Updated Nov. 26
Today’s Record featured a good article showing the positive reaction to the news about the central transit hub. It provides some more details about what the project might include and clarifies that it’s early in the process. Read it here.
The Record also published an editorial endorsing assembling the land to be used in a way that connects our various forms of mass and public transit. Unfortunately for people who get their news online, it is only available in the print version at this point.
Revised Nov. 25 7:30 p.m.
I was very excited to learn that the Region of Waterloo has purchased land for a central transit hub that will be developed along Victoria Street between King and Duke. Seeing the hub move from “wouldn’t it be great if” to becoming a real prospect is super news for both public transit and downtown Kitchener.
One thing that I heard a lot in discussing light rail is the need to connect our different forms of transit so that people can move easily from one to another. This desire includes being able to use transit inside Waterloo Region to get to cities outside the region such as Toronto. A central transit hub helps knit together different forms of transit so that they all work together and support each other.
The news is also exciting for downtown Kitchener. The central transit hub is an important new contribution to the revitalization of the west end of downtown Kitchener. It works to enhance the other nearby developments that have been recently built such as the Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, are in process of being developed such as the Tannery or are proposed to be developed such as the Breithaupt Block.
I strongly support in principle the proposed central transit hub and applaud the Region of Waterloo for acting to pull together the land needed to make it happen.
A lost opportunity
Yet I greeted the news with mixed emotion. Wouldn’t it have been great to have the central transit hub so close to a pedestrian-friendly district with great spaces for people and an eclectic mix of arts, culture and restaurants–something like Toronto’s Distillery District. Something that was within our grasp.
So I was disappointed to learn that the Region of Waterloo could have helped make the Tannery a true district for people. The recent addition of the land holding the former Korean store could also have helped meet the need (as I had suggested). This land presented the opportunity for the temporary solution required to extend the life of the buildings on the second half of the Tannery site–enough time to take the pressure off the developer to provide parking immediately and give them time to figure out how to fulfill the promise of a “Tannery District.”
This realization reinforces what I was saying at the time that if the will existed a solution could be found. In this case, it’s an opportunity lost. It’s too bad because I think the transit hub and the vision of creating a people place on the Tannery lands would have been mutually beneficial while also benefiting downtown Kitchener and our region’s economic development.
Note: I had originally thought that the Noble Trade site was empty and could have been cleared to make space for Tannery parking. I now understand that it is still being used by Noble. My apologies. I was thinking of the former End of the Roll location on that site that is empty because it has moved down Victoria Street. (It’s now on Frederick at Victoria.)
But what is done is done.
There are opportunities that this news creates:
- One of the smaller Tannery buildings remains standing. Moving to create parking on the central transit hub lands can help to save it long term so that it can be incorporated into the redevelopment of the second Tannery block.
- A downside of the recent GO train announcement is the lack of parking for people wanting to use it. I am not sure how the timelines match but I hope that the central transit hub lands could be temporarily used for this purpose until development of this project needs to begin. A best case scenario would see that temporary use replaced by GO’s proposed parking site in east Kitchener.
- The land assembled for the central transit hub includes the former Rumpel Felt factory. I hope that this building can be given new life by being incorporated into the hub. Doing so would help to retain the character of the “Warehouse District” by again finding a creative new use for part of the core’s industrial past.