KITCHENER: Before the grand home at 621 King Street West was the Ratz Bechtel funeral home, it was the stately private residence of one of Kitchener’s leading industrialists. Today, Kitchener City Council approved a recommendation by the Heritage Committee to accept a proposal by Zehr Group that involves restoring the original Kaufman home to its elegant state, as it existed when it was the home of Jacob and Mary Ratz Kaufman. The restoration project includes removing the recent structures that surround the 119-year-old home.
“Our goal is to uncover a historic gem,” says Zehr Group CEO, Don Zehr. “The Kaufman home is an absolute jewel, and we want to restore it to its original glory.”
Zehr Group will be working with the City’s Cultural Heritage Planning Department to develop a conservation strategy to preserve the 19th century character of the Kaufman home, which was built in 1897. Architecturally, the building is considered to be a rare local example of Gothic Victorian style and features a tooled, red sandstone exterior that was an unusual and expensive building material. The Kaufman home features some of the most ornate stone and woodwork in the Region, as well as original fireplaces and the built-in desk where Jacob Kaufman kept an eye on his business interests.
Zehr Group plans to restore the Kaufman home to its original state as a showpiece for the success of Jacob Kaufman. Kaufman not only established a very successful plaining mill and lumber industry, but he was also one of three men responsible for the rubber industry in Berlin-Kitchener. He played a leadership role in the Berlin Rubber Company and the Merchants Rubber Company before establishing his own Kaufman Rubber Co. Kaufman and his wife, Mary, were also prominent philanthropists, providing generous financial support and active community leadership.
The timing of the approval to restore the Kaufman home coincides with the 100th anniversary of the City’s name change. When Kaufman founded his rubber company, Kitchener was known across Canada as “Busy Berlin” and its manufacturing activities were gaining international attention. A hundred years later, Kitchener is gaining international attention once again, this time for its tech start-ups. The Kaufman home, perched on the edge of the Innovation District, is a testament to the success and prosperity of an “Industrial Wizard” who made his fortune by establishing one of the area’s original startups.
The restoration of the Kaufman home is part of a much larger proposal by Zehr Group to construct a massive mixed-use development on the property that incorporates the historic building. The five-acre site for the development, which is across the street from Google’s new Canadian development office and the Breithaupt Block, offers enough space to accommodate over 875,000 square feet of new residential and commercial buildings. Tentative plans for the development, called SIXO, include three condominium towers, a purpose-built apartment, as well as office and retail space, which could include a much-needed grocery store.
According to Zehr Group, SIXO will be a significant step forward for the Innovation District and growing Midtown that is evolving between Downtown Kitchener and Uptown Waterloo. This area is becoming a thriving mecca for high-tech companies and high-rise condominium living.
“We want to create an urban village,” say Zehr. “We want SIXO to be a people friendly place –
a thriving community within a community, where people can live, work and play, offering desirable retail and office spaces that benefit both businesses and the residents of Kitchener.”
Detailed plans for SIXO will be made public once they have been finalized, which is imminent.
About Zehr Group
Zehr Group has redeveloped numerous properties in Waterloo Region and across the country. They contributed to the reshaping of Kitchener’s downtown core and helped turn the Innovation District into an active and attractive technology sector. Zehr Group specializes in creating clean, contemporary spaces that respect the history of the property and its surroundings. They also pride themselves on balancing aesthetics and function, incorporating green technology wherever possible, working within budget, and meeting project deadlines. Their dedication has helped them achieve industry awards, including GVCA’s Building Excellence ‘Game Changer’ award, and many features in local newspapers and magazines.
For more information about SIXO or the Kaufman home restoration, please contact:
Zac Zehr, Manager of Development
Zehr Group of Companies
Office: 519-576-2233 x226