Ratz-Bechtel funeral home bought by Zehr Group

The Zehr Group says it has purchased the former Ratz-Bechtel funeral home, a 19th century mansion built by Berlin rubber magnate Jacob Kaufman, with plans to redevelop the site.

Company says respect for history 'will be a key focus of plans' to redevelop the property

The former Ratz Bechtel funeral home has a new owner. 

Kitchener-based developer Zehr Group announced Monday that it closed the deal to buy the historic property at the end of December for an undisclosed price. 

The company already owns the adjoining three-acre property, a commercial plaza featuring a mix of retail and office space, including an LCBO and Tim Hortons at 607 King Street West. 

The addition of the two-acre property at 621 King Street, it means the company now controls a total of just over five acres of land near the site of the region's future transit hub at King and Victoria and one of the fastest-growing commercial areas of the city. 

'Strong ties to the Kaufman family'

"It's certainly architecturally significant," Leon Bensason, the coordinator of cultural heritage planning for the City of Kitchener, said Monday. 

The Victorian-style building is a former mansion, built in 1897 as the home of Berlin industrialist Jacob Kaufman. 

"It's location speaks to this Berlin-Kitchener tradition of industrialists living close to the factories that they were closely associated with, that being the Kaufman footwear plant," Bensason said. 

"It's been on our radar for quite some time," he said. "It's certainly the reason why we listed it." 

Proposed changes unclear

The property is listed on the city's heritage registry, which means the owner can make certain alterations without the permission of council, such as alteration of windows, doors and other minor changes, Bensason said. 

However, if the new owner were to make drastic changes, Bensason said they would have to make an application to city council, which could then order a study to ensure the redevelopment plans wouldn't be detrimental to the heritage aspects of the property. 

The Zehr Group said in a news release Monday that "some of [the property's] 19th-century character will be preserved" but would not go into specifics. 

Don Zehr, the company's CEO, is quoted in the news release as saying, "We're very respectful of the history of properties we develop and expect this will be a key focus of plans as we move ahead with the project." 

CBC News was not able to reach Zehr by the time of this publication. 

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said the deal closed "just before Christmas." In fact, the deal to purchase the property closed December 31.
    Jan 04, 2016 2:20 PM ET

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