Already open, Jolie Bras & Lingerie, Retro Rocket Comics and nowords art gallery greet shoppers in the renovated storefronts. All eight apartments upstairs are already fully leased at the Granite Lofts project. People are asking for availability in other buildings he owns and manages downtown. "We're getting the calls: do you have anything in Galt?" Kaake says in his office in the former Bank of Toronto building at Water and Main streets. "We are starting to feel the new demand. People are seeing the reason to come downtown." $4 million project The total project was expected to cost $2.1 million but ended up costing over $4.0 million. "It was a very tough construction project, but it is hard to put a price on reviving Galt's oldest buildings," Kaake says. Constructed in 1851, 39 Main St. survived a fire and was slated for demolition, he says. Grants from City of Cambridge, Waterloo Region Heritage Foundation, and the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee helped avoid the teardown of that property.
Renovating a landmark A few doors to the west, owner Terry Polyak is resurrecting the former four-storey department store at 15 Main, with an estimated cost of $3.5 million. It was constructed as a three-story building in 1862. By 1890, a photo of Main Street shows it as Wilkinson's store. By the early 1900s, a fourth storey was added, and the building was home to Walkers Stores. Marks & Spencer later filled the main floor before the space was broken up into five separate businesses in the 1970s. On the upper three floors of the Boardwalk Tower, 12 new one-bedroom lofts are complete. Polyak says they are renting quickly. In-person enquiries and via an online form have had many interested applicants put their names forward. At the street level, his focus is on securing a restaurant tenant that shares his vision for downtown revival. Polyak says there have been conversations with three restaurant groups from the Hamilton area who have expressed interest in expanding to the Core. "It's all about bringing people downtown, right along Main Street. And having a choice of restaurants downtown is key to reviving the Core," Polyak says. "There is a buzz, an excitement with people looking for the experience along the street."
Right House Reborn
Polyak wants to build on his success in purchasing and renovating the former Right House department store at Main and Ainslie Street five years ago. Sugar Daddies Bakery now leases the entire upper floor at 52 Main. The Mule Taco and Tequila Bar is set to open on the high-profile corner at 60 Main. All other space is leased in that building. Another restaurant at 15 Main would bookend those eateries at the other end of the block and attract people downtown. He's going all-in to ready the main floor of the Boardwalk Tower for the tenant he wants. Gone are the walls defining stores on the main level. Everything was stripped back to the bare stone walls, giving an unobstructed view from Main Street at the front to Imperial Lane at the rear. Polyak points to proactively installing a fireproofed ventilation shaft up to the roof in advance, simplifying the process of inserting the kitchen hood venting at the time of the kitchen build-out. Outdoor café spaces The space can feature an outdoor café and patio capacity on the Main Street sidewalk and along Imperial Lane. The Boardwalk tunnel, also owned by Polyak, can accommodate six to eight tables on rainy days or during the shoulder seasons. The Boardwalk, legally part of 15 Main St., was open to public access when stores were on the main floor, Polyak says. Over the past few years, the partly hidden space has seen an increase in vandalism, horrid odours, litter and criminal activity – problems Polyak intends to eliminate by adding decorative iron gates and updated lighting, among other things. The Boardwalk tunnel is the only access to the 13 apartments upstairs, underscoring the need for personal security. Tenants will have gate keys to reach their building access door at the centre of the tunnel. Business tenants on the east side with doors facing the walkway will also have access keys, Polyak says.
Original granite wall restored
In addition to the gates, the tunnel will receive a complete renovation, with the front and rear entrances enhanced visually. Polyak's goal is a more aesthetically pleasing, historically specific space by exposing and restoring the original granite block wall along the west wall, which was necessary to install the gates.