I always find it a very interesting process watching cities rehab old real estate that no longer is useful in it’s current state. Kitchener has many sites like this, that in the 20th century housed factories and warehouses which have since moved to more cost effective (for manufacturing, for example) areas. One such area is the area borderd by Courtland and Stirling, and Sydney and Charles in the downtown. Terry Pender has a very interesting article in the local paper yesterday:
By Terry Pender, Record staff
..there is a huge question looming for this city — what to do with the old industrial neighbourhoods.
For a case study, the City of Kitchener had planning and urban design students from the University of Waterloo study the 47 hectares (103 acres) bordered by Stirling and Courtland avenues, and Sydney and Charles streets.
Warehouses, empty factories and a creek that looks more like an open-air, concrete-lined sewer now dominate the neighbourhood. It’s what architects and urban planners call a traumatized urban landscape.
But these students produced plans and models on how to transform the area into a sustainable, walkable, transit-friendly neighbourhood where old factories are converted to residential-commercial-mixed use spaces and new buildings blend in with the old along a reclaimed and rebuilt creek.
Rod Regier, the city’s director of economic investment, says these old industrial areas are resources that can be used strategically, once they are redeveloped, to attract the talent the technology sector needs.
Regier recalls speaking with a recruiter for Disney’s animation division who regularly signs up University of Waterloo graduates to work in California.
“I asked her what those students expect, and she said: ‘A great job, a great city with a great beach, mountains and a great climate,’ ” Regier says.
Simply put, the city needs vital and vibrant urban places if it wants to be competitive in the knowledge economy. A desolate core surrounded by monoculture suburbs will not cut it.
One of the plans for the neighbourhood calls for 2,200 new residents and 103,000-square-metres (1.1 million-square-feet) of employment space.
Another plan includes 2,600 new residents and 325,160-square metres (nearly 3.5-million-square-feet) of employment space.
But Schneider Creek is the focal point in both plans. It will be transformed into a pedestrian promenade flanked with four- and five-storey buildings packed with businesses on the first floor and residences above.
Redevelopment of former industrial sites and areas can take a long time.
Construction has yet to begin on Centre Block in downtown Kitchener nearly 10 years after the city assembled 2.6 acres of land there. The city recently negotiated a development agreement with Andrin Limited of Brampton, which will develop Centre Block with 385 condos and other buildings. It has taken about $13 million and a decade to get to that stage.
The CANBAR property at Erb Street and Father David Bauer Drive in Waterloo remains empty more than 15 years after the barrel maker closed.
The conversion of the Arrow shirt factory on Benton Street in downtown Kitchener into residential units is more than five years behind schedule.
So even when the city decides to start redevelopment of former industrial neighbourhoods, nobody should expect quick results.
But Terry Boutilier, the city planner who arranged the project, is thrilled with the possibilities the urban design students have produced.
“We think we know the city, but the students look at it with fresh eyes and fresh ideas,” Boutilier says.
“One of the great things about the University of Waterloo is that it is a source of great ideas,” Boutilier says.
It will be very interesting to see what this area develops into, and how long it takes.
A mix of commercial (retail and office) and residential would be a geat addition to downtown Kitchener.
What do you think? Leave a comment below with what you’d like to see happen here!