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Grand River Rocks time in new home is limited

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Grand River Rocks will have limited time in their new home on Victoria Street North, after Kitchener City Council officially approved the rezoning of the property to allow for a condo development.

Council voted in favour of the development at 236-264 Victoria Street North during a special meeting on Monday. The proposed project will feature two towers, 35 and 40 storeys tall, with 1,076 residential units and commercial use. The owner, Falco Group, agreed to provide 32 affordable units priced under the CMHC Affordable Housing criteria, but if council turned down the project, and the developer went to the Ontario Land Tribunal, the developer could remove the concession for affordable units.

The proposed development would have two towers and 1,076 residential units. (Source: City of Kitchener)

Falco Group has commited to allow GRR to complete its five-year lease over the next four years, ending in June 2028.

“In this case here, they require a record of site condition, and the applicant has indicated to council and to the tenant that they do not plan on doing any grading, or site work, or construction, prior to June 2028,” Craig Dumart, senior city planner with the City of Kitchener said.

Grand River Rocks is still in the process of moving its Borden Avenue Street location to the old LA Fitness building on Victoria Street North. It has specialized climbing walls coming from Bulgaria in the coming weeks and expects to open the site sometime in June.

A sign advertises a development application on Victoria Street North at the new home of Grand River Rocks home. (Colton Wiens/CTV Kitchener)

The climbing gym agrees housing is needed, but they were unaware of the development plans when they signed a five-year lease.

"We were led to believe that if there were plans for developments, they hadn't been pursued yet," Scot Hamill, co-owner of Grand River Rocks, said. "Had we known that at the time, we probably would have negotiated differently or made a lot of different decisions," Hamill said.

Despite plans to still open on Victoria Street North, the climbing gym is already working on finding a future home.

"We've already been approached by potentially somebody who may have our future home in the next five, six or seven years. But right now, we're keeping our options open and we're definitely planning for the move," Hamill said.

Options for climbing

Currently Grand River Rocks has two locations. The Borden location in Kitchener has taller walls with options for lead and top rope climbing, which will also be at the new Victoria location. Their other gym in Waterloo only offers rope-free climbing on shorter walls, called bouldering.

Members said they want the different options in the community.

“Once you have a taste for lead climb and top roping like this, bouldering is not even close in any way,” member Sarah Grauer said.

Another member, Malu Rocha, said the facility is important for training.

“I go on trips to lead climb actual rock, and if I didn’t have the training facility then I probably wouldn’t be able to do that,” Rocha said.

Member Greg Leno would also miss the options if they weren't there.

“The older you get, the harder it is on your joints and your muscles, so we tend to do a little bit of bouldering, but mostly do lead and top rope,” Leno said.

Financially, Grand River Rocks isn’t worried about needing to find a new home in the coming years. They say they might be operating a little leaner than usual for the near future, but hope wherever they go they will have some kind of ownership of the property.

“We are already setting our sights on what our next big adventure is going to be,” Hamill said.

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