Increased Density and Liveability

Although many people worry that increased density will impact local liveability and community, we believe density should be celebrated and encouraged.

Patrick Simmons
November 20, 2020

As multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) spring up at every corner throughout Waterloo Region, many people worry about how increased density will impact local liveability and community. Will these buildings offer enough liveable space for residents or will as many units as possible be crammed into every available space? Will more residents in the city core lead to unmanageable traffic? Do these new towers add something of value to the city from a design perspective? Will residents have ample access to outdoor and green spaces?

While each MURB is unique, in looking at several upcoming residential developments buildings, we believe density should be celebrated and encouraged. Read on to find out about a couple of these projects that showcase some trends:

  • Reduced surface parking - developers and city officials are ready to embrace smaller parking footprints and make more room for pedestrian walkways, bike paths, open landscaped areas, parks, and public transit to enable residents to experience their city and the outdoors
  • Community spaces - whether through thoughtfully designed common areas on the ground floor to enliven streetscapes, or through open landscaped spaces in and around new developments, residents and passers-by are encouraged to engage, mingle and socialize in a welcoming and active community place
  • Reduced carbon footprint - All electric MURB options! With more buyers and renters looking to match their eco values with their living arrangements, developers are choosing to switch from fossil fuel sources to green-sourced, electric-only buildings and improved technology and efficiencies for heating, cooling, and ventilation needs
  • Added value - from street level amenities to attractive architectural details to pedestrianized thoroughfares, today’s MURBs are building active communities with points of interest that are within walking distance of where we live
“Increasing density increases the liveability of our city. Adding people results in more pedestrians, more use of public transit, and more demand for restaurants, stores, and workplaces. Within years, a new residential building in the right location can totally transform a street and neighbourhood.”

Jason Martin
Principal Architect, MartinSimmons Architects

The Bright Building

As the downtowns of Kitchener and Waterloo have continued to grow into engaging and pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods, the section of King Street connecting those cores has remained a no-man’s land. Stagnant, low rise, and under-utilized. This is about to change with the addition of an 18-storey condo tower created by HIP Developments and designed with the Scandinavian concept of ‘hygge’ - or cozy comfort - in mind. ‘The Bright Building’ features common areas defined by warm woods, ambient lighting, and bright, inviting colours and furnishings. Residents of the 228 units will have access to spaces for remote working, chill-out lounges, and - in true Scandi style - outdoor saunas located on a massive shared roof terrace. Most units will have a generous balcony adding about 20% of the unit’s interior area and will run the full length of each apartment - creating a truly usable outdoor space for every resident.

“With this new residential building, we wanted to bring some of that Scandinavian ‘cool’ to downtown Kitchener. MartinSimmons delivered the exact aesthetic we – and buyers – are looking for.”

Scott Higgins
HIP Developments

This new residential building will jump start the re-gentrification of this area between the twin cities, attracting new community-centric amenities and ramped-up commercial activity. The Bright Building amenity spaces are outward looking, transparent and at street level to add to the character of the street and enliven the streetscape for pedestrians.

The Bright Building landscape design includes a new mid-block pedestrian-only link to connect King Street West to Walter Street Park space. The landscape design for the ‘link’ includes welcoming terraced gardens, park benches and bicycle parking, to create a moment of pause, and a sense of place for the community. Resident and visitor parking vehicular parking was purposely kept to a minimum (0.6 spots per unit) to encourage walking, bike riding, and the use of Grand River Transit - ION light rail transit to connect with Waterloo and Kitchener attractions.

One of the most unique characteristics of the building’s design is its fully electric HVAC system.  Green-sourced electric power fuels an eco-friendly heating and cooling system throughout the building. Smart controls for residents allow them to control their lighting, heating and cooling systems all from their smartphones. Book an elevator, open the front door by video chat, monitor your energy use and water consumption, all accessible from anywhere on your phone. Smart, environmentally forward thinking design is where the housing marketing is headed. The Bright Building is conceived to appeal to Waterloo Region’s next generation of environmentally conscious, digitally connected residents.

The Bright Building's exterior street view
“Renters and buyers are looking for buildings that are more consistent with today’s thinking about energy in terms of efficiency and the types of energy use. In five years, we won’t be putting gas-fired boilers in buildings. Just as cars are moving to batteries and electrification, we’ll see that in the apartment market. Today, we can do that already at a saleable price point.”  

Jason Martin
Principal Architect, MartinSimmons Architects

635 Erb St

Rendering of 635 Erb Street project

New multi-unit residential building developments aren’t restricted to central business districts; they can also inject new, accessible and healthy options for living in suburban locations, too. Identifying the need for attainable, quality rental housing in our region, Lexington Park Real Estate Capital is developing one of the most ambitious housing developments our region has seen. The West Waterloo site is between a low-density residential neighbourhood and a  busy commercial corridor, and is being planned for twin residential towers and an amenity building fronting on Erb Street West, framed to the south and east by a series of low, stacked townhouses on Westhaven Street and a private interior drive.

The goal is to create a lively neighbourhood environment with a contemporary streetscape, complete with an integrated pedestrian network of pathways to connect residents to existing neighbourhoods and open landscaped areas and parkettes. The concept is simply to put pedestrians and bikes before automobiles. In order to achieve the site landscape design, a significant investment in underground parking had to be made. The result is open and accessible spaces between the buildings on the site, spaces that are typically filled with drive aisles and car parks.

An intricate interior street meets the resident’s need for walking and bicycling, vehicular access, and service vehicle access. The woonerf, or ‘living street’, is a pedestrian-first design concept, designed to calm traffic, and share the road space with bicycles and pedestrians alike. The result is a safe and inviting community streetscape, with ample green space for outdoor living and socializing for residents. The road curves through the site, with a stamped asphalt surface to resemble sidewalk pavers, varying in texture and colour to intuitively reduce vehicle speed and encourage a lively space for walkers and cyclists. The result is a shared space that doesn’t revolve around the car; it revolves around pedestrians and connectivity to residents across the site.

“The project team is putting people first in this ambitious project. Typically, developers favour surface parking in place of underground parking solutions to meet tight budgets. In this case, we are fortunate to be working with an Owner with a grand vision for his building legacy, one who is willing to commit to good design and look to substantially improve livability in our community.”

Jason Sweers
Project Architect, MartinSimmons Architects