The imminent demolition of the Tannery “District”


Sad but expected news today. According to the Waterloo Region Record, the smaller Tannery buildings on the second half of the “District” are to be demolished.

There’s not much new that can be said about this situation so I’ll try to keep it brief. What follows are my tweets when I read the news:

  • Mayor Zehr: “It is all a matter of…determining what is in the best interests of the entire community, not one community alone.”
  • What is the 1 community that #Kitchener Mayor Zehr is talking about. #Tannery advocates have always been concerned about ‘entire’ community.
  • See John MacDonald’s quote on #Tannery: We believe…a larger public interest is involved (than Cadan meeting tenants demands) #kitchener
  • As I’ve said from the start though, City of #Kitchener and Cadan needed to be on side to see #Tannery‘District’ created.  Sad they aren’t.

I wish we got more of the Mayor’s comments because I honestly do not understand his quote. It seems to perpetuate the myth that only the people living in the Tannery’s immediate neighbourhood were concerned about the future of the site. I have repeatedly made the point that there are a wide variety of people from across Kitchener-Waterloo who want the Tannery to be a true district for people. Anything else is only perception and an inaccurate one. If that is what Mayor Zehr is indicating, I am very disappointed. Certainly my perspectives offered here have always emphasized how this project could benefit downtown revitalization (benefiting all of Kitchener) and have an impact on the economic development of Waterloo Region.

I was also surprised by this quote from Mayor Zehr: “I take exception to the general statement that we don’t have a good record on heritage.”. He cited the three (soon to be four heritage districts) and that the city has also secured the co-operation of developers in preserving the heritage attributes of such prominent buildings as the Kaufman factory and the Breithaupt Block.

Here’s my reaction as tweeted:

  • #Kitchener has created 3 heritage districts with another coming but record tarnished by inaction on Forsyth and#Tannery.
  • As #Forsyth building owner, its loss is entirely City of #Kitchener ‘s responsibility. Makes claim of good heritage record hard to swallow.

While I applaud the positive actions, heritage is not about comparing the postives and negatives on a balance sheet. The city’s track record takes into consideration every heritage related decision.

But once again, I regret that this debate has only been within the heritage context. My concern in turning the Tannery into a true “District” for people has always been about the future of downtown Kitchener and our city’s economy. I suspect that the staff of Communitech’s Digital Media Hub, Desire2Learn and Google could live without the gravel parking lot they are getting if they got the funky, artsy people place that the adaptive reuse of these buildings could create. The “courtyards” they are getting might be a great place for your bag lunch but they don’t compete with the restaurants / patios and great outdoor places built for exploring that could exist.

I mourn the imminent loss of the vision of the “Tannery District.” I can only hope that these buildings will rise again in some form as part of the promised redevelopment. Once the buildings come down, the waiting game begins.

Mayor Zehr has told me: “There is no doubt there will be further dialogue with the public as the Tannery area continues to evolve.” I look forward to being involved.

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