Before getting to this round of awards, I would like to share some updates.

Past Coal Award Winners

I’m pleased to pass along that the retail level of the Eaton’s Lofts building that was given a Coal Award in November 2011 is looking better. I don’t know if I can take any credit but shortly after my post went up, murals went up in the windows to promote downtown Kitchener. Thanks to the Kitchener Downtown Business Improvement Area for that initiative. While it’s not a long term solution, it’s a definite improvement over what we had before. Take a look at that building now.

I’m ever happier to share improvements to my first ever Coal Award winner. Take a look!

What an improvement over its former seedy use as a massage parlour. I’m not sure exactly what has happened but the building on King E. (near Stirling) has been given a makeover and a new lease on life. Before Christmas, it was giving back to the community as the temporary home of a seasonal charity. I’m hoping that soon it will house a reason for people to come to east end downtown Kitchener–but just about anything would be a step up.

Interested? Give the number on the sign a call! Let them know I sent you and say thank you.

Diamond Award Winner

Parking Garage at Charles & Benton

Charles & Benton parking garage - Benton side

In a way, this award is another follow up to a previous Coal Award winner: surface parking lots in downtown Kitchener. This parking garage replaces a surface lot and provides parking needed on the east end of the downtown core such as for the new provincial courthouse nearing completion a few blocks away.

A parking garage (sorry, I can’t get myself to call it a “parking structure”) is a sign of positive developments downtown. I especially like that it includes street level retail along Benton Street to help contribute to life along a major downtown street. Here’s a great opportunity for an entrepreneur with a great idea–perhaps something funky and urban.

Pedestrian by Ted Fullerton

The building also boasts one of the best examples of public art in the region. Ted Fullerton’s “Pedestrian” is both interesting artistically and accessible to a wide range of people. It’s an asset to both the building and the downtown core.

Charles & Benton parking garage

More parking garages or underground parking is the future of parking in downtown Kitchener. The sooner the surface parking lot disappears from the core, the better since each is a piece of land that is much better developed for another use.

But a new parking garage won’t be built on King W. between Water and Francis. We learned it was planned during the debate on the future of the Tannery, however I learned  during the consultations on the future of the downtown core that it was no longer on the books. On the one hand, I’m a bit disappointed that a better parking solution isn’t being put into that booming area. But on the other hand, I never thought that was the best place for a building that was mainly a parking garage since the site had advantages for so many other possibilities. Maybe even an underground parking lot?

Coal Award Winner

Empty lot on King W. (near Gaukel)

I’m sure everyone who walks out of city hall onto the public square has the same thought, “When will something be done with this prime piece of real estate in the heart of our city?” Or words to that effect.

The City has placed a banner across the fence that helps to hide the eyesore. They’ve also used potted plants and bushes to spruce it up. An improvement, yes but it still doesn’t hide the gaping hole in the streetscape.

When this space finds a productive purpose, it’ll be a sign that downtown Kitchener is well on its way to once again being a vibrant people place. With any luck, I’ll be able to  share positive news on this coal award winner before long.

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