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Matt Bolen of Waterloo-based Edge Architects in front of the century-old Huck Glove factory before construction began.

PETER LEE

Back when business was in full swing, few employees at the Huck Glove factory in Kitchener, Ont., could have imagined where their brick-and-beam workplace would eventually end up a century later: connected to a futuristic steel and glass six-storey commercial office building with condo towers looming overhead.

But that’s precisely the plan for the ambitious adaptive reuse project, called GloveBox, a 144,272-square-foot building with an expected occupancy of fall, 2021.

Matt Bolen, principal architect of Waterloo, Ont.-based Edge Architects who is working on the project, says that incorporating the smaller, century-old factory into a new build means they can still create large, 30-by-30 square-foot grid, Class A office space in the floors above the old building. That is perfect for attracting larger Class A tenants that require the space and modern amenities, such as banks of washrooms and showers on every floor.

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“For the rest of the building area, we can create that perfect, optimal layout and amenities – but still give it this little jewel of the Huck Glove story and heritage,” he says. “It’s kind of like the best of both worlds.”

The GloveBox, which will be connected to the new part of the building via a modern three-storey glass atrium, is the first phase of the much more expansive $250-million mixed-use project, Garment Street District, developed by Waterloo-based Momentum Developments, Kitchener’s Zehr Group of Companies and KingSett Capital in Toronto. The project combines the GloveBox’s commercial floors with 11,000 square feet of retail space and 689 condo units spread over three condo towers.

A new road, aptly named “Garment Street,” will connect them all.

It’s the latest development in Kitchener’s so-called Innovation District, which has attracted tech companies such as Google to the area and is the launching pad for entrepreneurs using the Communitech Hub services and office space down the street.

“I consider this pretty much centre ice,” says Jane Klugman, broker and president of Whitney & Company Realty Ltd. in Waterloo, who has been working on the project for more than a year. “It’s at the heart of the Innovation District. University of Waterloo is almost a neighbour. McMaster’s medical school is almost a neighbour. They’re all on that block.”

With so many new companies and school campus buildings moving to the area – not to mention into the GloveBox itself in a couple of years – it’s little wonder that hot, new communities are springing up nearby. There’s definitely much more demand for residential space, says Don Zehr, chief executive officer for The Zehr Group.

“Once you have employment, then you need beds,” he says, explaining that once condo units sell out, that’s when retail moves in to create an ecosystem of work, live and play. “What I think you typically get in these mixed-use spaces are cool services, whether that be bars and restaurants or interesting retail.”

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An artist’s rendering of the GloveBox development, located in downtown Kitchener’s growing tech hub.

EDGE ARCHITECTS

But those aren’t the only businesses moving in. This past September, KPMG Canada signed on to become the Glove-Box’s anchor tenant. Colton Zehr, associate with The Zehr Group, says the company’s move to downtown Kitchener can be seen as a harbinger of the next wave of tenants to the gentrifying area.

“We have prominent businesses now coming downtown to service the tech companies,” he says, explaining that while hot, burgeoning IT businesses might not be able to afford the rent for Class A office space yet, legal and accounting firms can, “and now they want to be right in the same neighbourhood as the tech companies and help them grow.”

The great thing about these older buildings is they have a story that people can connect to.

— MATT BOLEN, PRINCIPAL ARCHITECT EDGE ARCHITECTS

Ms. Klugman isn’t surprised that this next wave of large, established tenants are moving into the area, particularly now that office space like that found in the GloveBox is opening up.

“There are so many selling points,” she says. “The floor plates are the largest we’ve seen in the downtown core in a long, time. They’re almost 27,000 square feet.”

Of course that office footprint is a boon, agrees architect Mr. Bolen, and it likely would have been simpler to just knock down the old Huck Glove factory and build on the site. But considering the area’s employees, and soon-to-be residents – younger millennials who don’t want to commute in from the suburbs – it just made sense to keep the old factory standing.

“Call it a new generation that doesn’t necessarily place the same value on suburban, shiny new things,” he says, explaining that younger employees want to live and work in communities with a history. “The great thing about these older buildings is they have a story that people can connect to.”

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The specs

  • 150,000-square-foot building with 103,500 square feet available
  • 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail available
  • Approximately 26,500-square- foot office floor plates
  • Light-filled, three-storey glass atrium
  • Targeting LEED Gold CS
  • 7,500-square-foot shared rooftop amenity space

What’s walkable from GloveBox?

  • Downtown core
  • Google
  • Communitech
  • Catalyst 137 – the largest Internet of Things (IoT) and makerspace building in North America
  • Local hospitals
  • Downtown university campus buildings
  • New light-rail transit
  • GO station
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