I have a nagging worry that the pace of development is so fast that there will be negative repercussions, but I am by nature a worrywart and I can't provide any foundation for those concerns.
My major concern is that the city is not being proactive enough to provide amenities to balance all these new residents.
All of the development to date is based on the cachet of the uptown. The small, pricey condos are aimed at well-off people without kids. Many of them are retirees who want to be able to walk to a coffee shop or a restaurant. Many of them are tech workers (like myself) who are seeking a vibrant urban environment.
The sad truth is that the uptown could be a lot more vibrant and a lot more interesting to live in. We have the Public Square, which is great, but let's face it, it's a small expanse of white concrete with a smattering of under-attended programming. Downtown Kitchener, for all its many problems, has always been more vibrant and interesting than uptown Waterloo, and has always had more interesting events.
Waterloo simply needs to up its game. There are so many things we could do:
- Revitalize King north of Erb with a new streetscape and better parking.
- Do something spectacular with the Post Office land at King and Bridgeport.
- Finish the two little parks on the east and west of King, on the south side of William.
- Revitalize the park east of City Hall (it had flower plantings until a few years ago, and now is just an abandoned area with a cenotaph).
- Finish the path that follows the railway tracks across Waterloo Square - and in general, connect the trails through the uptown.
- Beautify the exposed parts of Laurel Creek behind City Hall.
- Do something spectacular with the Pumping Station on William Street across from Regina.
- Fix and use the fountain in front of the Parkade at King and Willis Way
- Make better use of the east-side train station.
- Add amenities to the Public Square.
- Engage the public in programming the Public Square. For example, start a citizen's advisory committee to handle part of the programming.
- Get serious about making the uptown accessible to people with wheelchairs, walkers, and baby push-carts.
- Get serious - in a pragmatic, not ideological way - about traffic in the uptown.
- Develop an arts strategy that cuts loose the money-pit that is the Clay and Glass Gallery, and creates some serious artistic attractions in the uptown
Despite all the new development Waterloo is strapped, largely because of RIM Park debt and the unplanned costs of the LRT, so we need to be creative in funding. But we can't stop moving forward. The current attractiveness of the uptown is based on vision that was formulated in the 90s. The uptown badly needs visionary leadership that is rooted in the needs and wants of: uptown residents, uptown businesses and workers, and the residents of Waterloo for whom the uptown should be a central resource.
Over the next few posts I'll explore some of these ideas in more detail.