Lackner Woods Inc.: Breathing New Life into Suburban Apartment Living

Grandview Homes (Grandview) has made a name for itself building superior-quality homes across southern Ontario, especially in the tri-city area of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge. Grandview understands that building a high-quality home takes more than stainless steel appliances and a granite countertop, which is why the company insists on using only the most durable and energy-efficient building materials in all of its designs. As of 2005 the company branched out to begin building a number of high-rise residential developments where its insistence on quality construction and attractive amenities would be welcomed.
In turn, Grandview established the division of Lackner Woods Inc. (Lackner) to oversee the construction and management of Lackner Woods Apartments, the newest high-rise addition to the Grandview portfolio. The pristine property is located between the Idlewood and Stanley Park neighborhoods of Kitchener, Ontario, just a quick 10-minute drive from the city’s downtown commercial core. The property lies directly across the street from Rosenberg Park and the Grand River Recreation Complex. The location presents residents easy access to a wealth of recreational amenities, including a swimming pool, baseball diamonds, soccer field, lawn bowling club and the Grand River Stanley Park Community Library.
“We picked the location because it lies between two popular suburban communities, which have some apartment buildings, but not many new ones have been built for quite some time,” expands Al Allendorf, director of land development at Grandview and part of the development team for Lackner.
Facing Challenges Head-on
As it turned out, though, the property’s location also presented the design and planning team with a number of challenges. The property is located just across the Grand River from the Region of Waterloo International Airport, leaving Allendorf and the design team to cap the building’s height at nine stories, whereas Grandview’s three other high-rise developments topped out at 14 stories.
“This wasn’t exactly a surprise to us, but it was a challenge to work through the approvals process since we were required to seek municipal approvals and federal approvals through Transport Canada and NAV CANADA,” states Allendorf. Federal regulations limited everything from the type of construction methods employed, the types of cranes used on site to the lighting and flagging of these cranes.
The team ultimately decided to use a Hambro building system, designed specifically for multi-floor construction, allowing for sequential concrete pours to expedite construction. Grandview had previously perfected its use of the Hambro system while building its other high-rise developments.
In addition, the municipality requires all new developments to be saturated in landscaping, with a separate set of requirements for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). The goal of CPTED is to make all areas as visible as possible and to eliminate any barriers or obstructions as a deterrent to criminal activity. “Due to the requirement for extensive landscape planting, it was quite an exercise to strike a balance between the two,” says Allendorf.
In the end Allendorf and the team were able to design a structure that embraces its locations. The building technically has nine stories, but the property slopes in such a way that from one side of the property only eight stories are above grade. Instead of working against the slope, the design team opted to use the slope to their advantage so vehicles can enter at grade on the nine-story side of the building and access the lower level of parking without the use of a ramp.
Finding a Niche
With all of the restrictions and design criteria, the team was able to successfully design for 148 units in the apartment complex. The apartments are split between one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, making it perfect for families. “Grandview’s other apartment buildings were built in an area where municipal zoning only permitted a maximum of two bedrooms per unit,” adds Allendorf. “Our other four high-rise buildings in the region have fared quite well and achieve occupancy quickly, and we expect the three-bedroom units will help us reach a broad range of demographics.”
Potential tenants will also be drawn to Lackner Woods Apartments for its extensive and uncommon array of amenities. Every unit includes a balcony or a patio in the case of ground-floor units. The building provides outdoor gathering spaces and a children’s play area of its own, which the design team tricked out with a climbing rock and a Heliocentrix jungle gym structure. Adult tenants can also make use of a number of meeting rooms, a fitness center and multi-purpose rooms.
Grandview’s acquisition of the property also included 23 acres of woodlands directly adjacent the Lackner Woods Apartment complex. In keeping with the lush surroundings, the design team included a street-friendly façade design with a two-story podium feature closest to the street. The podium feature creates a visual step to soften the building’s total height and the Lackner team went as far as to transfer the 23 acres of woodlands back to the city of Kitchener for more formal trail development and preservation.
The project broke ground in mid-2012 and is on track for completion and occupancy in the late 2013. In the next few years Grandview Homes will continue to focus its efforts on developing high-density apartment buildings in areas close to Toronto where much of the high-density housing has gone the way of condominiums. No matter where the next development rests, Lackner Woods Apartments and Lackner Woods Inc. will set a high standard for suburban apartment living.