KITCHENER – JD Development Group paid a record price for 1.1 acres of land on Benton and Charles Streets in the Cedar Hill neighborhood.
It is a milestone in a building boom that has continued in the central quarters years after the end of development funding. It also happened in a neighborhood more known for low rents, drug use and sex trafficking 20 years ago.
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic was a councilor in the 2000s when the city severely curtailed development on Cedar Hill to reduce the number of absent landlords. A planning advisor said the area was in danger of becoming the region’s first âlow-income ghettoâ.
A planning court lifted the city’s building restrictions.
Last month, a house on Church Street that is divided into two apartments sold for $ 980,000.
The sales show the success of large public and private investments in and around downtown Kitchener, Vrbanovic said.
“Kitchener remains one of the top places in Canada for people to want to live and where those looking to build new homes see increased opportunity and demand,” said Vrbanovic.
Cedar Hill is a 10 block maze of narrow streets, old houses, and tall trees with a variety of living styles – supportive living, single-family homes, and residential towers.
“With its proximity to the LRT, this purchase is a great opportunity for the advocate to work with the surrounding neighborhood to build a variety of residential products that build on the great traditions of the area,” said Vrbanovic.
Church Street and Madison Street on Cedar Hill was the first place Stephen Litt, Chief Development Officer at Vive Development, completed a rental housing project as a young engineer 10 years ago, buying and renovating property in the neighborhood.
He followed the example of the city which opened the new Kitchener Market two blocks away and the Waterloo Region’s Ion Line, which runs along the north side of Cedar Hill. Real estate prices are evidence of the success of these investments, Litt said.
“This reflects the continued belief in the Waterloo area as not only a great place to live, but also one of the fastest growing regions in North America,” said Litt.
This is not the JD Development Group’s first project in the region – the Rez-One student building in Waterloo was built. The real estate development and construction company specializes in upscale student housing, but it is unknown what it plans to do with the Kitchener site.
Count. Deb Chapman, who represents the region, said the record breaking real estate deal is another opportunity for the city government to get more affordable units near the city center.
Chapman points out that she has no idea what the developer is planning for the site, but some affordable units should be included.
“Whenever I think of a development on my desk, I ask the developer if they are willing to add affordable housing to their building, and I always get a negative answer,” said Chapman.
âFor me, every new development should have affordable housing,â she said.
Thousands of units in apartment buildings are completed, under construction, or planned in downtown Kitchener. So far, a developer, Drewlo from London, has agreed to provide 11 units of income-oriented rental apartments in its block-sized redevelopment on King Street East and Madison Avenue.
Count. Sarah Marsh fears the construction boom will be over before the city is able to meet provincial demands for an affordable housing plan called “Inclusion Zones”. Once that happens, the city council can require developers to add affordable units to new buildings.
“The province has tied our hands by jumping through a lot of administrative hurdles before we can implement inclusive zoning,” Marsh said.
The process has taken years so far, she added.
The JD Development Group opened its first student residence in Waterloo in 2013.
Julia Zhang, co-founder and chief executive officer of JD Group, started the company after trying to find a nice apartment for a friend’s child who came here for university.
She was shocked by the quality of the dormitory and saw an opportunity to offer quality dormitories.
That was more than 10 years ago and the JD Group now hosts more than 3,000 post-secondary students in the region. Buildings include ground floor retail, fitness facilities, large en-suite bedrooms, concierge, and 24-hour security. There is an online portal to request repairs and maintenance, and students can opt for housekeeping.
The company says its buildings were 97 percent occupied during the pandemic.