s central area. Low rise, historic districts in downtown Kitchener are not only good for the inhabitants, but they are also good for tourism. They attract people from around the region and beyond, particularly in the summertime when many festivals are organized, bringing in thousands of tourists.

General Discussion

So, with that in mind, what several people suggested was that we ensure that there is:

  • Adequate park space
  • Transitional zones between the high and low density areas

There were concerns voiced about the zoning process. How, for example, did a multi-storey building get built on Courtland across from the school? Several people felt that zoning regulations are too easily over-ridden. One person stated that the development on Victoria Street near West had to be opposed in order to reduce the number of storeys. The development at 242-262 Queen, on the other hand, was originally 8 storeys and was allowed 10 storeys. This was done through bonussing, a hidden strategy that is allowed under zoning.

One person (living on Theresa?) suggested that the 100 Victoria building has made her backyard open to be seen from that tall building. Other people were concerned about transition zones. For example, the area behind Theresa has a very large parking area (Ukranian Catholic Centre). Should there be a high rise in this area? Currently the area is zoned l-1,1R, 93R, 399U. Medium rise? What would it take for a developer to request a re-zoning to a high-density development through zone changes and bonussing provisions? The City of Kitchener needs to be much more cautious in its development planning.

Other questions were asked about the following:

  • There is a need for more park space due to high-density development surrounding the park
  • Better cycling access, e.g., Queen Street
  • Bike parking requirements for buildings
  • Affordable housing requirements
  • Surface lot re-purposing
  • Better transit stops
  • More green roofs with trees
  • More parkettes, required next to developments
  • More greenery around high-rise developments
  • Rent geared to income; require a certain number/percentage of units
  • Design a good use of the old bus terminal
  • Area along Iron Horse Trail near West and Victoria could be a parkette
  • Wild area between Iron Horse Trail and the Railway could be developed for public park space
  • Better pedestrian amenities, including connecting neighbourhoods with adequate crosswalks, e.g., at the Iron Horse Trail and along Queen Street
  • A suggestion was made that better connections be made between central areas and the park. Perhaps a continuous landscape plan needs to be developed that connects the various areas in the Downtown and along Schneider Creek.



Bill 66 Urgent Action

If you want to comment on Bill 66, Here’s what you can do:

1. Send comments to the Environmental RegistryNote that the deadline for comments is Sunday, January 20th.  

2. Write MPPs. A complete list can be found here.   Kitchener and Waterloo MPPs emails are below and could be copied and pasted into an email.

Amy Fee Kitchener South Hespeler<>

Catherine Fife Waterloo <>

Laura Mae Lindo Kitchener Centre <>

Mike Harris Kitchener Conestogo <> 


 Sample letter:

There are many reasons why I am opposed to Bill 66.  In brief, these are outlined in a Region of Waterloo report, including the following:

  • Lack of prescribed consultation;
  • Risks to health, safety and the environment, including groundwater protection;
  • Non-applicability of Provincial and Municipal plans and policies…

Municipal councils in the Region of Waterloo have overwhelmingly stated their opposition to Bill 66 in its current form.

That opposition is based on the provision that a municipality can pass an Open for Business bylaw.  If such a bylaw is passed, there would be:

  • no need to follow planning documents that have been created over many years;
  • no requirements for public consultation;
  • no appeal could be made against any municipal act 

The impact on the future of our cities, our countryside, our natural resources, and on cultural and natural heritage is clear. These are outlined below.

1. Impact on Planning

If a municipality passed an exemption under Bill 66, zoning by laws would not need to conform to any official plans.  Site plan approval would not be required.  There would be no protection to the natural or built environments.  Famous structures that attract tourists from around the globe could be flattened.  A municipality could demolish any building or cultural feature it wanted.  A bylaw could be passed that is exempt from all planning and environmental law such as the Planning ActPlaces to Grow Act, and the Planning and Development Act.  The planning process is out the window and there is no appeal process.

2.  Impact on the Environment

Urban growth tends to be expansive rather than focused on the existing land that has already been developed in urban areas.  We need to resist that tendency to sprawl, thus putting our agricultural and forest resources at risk. 

More than half of Waterloo Region’s growth comes from building in existing urban areas. This investment in our urban centres means we can keep growing while preserving the rural communities and farms that make Waterloo Region unique. This is not a short-term concern.  We need to protect farmland and natural areas from urban sprawl.  Farmland, cultural and natural landscapes provide urban dwellers with respite from stress.  Natural environments provide us with clean water and clean air.  These are qualities that have made Ontario a wonderful place to live, work and play.

3.  Impact on Heritage

The impact on built heritage and cultural landscapes is obvious since Bill 66 circumvents planning by municipal government. There are many examples where protection of our built heritage has been put at risk despite good planning.  An Open for Business bylaw could bypass the Planning Act and Provincial Policy Statement.  The latter states clearly that “Significant built heritage resources and significant cultural heritage landscapes shall be conserved.”

The bill also impacts on archaeological heritage.  Ontario has a rich history of occupation that dates back at least 12,000 years. The archaeological assessments completed each year in advance of development help fill in the gaps in the story of our province, Indigenous Peoples and more recent settlers. 

Archaeology gives a voice to many who have been written out of the history of our province. Indigenous and descendant community participation in the process of archaeological investigation has recently amplified that voice. Bill 66 threatens to allow municipalities to opt out of the research that comes from excavations prior to construction. 

The Ontario Archaeological Society has stated clearly: “Under Bill 66, a municipality will be able to circumvent… the Provincial Policy Statement… and Official Plan requirements…. The protection of heritage is a mandatory provincial interest under the Ontario Heritage Act, not a decision of convenience at a municipal level. Bill 66 needs to be amended to restore the requirements that protect our heritage for the generations to come.”

The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has stated that Bill 66 would allow the development of major employment and economic growth opportunities.  We could see many more demolitions of heritage buildings.  In the past, demolitions have taken place despite protections, including Carnegie libraries, fire stations, city halls and other valuable buildings of historic and cultural significance.  Should a builder decide to demolish an historic building, under an Open for Business bylaw, there would be nothing anybody could do to protect it.

Under Bill 66, the lack of heritage protections would mean that we further write out of our history the richness of Indigenous Peoples as well as those settlers whose descendants form a majority of today’s population.

Bill 66 puts the cultural and natural landscapes of Ontario at risk.  I ask that you reject this bill in its current form.