2017 was a big year for HIP Developments in Cambridge

It has been a big year for HIP Developments, the Waterloo Region development company undertaking two major projects in Cambridge.

In the city’s north end, HIP is transforming Hespeler’s sleepy downtown core with its $50 million redevelopment of the former Jacob Hespeler industrial complex. Out of the dust of several demolished stone structures has risen Riverview, a 10-storey rental apartment overlooking the Speed River and the old millpond. To date many of the building’s roughly 150 units have been leased and officials say it is well on its way to full occupancy.

Meanwhile, next door, preliminary work is also underway on the Riverbank Lofts, a luxury 49-unit condominium development that repurposes Jacob Hespeler’s 19th century mill overlooking the Speed River.

“We are in for permits and expect to get moving with full construction in the new year,” said Joel Doherty, HIP’s director of development.

Even before construction gets underway more than 80 per cent of its units have been sold.

HIP’s other big development is the Gaslight District, which involves the redevelopment of the former Southworks Factory Outlet Mall and the former Tiger Brand Knitting Co. factory on Grand Avenue.

Since purchasing the buildings in June, HIP has laid out its grand scheme. It plans to turn the former T-shirt factory into a new generation business innovation centre, called Grand Innovations. Work is already underway to transform the three-storey, 50,000 square foot, ivy-clad, brick building. It will not only be creative hub for fledgling high-tech companies, but also home to Conestoga College’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing program, and build on the development of new technologies to improve e-waste recycling.

Further, the college will also use Grand Innovations as a base for innovation and applied research supporting the cybersecurity sector. Also moving in are the city’s small business development office and other supporting services for Grand Innovations.

HIP is working toward having Grand Innovations ready for occupancy in April.

And Doherty expects another media event next spring.

Plans are also moving forward on the redevelopment of Southworks, where HIP has already gutted and cleared out the south arm of the U-shaped complex and continues to operate its sales centre in the section of building facing Grand Avenue.

Work is slated to get underway in the new year on renovations on this portion of the complex. When completed, the portion of the building facing Fraser Street will be home to three new businesses.

In the former Bux location at the corner of Grand Avenue and Fraser Street will be the new Gaslight District Market. Adjacent to it, where the former Fraser Street entrance to the old Southworks mall was located, will be the events facilities. And at the west end of the Fraser Street building will be the new home of Energy+.

The future of the rest of development is up in the air and the centre of a controversy between HIP and members of the Cambridge chapter of Architectural Conservancy of Ontario. HIP plans to knock down parts of the north wing of the complex to install two 20-storey residential towers. It would renovate the remaining portion of the north wing as well as the dilapidated structure in the middle of the central courtyard of the complex.

The citizens' heritage group opposes HIP’s plan for the two highrise buildings and the demolition of portions of the heritage factory complex.

The matter goes to the Ontario Municipal Board Jan. 3, when HIP is seeking to have the objection thrown out.

Doherty points to the approvals the project has already received from the city’s heritage planner, heritage advisory committee, planning committee and council. The project also has massive public support.

“We had over 10,000 people here for a Day in the District (a public event that launched the opening of HIP’s condo sales office),” Doherty said. “We also sold out most of the units in a matter of days and we have just a few units left.”

HIP intends to retain at least 75 per cent of the former Southworks buildings, and says that figure could increase slightly in the near future.

“We are in discussions with a number of tenants for the commercial space in the existing Southworks buildings. There is tremendous interest and announcements can be expected in the new year, “ Doherty said.