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Housing development in Waterloo could double in height

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A housing development near RIM Park in Waterloo could end up twice as tall as originally planned.

The project, for an unused plot of city-owned land at 2025 University Ave. E., called for a six-storey building with 730 affordable and attainably-priced units, made up of stacked townhouses without any commercial or office spaces.

City council feels that proposal wasn’t ambitious enough.

“What we heard from the community was that there was a lot of feeling that we weren’t efficiently using the site,” explained Michelle Lee, executive officer for the CAO.

Local residents call the area a retail and commercial desert, so the new plan would see the inclusion of commercial space.

“You can go to school, you can work, you can shop, as well as live all within a very small space,” Lee added.

Waterloo city staff have identified 2025 University Ave. E. as a city-owned property where affordable housing could be built. (Google Maps)

To make up for some of the space lost by retail stores, the city wants to build up.

“We definitely would like to see as many units as possible on the site,” said Lee. “We want to use it to the best of our abilities.”

Staff are suggesting the towers along the south side of the property be built to a maximum of 12 storeys, while in the back, there would be smaller buildings of between four and nine storeys.

An image included in the City of Waterloo council packet showing the general location of proposed maximum building heights. (Courtesy: City of Waterloo)

It’s not clear how that would impact the total number of housing units. Staff said that would become clearer once developers submitted their proposals.

“The framework is set, such that we didn’t want the height and density to be the main restricting factor,” Lee explained.

The quick re-evaluation of the plan, she added, is indicative of the uniqueness of the opportunity.

“We really don’t have a lot of properties that we have available vacant that could be used for housing.”

Council has voted unanimously to approve the new plan for 2025 University Ave. E., but there are still some major hurdles they have to clear.

The city initially purchased the land in 1999 as they prepared to build RIM Park. The land ultimately wasn’t needed for the project and was rezoned for “employment.” It has remained a vacant since that time.

In order to move forward with the project, the land would have to be rezoned.

AMinister’s Zoning Order, or MZO, that would allow the province to approve that change quicker than going through the Region of Waterloo.

The city, meanwhile, is anxious to get shovels in the ground.

“If all goes well, possibly building later in 2025 and early 2026,” Lee said.

-With reporting by Jeff Pickel and Alison Sandstrom

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