Rendering of three high-rise towers proposed at 81-85 Bridgeport Rd. E. in Waterloo.

WATERLOO — Today the site is a used car lot and a closed mattress store fronting on busy Bridgeport Road.

Soon, it could have three residential towers reaching up to 22 storeys if city council says yes to the extra height. So it goes in Waterloo, which leads the region in growing bigger and growing taller.

On Monday, council approved a plan to replace four detached houses on Erb Street West with a six-storey building containing 93 units.

This type of densification is not unusual. Waterloo is growing faster than Kitchener and Cambridge and is home to two-thirds of new highrise residences approved in the region in the past five years, according to the 2021 census.

More unusual is a new highrise proposal unveiled Monday that council will decide on a later date.

It calls for three towers ranging from 16 to 22 storeys on land currently restricted to 12 storeys, on a site at 81-85 Bridgeport Rd. E., across the street from the Bridgeport Plaza, near the downtown.

Realtors pitched the site for redevelopment and what emerged is a plan for 492 residential units with a mix of one, two, and three bedrooms, plus 508 parking spaces and commercial space at ground level.

Seeing it for the first time, councillors questioned the extra height, mix of units and streetscape appeal. Some asked if parking should be further reduced.

“There seem to be, I would consider, substantial height,” Mayor Dave Jaworsky said.

Consultants for the developer said extra floors are needed because 12 storeys are not enough for the buildings to meet city density goals.

City hall is aiming to put more people into the same space to save farmland, discourage driving, and help to fight climate change.

Consultants argue that three towers will be pleasing to pedestrians because of their design, because the buildings are set back from the street, and because the site is unappealing today.

“We looked at not creating a wall of towers along Bridgeport,” said Trevor Hawkins, a planning consultant for the developer.

The towers will feature “extensive glazing and a playful patterning of windows,” councillors were told. Units will have balconies. About 40 per cent of the units will have two or more bedrooms, which may appeal to families.

Councillors have been pressing developers to build three-bedroom units as the overheated housing market puts detached homes out of reach for many.

Could more family-sized units be included in the project, councillors wondered.

“A place like this should be an entryway into the housing market and be affordable to rent,” Coun. Jen Vasic said.

She said her family owns a house they bought years ago that they could not afford to buy today.

“That seems surprising,” Vasic said. “More and more people are coming to terms with that. … But wouldn’t it be nice if people could imagine having moderate incomes and being able to afford a place to live, or comfortably rent?”

Her housing lament drew a response from Ashleigh Crofts, an intern architect who has helped design the towers.

“That’s kind of a path that I’m on myself, living in a highrise currently. I do relate,” Crofts said. “We also do picture this project as being affordable for entry-level families, as well as singles.”

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