The Region of Waterloo has launched the process of finding a private developer to undertake a significant multi-use development that would incorporate a regional transit hub and serve as the region’s bookend to the burgeoning Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor.
The region issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) May 3 that will lead to a Request for Proposals in September and then a preferred master developer will be chosen next spring. The development framework will see the winning proponent take ownership of a four-acre brownfield site near the intersection of King and Victoria Streets in Kitchener and be responsible for design and delivery of the on-site transit infrastructure and its own mixed-use development.
Completion of the King-Victoria Transit Hub is targeted for the end of 2021 with full build-out of the private mixed-use development expected by the end of 2027.
Beyond co-ordinating regional transit operations such as Grand River Transit (GRT), ION LRT, GO Transit, Via Rail, inter-city buses and possibly high-speed trains along the proposed Windsor-Toronto corridor, the development will further enhance the stature of Kitchener-Waterloo within the regional Ontario tech sector, explained Ellen McGaghey, the Region’s project director, King-Victoria Transit Hub.
"Basically we look at this as the connection between the Waterloo region and the Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor," said McGaghey. "Because basically this is how you will get to Waterloo Region in terms of the corridor. We are literally right next door to the Google offices in Kitchener and the School of Pharmacy, Communitech is nearby — there is a central hub of innovation technology companies in the area and we are the connector point for that."
The Region of Waterloo got the ball rolling nine years ago, assembling the lands between 2008 and 2013 and initiating planning to develop the transit hub, with official planning and zoning bylaw approvals obtained in 2012 and heritage, urban design and noise and vibration studies also received. Infrastructure Ontario and Deloitte were hired as procurement advisors in 2015.
The province came through with another key element last June, announcing it would fully fund the hub with an allocation of $43 million.
The relocation of various transit stations to the hub will require continuing collaboration, McGaghey explained. The GO station, for example, is currently 800 metres away from the King-Victoria site.
"The intent is that the GO station and the Via station will be moved into the hub as opposed to remaining at their current locations," she said. "We have had discussions with Metrolinx regarding that move.
"The ION LRT and regional GRT are in regional control so those systems will be straightforward. And then some of the others, we will need to be in discussions in the coming months in terms of moving towards an integrated approach."
Taxis, car sharing, pedestrians and cyclists will also be integrated into the plan and there will be transit support areas included pick-up and drop-off areas, bus bays and links to trails and paths.
Research shows a ready market for housing and the other uses, boosted by the construction of the LRT which will access the site directly, said McGaghey.
"This is an area that is in the process of intensification," she said. "There is significant development coming up and significant development has happened very recently, and certainly with the ION LRT it has changed the dynamic here and elsewhere in the city.
"Certainly we have seen a great deal of interest from the development community locally and further abroad anticipating the RFQ coming out, and we’ll have a better sense of this as we move through the RFQ to see how much of that materializes."
Cushman & Wakefield has been involved in developing marketing scenarios. The four-year transit phase of the project will see development of such works as a transit hall, site work and plazas, transit hall parking and an interim Victoria Street bus loop, bus bays and passenger pick-up and drop-off lanes.
Off-site components contemplated include a GO platform, a multi-use trail across King Street and a pedestrian underpass or overpass. The transit hub is expected to boost LRT ridership given the intensification of uses at the hub, combined with such nearby redevelopments at the Breithaupt Block and the Kaufman lofts, say regional planners.
McGaghey said the site will require typical post-industrial remediation. There is one heritage structure, the Rumpel Felt building at Duke and Victoria.
"There will be some requirements to retain the historic elements of that building and I think there is some really interesting potential for building that into the mixed use development," she said.