Expando ad absurdium
The answer is right in front of us: scale. 144 Park is, on its own, an innocuous (if uninspired) development. It provides some minimal engagement at street level by being lined with townhouses, and it tucks its generous, but not outrageous parking deep inside. It does little to add to a vibrant streetscape but it goes to pains not to be a major detractor. It is being constructed to respect the existing Iron Horse trail, a piece of community heritage and an asset which is threatened by the new plan.
In contrast, the combined 144/155 complex cannot get away with its lack of engagement with the streets it will loom over, because of that enormous scale. Consuming an entire block, near the heart of Uptown, it threatens to exert a deadening influence on the surrounding blocks because it presents nothing to the people around it... except an obstacle.
Luxury Dormitory and Parkade
It goes downhill from there. The expansion more than doubles the parking being built into the edifice, in part because Bauer insists on maintaining its existing overflow parking, but it is an oversupply of parking that is indefensible in the face of its location at the gateway to Uptown and steps from buses and LRT. And where Bauer presents an intriguing and attractive ground floor of restaurants and shops (and is now a destination because of it) 155 has to go to great pains to mask and hide not just a failure, but an abject unwillingness to be a destination as much as it is a luxury dormitory and parking garage.
Sick Building, Healthy Building
A healthy development would attempt to connect with its surroundings. That would probably have to include some street-level commercial use. It would certainly not be a fortress of parking, resident-only facilities and a windy, private terrace that will take on an air of desolation once the residents realize that it will never see the vibrance of public interactions the optimistic renders suggest.
And it wouldn't elbow aside one of our community's prized assets either, let alone turn it into a grand tour of Waterloo's parking garages.
Destruction or creation of “place”
The steps that would bring the scale down to 144's respectful level could also solve the unpleasantness of street-facing parkades, the destruction of heritage and the lack of street engagement. Those steps would involve abandoning the monolithic block construction, adding street retail, and orienting outward to the trail rather than inward forcing people around it like a boulder dropped in a river.
These steps will require going back to the drawing board, recapturing some of the respect of place of 144 and taking it to the next level: creation of place.
The benefit would not be limited to this block or the emerging district of Uptown South. It would be setting a city-wide precedent that we expect more from the developers eager to throw up another tower and cash out. We are not short of developers: we are short of good places.