My Diamond & Coal Awards for October 3


Before I dive into the awards, I have some good news. St. Anne’s school in Kitchener is getting a long overdue new gym! Seems there was a misunderstanding somewhere between the Catholic School Board and the Ministry of Education and the money for the upgrade existed all along. Marion Thomson Howell said the intense lobbying by parents did not influence the outcome. I find that hard to believe given the misunderstanding only came to light after the community made its case and involved MPP John Milloy. While I hope that my post on the subject contributed to the result, I give all the credit to an informed community who made it clear what their expectations were for student success. If nothing else, their efforts helped to uncover a misunderstanding sooner than would otherwise have been the case but that may never had been resolved without an external push to take a closer look into the situation.

Diamond Award Winner – Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Social Work

The opening of Laurier’s Kitchener campus marked the beginning of what Mayor Carl Zehr now refers to as the Kitchener turnaround. The original St. Jerome’s High School building had sat empty and derelict for many years. Its fate appeared to be doomed to match that of the College Street building that housed the gymnasium and theatre that had burned down.

As a St. Jerome’s alumni, I was pleased to see that a plan was successfully executed to revive the building and restore it to its former glory. In the spring, I had the opportunity to check out the first floor and the building looked fantastic with all of its original character maintained. It never looked that good when the high school still used it and probably not since its first decade. Laurier is to be congratulated for this wonderful adaptive reuse of a heritage building.

More importantly, this project marked the start of downtown Kitchener rising from the ashes like a Phoenix–a process that is still underway. But the fact that there is hope that downtown Kitchener’s core can also restore its former prestige and once again be the strong heart of the city can be traced back to Laurier’s new Faculty of Social Work. Everyone who contributed to this project deserves our appreciation.

Coal Award Winner – Empty lots on King in East Downtown Kitchener

The empty lots beside the Tim Horton’s (at King and Borden) and the Bank of Montreal (at King  and Onward) are both receiving a coal award because they are great examples that given some attention, coal can be turned into diamonds.

From the perspective of a guy near King and Ottawa, these two empty lots are underutilized and in need of attention. Both feature manicured lawns but neither contributes to making the neighbourhood or the city stronger.

I assume Tim Horton’s bought the former Canadian Tire property to serve nearby industry between Charles and Schneider Creek. They obviously did not need all of it and so left the portion along King Street empty. I’m not looking for Tim Horton’s to develop the property since I can only imagine them putting in a Wendy’s but it would be nice if they actively sought to sell the unused portion of the property to be developed perhaps with a mix of retail, office and residential uses as allowed by the coming Mixed Use zoning.the fact that this empty lot covers such a long stretch of King means it holds many interesting possibilities. In the mean time, I would suggest that they find a way to make the site more of amenity–perhaps by turning it into a private park with walking paths, benches, tables and a higher level of landscaping.

The Bank of Montreal came into its large property when it replaced its heritage branch that stood at King and Ottawa with a larger modern one. They bought a neighouring property that was struggling so it can be argued that the change was for the better. But the combined property was larger than needed and this large empty lot sits along Onward. Given the large number of children in the neighbourhood bounded by King, Ottawa, Weber and the cemetary and given the fact that most of the lot is along a residential street, I’d suggest that it’s best use might be as a neighbourhood park featuring play equipment for kids from birth to 12 years old. But I could also see it being developed in a mixed use way (heavy on the residential) that respected the nature of its residential neighbourhood while  taking advantage of its connection to King Street.

A gem in the making?

A fish and chips restaurant has opened at King and Borden. Its the third restaurant  in this space in the last four years. Hopefully, this attempt will stick. Judged on the quality of its food and its reasonable prices, it deserves to become a local institution. The light batter places an emphasis on the flavour of the fish while at the same time giving enough of the deep fried batter necessary in English-style fish and chips. The fresh cut fries were also very tasty. I encourage you to try it out sometime when you’re in the King and Ottawa area.

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