Solowave Investments Ltd. has received council approval in Waterloo, Ont., for its Conestogo Park Square development that is planned to include 12 purpose-built rental apartments containing more than 3,300 units.
The 32-acre-plus site at the corner of Conestoga Parkway and Northfield Drive was acquired in January 2022 from Hilco Capital, a firm based in London, England that specializes in restructuring and refinancing underperforming or distressed companies.
Solowave vice-president of real estate development Larry Kotseff wouldn’t disclose an exact price but told RENX it was in the “tens of millions.”
The 65 Northfield Dr. W. site was formerly occupied by the Kraus Group of Companies’ former flooring manufacturing facility and head office.
It had about 450 employees at its peak and less than half that before it closed in 2018. Hilco had acquired Kraus in 2012 to try to turn the company around.
Kotseff, who was hired by Solowave in June 2022, said his company was originally focused on product development and distribution, but later became involved with real estate and owning and operating several residential, office and retail properties in Waterloo Region.
Solowave is currently also converting two downtown office buildings to residential use in the neighbouring city of Kitchener. It also owns a retail site at 417 King St. N. in Waterloo that’s anchored by a Farm Boy grocery store.
Conestogo Park Square will be Solowave’s first large-scale residential project.
“We view this as an opportunity to develop a legacy project and to really raise the bar in terms of development projects here in Waterloo Region,” Kotseff said.
The Conestogo Park Square site
While originally used for industrial purposes, the Northfield Drive site is currently zoned for non-employment uses.
There are two commercial buildings on the west side of the site. One is being demolished and the other, which Kotseff said is approximately 200,000 square feet, is occupied and being leased until it’s time to redevelop that part of the property.
The site is divided into eight blocks and Conestogo Park Square will be developed on a block-by-block basis. Kotseff said each one will need a site plan approval before receiving building permits, and he anticipates a 15-year build-out.
“From a staffing point of view, we're not large,” Kotseff explained. “We have a vice-president of construction and operations who has built these kinds of units in the region, so he's got a lot of connections in the industry to mobilize forces to move this thing along.
“I think our intention is we would be the general contractor in terms of building a building.”
The goal is to have the first shovels in the ground by late this year or early 2025. The first building will be 20 storeys with retail and commercial space at grade.
“We're proposing purpose-built rentals because there's a real need not only in our community, but many communities, that are trying to make some prices affordable,” Kotseff said.
Solowave doesn’t plan to bring any development partners on board for Conestogo Park Square.
Location and plans
The site is a five-minute walk from the Northfield light rail transit station and 15 minutes from the Conestoga station.
Multi-use trails will be accessible from the site and there’s 1.3 million square feet of retail and service commercial space — including more than 130 stores at Conestoga Mall — within a 15-minute walk.
The first phase of Conestogo Park Square’s construction will also include a neighbourhood grocery store and a coffee/food café where residents and locals can quickly access their daily needs. Kotseff estimates there will be approximately 86,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, with nearby surface parking, as part of the development.
Conestogo Park Square will feature municipally built roads and 8.45 acres of outdoor public green spaces, including a central park surrounded by apartments and a hydro transmission line corridor.
Planned amenities include co-working spaces, a games room, electronic car and bicycle availability, a fitness and yoga studio, outdoor dining areas with barbecues, automated parcel lockers, a pet spa and a dog park.
Conestogo Park Square will offer geothermal heating and cooling, solar power, indoor living walls, high-efficiency LED lighting and electric vehicle charging stations as part of Solowave’s sustainability commitment.
Solowave expects at this point to provide property management services for Conestogo Park Square, but Kotseff said that plan could evolve and a third party could be brought in.
Solowave has also acquired an adjoining property of almost seven acres as part of the Hilco transaction that are designated as employment lands and aren’t part of the development plans at this point. It's receiving leasing income from a business on that site.
Kotseff said the firm is also looking for smaller development sites in Waterloo Region, but there’s nothing in the immediate pipeline.