Galt factory gets makeover
26 MAY 2007
Tiger Lofts to offer 54 apartments in old textile plant
BY KEVIN SWAYZE
As Lancer Group works to convert a former textile factory into 54 affordable loft apartments in old Galt, the Toronto developer is shopping for more sites to redevelop.
"We are looking across Waterloo Region," said Steve Lindy, vice-president.
"We are looking for sites for seniors homes, for rental (apartments) and condominiums ... Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are good places to be building."
Lancer has a proposal before the Region of Waterloo for a subsidized apartment project aimed at those 50 or older, on King Street near Grand River Hospital. He wouldn't be more specifIc, but said it's an "underutilized site."
This week, Lancer and city officials gathered at the Tiger Lofts project on Water Street South where Melloul Blamey Construction is gutting a four-storey former Tiger Brand factory before 51 one-bedroom and three bachelor apartments are created. At street level, there will be retail space, parking and gardens.
Minor soil contamination was found. Also, extra work is needed to replace the floor over a former water raceway. Those surprises boosted the project cost to $7 million from $6 million, Lindy said.
The project is getting $2.1 million in provincial and federal affordable housing grants.
Tour visitors on upper floors saw downtown vistas that will come with the $585-a-month units. Looking east, Lancer officials could see their $12-million Wellington Square apartment project completed last summer.
Tiger Lofts should he ready for occupancy by early 2008, Lindy said.
The project is one of several in the works in downtown Camhridge.
Developers of a $120-million residential condominium and commercial development on a coal-tar contaminated site hope to start work on a Water Street North site in a month.
Waterscape is a project of Haastown Holdings, based in Richmond Hill. President Paul de Haas said local government approvals are falling into place and huyer response is strong.
"We're now at about 50 per cent presold in the first phase," de Haas said.
Construction starts when 70 per cent of units are sold, he said. The first building has 115 units. Two towers are proposed in the first phase.
De Haas expects the city to exempt his project from height rules. He also expects the region to approve property tax concessions.
Environmental concerns, meanwhile, have delayed a seven-storey, 66-unit apartment building at the former Camhridge Reporter property.
Heartwood Place awaits provincial approval for a cleanup plan for the longtime industrial site. That's expected by end of summer, said Mary Bales, chair of the non-profit Heartwood board.
So far, $1 million has heen raised toward the $1O.5-million project to create affordable downtown housing. Heartwood is also talking with Waterloo Region to access federal and provincial housing grant money, Bales said.
Conversion of a former textile factory on Spruce Street into upscale condominiums is well underway. Renovation started a year ago to create one- and two-bedroom condominiums selling for $228,000 to $349,000.
Park Place - CBC Living in Toronto
20 MARCH 2007
Park Place - Panache along with park views
03 FEBRUARY 2007
DIANE TIERNEY - Special to the Star
The Park Place penthouse model suite in Toronto presents panache and panoramic views to potential buyers.
Catherine McGhie, vice-president of sales for Lancer Building Corp., developers of Park Place says, "The model suite has floor-to-ceiling windows and the view is reminiscent of looking over Central Park in New York City. So we designed the suite in a modern style to capture this feeling."
The condominium is eight-storeys high and has 92 units. Located in the heart of North York, it overlooks Earl Bales Park. The suites have spacious terraces so homeowners can enjoy not only views of the park to the north, but city skyline views to the south, and spectacular sunrises and sunsets to the east and west.
The penthouse residences boast nine- and 10-foot ceilings, custom kitchen cabinetry, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. There are hardwood floors in the living room, dining room and bedrooms. The ensuite bathrooms have ample countertop space, a whirlpool tub and separate shower.
"The kitchen of the model suite features a warm maple cabinetry with brushed chrome hardware to complement the stainless steel appliances," says McGhie. "The floor is ceramic and has the same warm tone. The ceramic backsplash is done with four-by-four-inch tiles to add character and more intricate detail than larger tiles would create."
The espresso-coloured hardwood flooring was laid lengthwise through the living and dining room to make the space appear larger.
"Accent walls were painted a coffee colour to complement the cream-coloured walls and add interest. If you have a few accent walls in a space, it also gives the illusion that the space is larger than what it is in reality. It attracts the viewer's eye for longer," she says. The idea belies the thinking that once you start painting an open-concept room with one colour, that you have to use it everywhere.
An area rug defines the living room from the dining room, even though the space is shared.
"Since a lot of the rug is covered by the long sofas, a glass coffee table allows you to see more of the rug," says McGhie.
The sofas are dressed up with a few toss cushions to soften the other solid look of leather.
The dining room features armless, leather chairs to save space and increase elbow room around the table. "The chandelier has 68 individual chains of crystals," says McGhie. The luxurious fixture adds sparkle and sophistication when the lights are dimmed for a dinner party.
Although this suite is 1,700 square feet, suites start from 673 square feet. There are one- to three-bedroom designs.
"The model suite is priced at about $565,000, but prices start at about $389,000. The condominium is geared toward young professionals and empty-nesters," says McGhie.
The building has a fitness room and recreation lounge with a full kitchen. From this area you can walk out to a professionally landscaped garden and patio.
Park Place is adjacent to more than 150 hectares of parkland offering hiking and bicycle trails, the 1,500-seat Barry Zukerman Amphitheatre where there are frequent free performances in summer and year-round activities at the Earl Bales Community Centre.
The area has many shops and restaurants. It's a few minutes from Yorkdale Mall, Bayview Village Shopping Centre and Don Valley Public Golf Course.
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Park Place - Boutique Building Adjacent to the Park
Special to The Globe and Mail
The Park Place condominium on the west side of Bathurst Street near Sheppard Avenue has the advantage of being next to Earl Bales Park, whose attractions include community and ski centres and a 1,500-seat amphitheatre. If that piques the interest of potential buyers, they also should know that the building, at only eight storeys, is relatively intimate, and that occupancy is possible in 60 days or less.
The condominium by Lancer Building (Danby) Corp. will contain 92 suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and balconies or terraces. Many units will overlook the Don River Valley, which runs through the park, and also offer beautiful views of the city, says Christine Rayman, vice-president of marketing. "There are free performances at the [Barry Zuckerman] amphitheatre during the summer and it's a nice area to walk, bike and so forth," she adds.
About 80 per cent of the suites are already sold (owners have already started moving into the lower levels), and Lancer chalks that up in part to the popularity of the project's scale. "There aren't many projects in Toronto that have that intimacy of a smaller boutique project like that," Ms. Rayman says. "That appeals to single people and empty-nesters."
There are one- to three-bedroom models, priced from $189,900 for 673 square feet of living space. Larger penthouse suites on the top three floors start at $389,900 for 1,571 square feet of space.
Fleiss Gates Architects designed the stone and stucco structure in collaboration with the developer's executive vice-president, Toby Rayman, who is also a principal of an architectural firm, and her daughter, Lana Rayman, vice-president of interior design.
There are minimal hallways in the building's design to allow for larger, open-concept principal rooms, and more spacious bedrooms with closets and ample storage space.
Many larger units have kitchens with full-height pantries, raised granite breakfast bars and stainless-steel appliances, and lazy Susans in corner cupboards to allow for easier access.
Depending on the plan, there will be washbasins in the laundry room - a rare feature in condos - and en suite bathrooms with whirlpool tubs and separate shower stalls.
Windows and walls will have increased insulation so residents won't hear the noise on Bathurst, Ms. Rayman says.
"Toby's very sensitive to noise, so she always feels that there should be strong noise insulation in all our projects."
Nine-foot ceilings will be standard, except for units on the sixth and eighth floors, which will have 10-foot ceilings.
Regular suites will have laminate flooring, while penthouses will feature engineered hardwood flooring in the combined living and dining room and, in some case, other areas.
Units include parking and a locker. A monthly fee of 37 cents a square foot covers heat, water and maintenance of common areas. The latter include a gym, a recreation room with kitchen, and a profes-sionally landscaped garden and patio.
Nearby are restaurants, public transit stops and shopping venues, including the Yorkdale Mall. The Allen Expressway and Highway 401 can be easily reached from the site.
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Wellington Square - Work on $12M Project Begins
Condominiums, Apartments in Galt Will Take Year to Finish
Work started this week on a $12-million condominium and apartment project in the heart of old Galt.
The project known as Wellington Square will fill what has been a huge hole in the ground for several years at the corner of Wellington and Main streets.
Toronto-based Lancer Group is building the project, which will take about a year to complete.
Cash incentives from the city to redevelop the former industrial site has Lancer looking at starting more housing projects in Cambridge, said Steve Lindy, the vice-president of development.
"The city has been extremely co-operative in getting the approvals," Lindy said.
"It's been a pleasure working with them. We're looking forward to doing more projects in the city."
Lindy wouldn't say what sites Lancer is eyeing.
"We're certainly looking at several properties."
The city waves building permit and site fees in the Preston, Hespeler and Galt cores.
The City of Cambridge and Waterloo Region waive core area development charges, which total about $8,000 a housing unit.
The city also has a fund that offers $1,500 for every housing unit created on a contaminated site, to help pay for cleanup.
Lancer's downtown project has two parts:
Along Main and Wellington streets, an L-shaped, four-storey building will have 77 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Along Harris Street and Commonwealth Lane, an L-shaped, four-storey building will have 85 one- and two- bedroom condominiums. They will sell for $119,000 to $185,000.
Already, 50 of the units have been reserved for sale. Lindy expects interest to pick up now that construction is underway.
"That certainly is positive when you have started on the ground, with construction underway," Lindy said.
"The project is reality and that will generate more sales."
Mayor Doug Craig joined Lancer officials for a soil turning event at the site Tuesday afternoon.
The mayor said it is great news to see a long-awaited downtown project underway.
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Wellington Square - Old Cambridge Gets New Life
Progressive municipal incentive strategy helps rejuvenate urban core
Architecture school moves into former mill conversion.
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
CAMBRIDGE--Call it smart growth in the heart of a small Ontario city.
Or helping to breathe new life into an old downtown that has found it tough to compete with the fast-expanding suburbs.
Here on the banks of the Grand River, the municipality about an hour's drive west of Toronto seems to be doing things right to counteract the lure of newer shopping and entertainment centres at its outskirts.
Cambridge has one of the most progressive municipal strategies in Ontario to help rejuvenate old urban cores, a program that offers financial incentives to building owners, developers and investors. It even helps fund improvements that include windows and doors, exterior cleaning, and painting and signage.
In 2002, the city committed nearly $1 million to these programs and last year more than $400,000 was used in the main downtown area of the former city of Galt -- the historic core of Cambridge. (The municipalties of Galt, Hespeler, Preston and the Village of Blair amalgamated to form Cambridge in 1973.)
The former city of Galt, south of Highway 401, is home to most Cambridge residents and dates from 1816.
Its downtown has many fine edifices, churches and homes built by Scottish stonemasons as well as recently upgraded parks and riverside walks.
The imposing town hall dates from 1857. The Saturday farmers' market at Ainslie and Dickson Sts. has been held next door since 1830 and attracts hordes of tourists as does the Southworks Outlet Mall in renovated stone mills on Grand Ave. S.
One new and significant project here is Wellington Square Condominiums, a mid-rise condominium to be built by the Lancer Group of Toronto, two blocks from the Grand River for about $10 million. This will finish rejuvenation of an old industrial property. Contaminated soil has already been removed to allow development to proceed.
Lancer hopes to begin construction next month. Tom Watson, of Century 21 Watson Realty Ltd., is pre-selling the suites and says the building is the first mid-rise condo project of its kind in the old downtown.
Initially 84 suites are being sold in a four-storey L-shaped stucco and stone building, facing the corner of Commonwealth Lane and Harris St.
Both ground-level and underground parking are to be offered. Residents will be walking distance to downtown and handy to the network of hiking, biking and cross-country skiing trails along the Grand River.
The condo, designed by architect Jonathan Weizel of Thornhill, will eventually have a second building of about 74 suites, fronting mostly on Main St. A landscaped courtyard will go between the two buildings.
"We started selling suites in the first building only two months ago," Watson says. "Things have gone really well as we haven't had an on-site sales office or a model suite.
"So far we've got about 35 reservations, mainly from local people who are both empty-nesters and younger first-time buyers. There are no other major condo apartment buildings downtown."
Lancer aims to have its first building completed by fall 2005. Prices start at $111,000 for a one-bedroom suite and $159,000 for a two-bedroom one. Suite sizes are 545 square feet to 945 square feet. Monthly condo fees have yet to be set.
Immediately south of the site are 92 condo townhouses recently built by First Suburban Homes. The last unit was sold about three months ago.
Ron Joiner, a team leader at the Cambridge Toyota plant, moved into a townhouse there late in 2001 with his wife Shelley. They paid $195,000 including custom changes that involved putting in hardwood floors, an extra upstairs bathroom and a loft.
"We really enjoy the downtown location," Joiner says. "It's a nice area and getting better."
Ralph Moore and his wife, Isobel, have bought in the same development and previously lived in Unionville and the Beach in Toronto. They are retired and moved to be near their married daughter and family.
Moore says: "This project has been kind of a front-runner here and now several other condo projects are being planned in and around downtown.
"We don't regret our move one bit. It's so convenient being where we are and we see the downtown becoming more alive."
Watson says that putting the University of Waterloo School of Architecture into the old downtown means another economic boost for an area that in recent years has seen many improvements to public facilities. The school, built as a $27-million conversion of the former Riverside Silk Mills, opens next month with 400 students.
"The downtown is bouncing back and you don't see many vacant stores any more," Watson says. "And landlords are refurbishing apartments above old stores in space that hasn't been used for years, all in anticipation of student needs."
Alain Pinard, policy planning director for Cambridge, credits its ore area revitalization programs, including financial incentives to encourage new development and clean up old industrial properties, for helping to breathe new life into the old downtown.
Last year, the city won the Brownie Award from the Canadian Urban Institute for a strategy in cleaning up contaminated sites such as Wellington Square.
Pinard says developers can reap more than $10,000 in benefits for each residential unit they construct when things such as exemptions from development charges, building permit and planning fees, and other incentives from Waterloo Region are included.
Pinard adds: "This can really add up and the school of architecture relocation has boosted investment confidence. The city has several proposals for other condos under review.
"There's a broad-based community consensus that our revitalization and financial incentives are good. We've been into them for five years or so, and in some cases they include interest-free and partly forgivable loans."
Steven Lindy, development vice-president of the Lancer Group, which has a substantial property management and development portfolio in southern Ontario, says the company has all the required environmental approvals for Wellington Square.
"The site was zoned for high-rise," he says, "but we really didn't think that would fit in with the surrounding neighbourhood."
Lindy says eight different suite designs are available, including wide-shallow configurations to reduce wasted corridor space and increase living area.
In Toronto, Lancer is involved in developing a 36-storey rental apartment on Metropolitan United Church property downtown and the eight-storey Park Place condo on Bathurst St., in North York.
Cambridge has more than 118,000 residents, lies north and south of Highway 401 in Waterloo Region.
Major employers include Toyota's huge auto plant that provides 4,000 jobs, and Automation Tooling Systems with 3,800 employees and 26 facilities worldwide. On a smaller scale, Grey Owl Paddle makes about 60,000 canoe, kayak and dragon-boat paddles a year. Annual sales are around $2 million.
For more information on Wellington Square Condominiums call 1-888-779-9959 or go to http://www.wellingtonsquare.ca
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Park Place - AM 740 Radio Interview
24 JUNE 2006
Old knitting mill to house apartments
AUGUST 1 2006
54 open-concept units will be built to rent at affordable prices
A Toronto developing corporation believes it has a "tiger by the tail" in Cambridge.
"We saw an opportunity to revitalize an old industrial building in the downtown core of Cambridge and we grabbed it," said Steven Lindy, vice- president of Lancer Tiger Lofts Corp.
Lancer will be investing about $6 million later this summer to recycle the former Tiger Brand Knitting Company building at 35 Water St. S.
The Toronto-based company, now in the final stages of completing an apartment complex at Wellington Square, is set to start renovations on its Water Street property this September.
Over a 10-month period, the former production halls of the knitting mill will be transformed into 54 new open-concept rental apartment units. The project, to be known as the Tiger Lofts, is slated to include six bachelor apartments of roughly 600 square feet in size and 48 single-bedroom units, which will rent at market rate or less.
"We have found through our experience with Wellington Square that Cambridge is a very tough market," Lindy said. "It's a very price conscious market."
In transforming the old factory to its new use, Lindy said the design by architect Jonathan Weizel calls for a reinterpretation of the building using as much of what is already there as possible.
While the developer will be updating the large old windows with new energy efficient glass, the apartment walls will have exposed brick and the old hardwood floors will remain. The units will also have nine-foot ceilings and, where possible, exposed wooden beams.
On the building's ground floor, space is being provided for two or three commercial units as well as an apartment lobby that will pay homage to the building's past as a knitting mill.
From the street, the appearance of the four storey building will be updated, but not significantly altered.
"The exterior of the building does look a little rough now, but we will be softening it and making it look a little bit more residential," Lindy said. "We're looking at adding canopies over the windows in the commercial units and adding balcony railings over the apartment windows."
Parking for the new apartment building will be provided at the rear of the building, which will be cleaned up and landscaped. Included in the project's landscaping plans is a courtyard area.
Lindy said part of the Tiger Lofts property, at the corner of Water and Warnock streets, will be severed to create space for some future development.
Lindy said as work winds down on the 77 unit Wellington Square apartment complex, work crews from that project will be transferred to the Tiger Lofts.
"We are very happy with the quality of trades people we have been able to find in Cambridge and we want to keep them working," he said.
As the final details are worked out before work begins on the Tiger Lofts, Lindy said his company is on the lookout for other development opportunities in the area.
He said: "This is a new and very exciting area for us. It has a lot of potential."
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New projects take in the beauty
Here is a look at a handful of new developments taking advantage of the Grand River's ambience and beauty.
WELLINGTON SQUARE IN DOWNTOWN CAMBRIDGE
Cambridge's downtown core has undergone a rejuvenation in recent years. Part of the process includes the movement of the School of Architecture from the University of Waterloo to the banks of the Grand River across from the Old Galt Post Office (1885), now home of the Fiddler's Green Irish Pub.
At the Wellington Square development, just steps from the Cambridge Farmer's Market and about two blocks from the river, 42 of 86 units on four floors have so far been reserved.
With a modern L-shaped design boasting stone facings similar to existing local architecture, the development features two unit sizes of 545 square feet and 945 square feet, priced from $114,000 to $190,000.
It's the first of two buildings proposed, with a landscaped courtyard in between. Parking spaces are to be available to buy above ground and underground. Construction is to begin late this summer for occupancy next summer.
For more information, call (519) 621-2460, or see http://www.wellingtonsquare.ca .
CHICOPEE ON THE GRAND IN KITCHENER
This is where Bob and Vicky Papalambropoulos chose to live.
Reids Uptown Homes can be seen throughout the Golden Triangle but this is the only one within sight of the Grand. Only a handful of lots in this final phase remain in this subdivision close to the Chicopee Ski Hill and a few minutes from the Fairview Park Mall. They include 39-foot frontages, but also some over-sized corner and pie-shaped lots with premiums. Buyers can choose from six fully detached designs, including two-storey homes and bungalows, ranging from 1,460 square feet to 2,136 square feet. Prices go from $245,400 to $257,400. Five models are on display at the main Cambridge site on the northeast corner of Townline Road and Hwy. 401. For more information, call 519-658-5020 or 519-651-3439.
ST. ANDREWS MILL IN FERGUS
This former mill property dating to 1856 in Fergus provides an eye-catching series of historic buildings with modern condominium interiors for residents. A meadow across the river, overhanging trees and the constant sound of cascading water adds to the allure. Condominiums in the West Mill and the Main Mill include one- and two-bedroom units ranging in size from 1,040 square feet to 1,462 square feet. Prices range from $209,990 to $282,990. Some units overlook the river, others overlook the street, but all residents have access to large waterside balconies on every floor and a main floor waterside common room. Across the street are red-brick, freehold Victorian townhouses (freehold means you don't pay monthly fees for common grounds or upkeep). Two designs range from 1,494 square feet to 1,506 square feet. Both come with two bedrooms and are priced from $214,990 to $219,990. Immediate occupancy is available. For more information call 1-866-663-0330.
GRANDVILLE IN PARIS
Two builders have combined forces on this ridge a short distance from the juncture of the Nith and Grand Rivers in the historic town of Paris, sometimes referred to as "the prettiest town in Canada." New Horizon Homes and Stoney Creek builder Losani Homes plan nearly 400 bungalows, two-storey singles, freehold townhomes, semis and condominium townhouses. New Horizon currently offers four freehold townhouse designs ranging from 1,185 square feet to 1,511 square feet, priced from $159,990 to $199,990. Losani offers semis, bungalows, ranches and two-storey houses ranging from 1,073 square feet to 2,600 square feet, priced from $164,900 to $296,900. Both builders currently display fully decorated models on site, the New Horizon townhouse serving as a sales office. For more information call 519-442-2626.
Watching the river flow
Home seekers and builders alike are recognizing the value of the rejuvenated Grand River Valley
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Bob and Vicky Papalambropoulos had their eye on a property by the Grand River in Kitchener long before the builder arrived. Bob used to bike the community trail beside the river and knew the area well.
"The neighbourhood is literally nestled within a protected greenbelt of forest, which is one of the reasons we bought there," says Bob, 33, a pharmacist. "We'll be able to see the river from the loft of our house."
This December, Bob and Vicky, with their preschool son and daughter, are to move into a 2,800-square-foot two-storey with loft at Chicopee on the Grand, built by Reids Uptown Homes.
It's a 10-minute walk from the river.
"You don't appreciate this location until you walk down to the river and then all you can say is, 'This is just amazing. It's so placid and quiet,'" Bob says.
Like him and his family, more and more home seekers and builders are recognizing what a valuable resource the Grand River is, with several new developments drawing interest.
The river has its source deep in the rolling hills near Dundalk, about an hour northwest of Toronto.
From there, the river meanders through farmland, forms into lakes, criss-crosses towns, and snakes through the wetlands and marshes of the Niagara Peninsula, 300 kilometres to the south as the crow flies. Before reaching Lake Erie, the river passes through the largest old growth Carolinian forest in Ontario.
In the 1930s, the river was in environmental decline with barely a trickle running through its riverbed in the summer. Since then, the Grand has been cleaned up, rejuvenating an ecosystem that again supports fish and wildlife such as deer, otters and coyotes.
"It's so much a part of people's lives," says Ralph Beaumont, spokesperson for the Grand River Conservation Authority. "With some of the most beautiful scenery available, it really contributes to quality of life."
Since 1948, the GRCA has been responsible for protecting and rehabilitating the waterway. Approximately 1.1 million people visit the 11 active conservation areas and parks along the banks of the Grand each year.
"More and more people are discovering it for fishing and canoeing," says Beaumont, "but on the practical side about 20 per cent of Kitchener's water supply comes from the river, and all of (the water for) Brantford and the Six Nations comes from it.
"It's all an integrated ecosystem. Any community even on underground water, is directly affected by the Grand River, so we've a lot of interest in keeping our waterways healthy."
In the northern portion, the river widens into Lake Belwood for a retirement community and several camping parks. In Fergus, it earned its passage by driving mill wheels in the mid-1800s, such as Monkland's Mill. In Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge, the Grand River marks the landscape with deep ravines and picturesque canals.
Festivals in the river communities contribute to the economy.
The annual Scottish-Highland Festival in Fergus takes place this weekend with bagpipes, dancers and burly men in kilts hurling large heavy objects.
Fergus and Elora also play host to a Folk Festival that runs throughout the summer and into September at various venues, including one of the oldest churches in Canada.
Kitchener offers its Oktoberfest in October, and Cambridge invited crowds to its canal in July for the riverside Mill Race Folk Festival.
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JULY 3 2004
New UW school of architecture takes shape and helps boost Cambridge's economy
Shane Murphy has endured the bad times in Cambridge's downtown. Now, the hair salon owner is enjoying better times as workers push to meet a fall deadline to convert an old textile mill along the opposite shore of the Grand River into the new University of Waterloo school of architecture.
"After 25 years, I'm starting to see things change for the better. It's coming alive," said the owner of Clipper's Hair Styling at 15 Main St.
"I really noticed it last year. There are more people on the street."
Of every 10 customers who sit in her chairs, at least three ask her if the new school is going to increase her business. Or they wonder how the $27.2 million investment will boost the downtown's fortunes. There's optimism in the air along Main Street that Murphy hasn't sensed before. It's a dramatic change from the scorn heaped on the downtown in the tough 1990s, after the Woolco store closed and empty storefronts sprouted.
The old Galt downtown, the district's commercial hub a century ago, had hit bottom and staggered along for most of the decade. Murphy, however, kept the faith. She bought Clippers four years ago, after working there 21 years. She saw how regulars kept the business going. Now, new faces are coming in more often.
"I think downtown is changing. It's more than the architecture school. I think there's more stuff going on."
Murphy isn't the only voice of optimism downtown. Property owners are cleaning up buildings, empty storefronts are rare and developers are dusting off apartment and condominium plans. City council encourages investment in the city's Galt, Preston and Hespeler core areas by waiving development fees, deferring property tax increases and paying for cleanup of contaminated sites. Murphy need only look to her landlords, Tom and Rosalind Hart, as evidence of the financial commitment people are making downtown.
The couple sold their west Salisbury Avenue house and are moving downtown, into a stunning new two-bedroom apartment over The Boardwalk at 15-19 Main St.
The apartment was a mess when they bought the building, Tom Hart said. It sat vacant until earlier this year, when they renovated it into a new home.
If things go as planned, they'll have architecture students for neighbours in September. Tom Hart said he's planning to create three student apartments on the third and fourth floors of the former Walker department store this summer. He's waiting to finalize an arrangement with UW to rent the apartments to students before works starts. Once the first apartments are filled, there's room to add three more.
"The school, in my mind, has changed attitudes more than anything. I think people have a different attitude about downtown and there are more people downtown," Hart said.
Drywall and framing has been ripped away on the fourth floor, uncovering two arched windows overlooking Main Street rooftops. It's like peeling away the wrapping on a gift for a downtown landlord: the view is spectacular, there's not an empty storefront in sight and two-year-old loft apartments across the street are full.
Hart sits on the city's core areas rejuvenation committee. What he sees through those fourth-floor windows is vindication for his faith in a downtown clawing its way back after decades of battering by urban sprawl and suburban shopping malls.
"It's proof if you provide it, they will come to it," he said.
That's what The Lancer Group, a Toronto development company, is counting on.
Lancer owns a big hole in the ground at Wellington and Main streets where it plans to build an 85-unit condominium block. Wellington Square plans were finalized in early June. Without any advertising, 24 prospective buyers have each put down $500 deposits to reserve a unit.
"That's incredible. It's very encouraging," said Steven Lindy, vice-president of development at Lancer.
Advertising of the project started last weekend. Prices for the one- and two-bedroom units range from $99,900 to $180,000. If the surge of interest continues, Lindy said construction could start by summer's end.
Lancer has plans for a second building on the site, but hasn't finalized them. It could offer more condominiums, or rental apartments. City zoning allows, at most, another 80 units on the site.
Other developers are kicking tires in downtown, too. A preliminary site plan is circulating at city hall for about 120 units on the old Galtaco foundry site, at Shade and Kerr streets. There's also another apartment plan proposed on Wellington Street. No firm plans have surfaced for either project.
When Lancer heard two years ago that the school of architecture was moving to Cambridge, it started looking into the local market, Lindy said.
"I love Cambridge. Every time I come to Cambridge, it's like a breath of fresh air," the Toronto native said.
Lindy isn't surprised to hear about the Harts renovating an old apartment into a new, showcase downtown home.
"The land costs are low and you can put the extras into the finishes," he said.
Low upfront costs and growing community amenities -- like the architecture school -- make Galt an attractive area for developers and people wanting to move there, Lindy said.
"There seems to be a new dynamism coming in. In general, there's the historic architecture of the city we're trying to include in the architecture of our building."
* * * * * * * * * *
Creating a new home for the UW school of architecture is predicted to create economic gains of $55 million to $65 million in the Cambridge economy within seven to 10 years of the school's opening.
The "forecast of associated economic benefits" is part of the application document used to secure $8.2 million in provincial and federal Superbuild money to help pay for the project.
The study also predicts 3,000 new jobs and the generation of $1.25 million in extra property taxes as the school sends ripples through the downtown and the city-wide economy.
The school's cost is $27.2 million. The property cost $1 million and renovations and furnishing $13.7 million.
The remaining $12.5 million will go into two endowment funds: $6.5 million to fund ongoing repairs and upgrades, and $6 million to pay for extra expenses related to operating a satellite campus.
City council has committed $6 million to the project over 15 years, plus another $1.4 million, mostly in waiving development fees (as occurs for any downtown development). The federal and provincial governments each contributed $4.1 million towards the project.
That leaves $11.6 million to be found in the community by the Cambridge Consortium, a private fundraising group composed of more than 40 local business leaders.
Val and Sheila O'Donovan contributed $3 million and Michael Barnstijn and Louise McCallum another $2.5 million to kick off the fundraising. There's about $2 million to go as the school readies to open, said Tom Watson, one of the consortium's founders. He's also owner of Century 21 Watson Real Estate Ltd. on Main Street.
There will likely always be a need for fundraising to support the school as it evolves, Watson said.
In return, students and faculty will make contributions to the community and local charities. Last year, for example, architecture students formed the biggest team at the YMCA's Jingle Bell Run, Watson said.
"I think the school will support the community and I hope the community will give back to the school."
Exactly how the school of architecture affects the downtown will be the subject of a study by University of Waterloo researchers, said Laurel Davies, Cambridge's core areas projects manager.
"Research studies say a school is an important part of a healthy downtown. Never has there been a study of the before and after," Davies said.
Data gathering is already underway and will continue for about a year after the school opens. The report will be part of an ongoing research partnership between Cambridge, Waterloo and Kitchener, looking at ways to revitalize downtowns of mid-sized cities.
Davies said a downtown's fortunes rise and fall in cycles. Galt was already on an upswing because of city efforts to prompt downtown investment, but the school of architecture will accelerate the revival, she said.
People on the streets, not in their cars, is key to a healthy downtown. The school will draw hundreds of students, teachers and visitors to Galt, which can only help the local economy, she said.
"I think the school will bring a group of people with a different attitude to urban living."
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Barb Boyes is looking forward to a university campus downtown, with hopes it will pump some life into her adopted hometown. The Toronto native moved to Cambridge 10 years ago, to a house off upper Main Street. She likes downtown, but wishes there was more to do there.
"To me, there is so much potential," she said.
While sipping a coffee outside the Grand Café on Queen's Square, just around the corner from workers building the school of architecture, Boyes lamented the lack of downtown attractions for active, older adults.
Don't imitate a big city downtown like Toronto. Instead, learn from a place like the Kitsilano district of Vancouver, a place she visited and fell in love with. Hiking trails along the Pacific Ocean, interesting shops and jazz clubs gives that downtown an irresistible attraction to people looking for a fun place to live or visit, she said.
Instead of spending money on converting streets to two-way traffic -- as the city did two years ago -- the city should encourage more use of the city trail system by bicyclists, who'll need places to stop, shop and eat.
She was happy to hear the city's riverside trail system will run through the rear of the school of architecture. The school's restaurant will serve the public and offer public washrooms.
Having university students in your neighbourhood gives it life. Boyes used to offer room and board for University of Toronto students.
"That's something I would do again if I had a different setup in my house," she said.
"I had fun with them. They like to debate things."
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Renovating old factories into new uses is nothing revolutionary. It's been done for decades in big cities like New York, where loft apartments are coveted by urban professionals.
What's different with converting the Riverside Silk Mills into the school of architecture is that the building is in a smaller city, a place where such large-scale renovations are a rarity, said Rick Haldenby, the school's director.
Four years ago, plans called for the school of architecture to move into a sparkling new architectural icon to be built on a barren former factory site along Water Street North near Simcoe Street. In hindsight, Haldenby is glad the grandiose proposal collapsed.
"I think if we had pushed ahead with that project, we wouldn't be where we are today. It wouldn't be ready."
Architecture schools often struggle with their public and academic images, Haldenby said. Should they be housed in an avant-garde showpiece of the profession, or should the building be subservient to the academic pursuits inside the walls? "One of the advantages of this building is it's not going to be out of date in 10 years. It's already almost 100 years old," Haldenby said, as sparks showered down from welders working overhead.
Moving the school south from Waterloo is a big move, but it's not the first in the school's nomadic life.
It was founded in 1967 as a part of the UW engineering school. For its first two years, architecture students had a corner of the engineering building on the Waterloo campus.
In 1967, the growing program was divorced from engineering and married to the environmental studies program. With that change, architecture moved off campus, into a nondescript industrial building at 415 Philip St. in Waterloo. By 1971, the growing program needed more space, rented in another nondescript building up the street, at 419 Philip St.
In 1981, architecture students moved back onto the Waterloo campus, into Environmental Studies Two, a utilitarian blockhouse of a building. It's hardly an inspirational home for students with plans to reshape the built world.
"Nobody would ever complain if I called this building ugly," Haldenby said during a tour of the Waterloo building. That's where students will be until mid-August, when the big move south happens.
The new school offers 84,000 square feet of space, more than triple the 25,000 square feet students are now shoehorned into. Architecture students have one floor to themselves in Waterloo, but share computer labs, the library and support services.
Graffiti adorns walls, bulletin boards and some table tops at the old school -- a practice Haldenby said will be discouraged at the new campus.
The new school is designed to offer students inspiring views of the Grand River, while faculty offices and workshops face the west Galt streetscape. The school's display areas, library and lecture hall will be open to public use. Indeed, passersby on all side will be able to peer inside the streetfront windows, watching the school in action.
More than 1,000 students apply for 75 first-year positions available at the school, Haldenby said. They're articulate young people, with probing minds who want to make a difference in the world.
As part of their learning, they'll travel the world -- including studies at the school's Rome campus - and return to their studies in Cambridge, sharing their stories and experiences.
Students in the six-year program don't take the summer off. There are student intakes in fall and winter, while graduate students return throughout the year to complete their studies.
Riverside Mills won't only be home to architecture students. It will become a touchstone for experts and decision- makers from around the world, Haldenby said. Sleepy downtown Cambridge is about to be pushed into the architectural limelight.
He's already planning a fall conference in Cambridge hosted by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Also this fall, six international graduate architecture students will visit the school. Other conferences and and a public lecture series are in the works.
The school's students are also expected to be part of their community, presenting plays and exhibitions. Key to that is a 3,500-square-foot display space on the main floor, operated in partnership with the Cambridge Library and Gallery.
"It's almost impossible to predict what the effect all of this will be" on Cambridge, Haldenby said.
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Along with changing the social fabric of downtown, the school of architecture is likely to change how the city handles big construction projects.
The school is a city project, in co-operation with the private, fundraising consortium and the university. As soon as the project is done, ownership transfers to the university.
The project is on time and on budget, after work started at a dead run in January, said Bob Paul, Cambridge's director of facility management.
"This is incredible. I'm working with some the best people I have ever worked with." Paul has supervised major city construction projects since 1997. His first project was the twinning of the Hespeler Memorial Arena and he's been involved in every city project since.
Creating an architecture school in an old building, however, is a project unlike any he's handled before.City council went against the tradition of tendering the project as a whole, under a general contractor.Instead, Alberici Constructors was hired as a construction manager, to work with Paul and the university in overseeing the project. Each part of the project was sent out to separate tenders, which generated low bids and got work underway fast, Paul said.
Even at the brisk pace, the building won't be complete until the end of October. From the start, Paul said the plan was to complete all of the third-floor classrooms and studios and part of the second-floor work areas for the start of classes in September. Work will continue on the second-floor library and main-floor exhibition space, workshops, lecture theatre and restaurant as classes begin.
Work is proceeding about as fast as it can, Paul said. Any faster, and workers would be tripping over each other.
With a tight construction schedule, city council gave up its spending control when it hired a construction manager to work with city staff. Usually, every city construction tender needs a council vote to approve it. For this project, senior staff and the mayor were delegated the power to sign contracts, as long as tenders came at or below budget. Every tender on the project met the threshold.
"We've had 40 tenders on this project," Paul said. "That's more tenders than we usually put out in an entire year."
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