Kitchener-Waterloo

Two residential developments to revitalize former American Standard property in Cambridge

A project that will see a riverside building converted into condos and a new apartment building constructed in Hespeler Village will bring "vibrancy" into the city, Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig says.

Projects will ‘rejuvenate the land along the Speed River,’ Mayor Doug Craig says

An artist's conception of the Riverbank Lofts in Hespeler Village. (HIP Developments)

A new $50 million project to build two residential developments along the Speed River will "rejuvenate" Cambridge's Hespeler Village, the city's mayor says.

The City of Cambridge and HIP Developments of Waterloo announced details for construction of The Standard and the conversion of a historic mill building into the Riverbank Lofts on Wednesday morning. The project will revitalize the former American Standard property, which fronts onto Guelph Avenue, Queen Street East and Chapel Street.

"It cleans up an abandoned site to some extent, the old American Standard factory, and secondly, it gives a new direction for the village community in terms of economic activity, in terms of people in the downtown frequenting other shops, and it gives a prominence to the whole area," Mayor Doug Craig said in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Thursday.

"It's going to have an enormous, very positive impact on the core area of the Hespeler area."

Site will become focal point

The Standard will be a 10-storey, 152-unit luxury apartment community and will include 1,500 square feet of ground floor retail space, including an outdoor patio on Queen Street.

The riverside mill building will be converted into 45 condominium units to be called Riverbank Lofts. The development plans were approved by the Cambridge municipal heritage advisory committee in October and "the site is envisioned to become a focal point for Hespeler Village" and will "transform and revive a historic river presence in the area," the city's release said.

Joel Doherty, HIP Developments' director of developments told CBC News that they would like to begin the project this spring. They anticipate construction will be completed in the autumn of 2017 and the site will be fully occupied early in 2018.

A couple of buildings on the site will be demolished, but Doherty said they will work to add historic features to the area surrounding the buildings.

"We're going to take a date stone, it's got Jacob Hespeler's initials and 1847 date on it, we're going to take that, we're going to take some significant … cornerstones of the existing buildings and incorporate those into various signage throughout the site, landscape features and a prominent landscape feature right on Guelph Avenue right next to one of the other historic buildings we're going to protect," he said.

Area historically significant

The site was originally built by Jacob Hespeler in 1847 as part of an industrial complex along the river that included a grist mill and distillery. In 1913, kitchen sinks were manufactured there and in 1969, American Standard purchased the property to continue making plumbing supplies, including toilets. The plant was closed in 2007.

The historic stone buildings have been a "prominent feature" in the core, a staff report from February 2009 said.

"Their importance historically, economically and the very identity of the core cannot be overstated," the report said.

During the announcement Wednesday, Craig said he felt the project will "rejuvenate" the area. On Thursday, he said he thinks the exciting part of the project is the restoration of the old building, which has sat empty for more than eight years.

"Some of the walls inside are eight feet thick. It really has a grand history," he said.

Craig also noted the development is along the river and, in particular, near the mill pond area. He called the pond a "crown jewel" in Hespeler Village and would like to see it be made more accessible for the public.

"I'd like to see that opened up somewhat more in terms of people just having access to it, in terms of viewing it, walking trails around it, that sort of thing," he said. 

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