The block shown here is quite typical of east downtown Kitchener. Heavy on automotive related retail and services while generally being underutilized and full of potential.
The good news for this block, bordered by King St. E., Madison St. S., Charles St. E. and Cameron St. S., is that a developer has purchased it to put up townhouses, condos and commercial space. It’s a great proposal for east downtown Kitchener and yet another sign that intensification downtown is happening as a result of the prospect of light rail transit.
The downside for the developer is that it falls just outside of the Downtown Community Improvement Plan where there are generous incentives to build. So in December, the two downtown councillors proposed that the community improvement plan for the downtown core be extended east just far enough for this block to qualify for the incentives.
I agree 100%! I haven’t heard anything since but I presume that the proposal is moving forward as it should.
At the same time, I turn around to look the other direction further east down King.
And I ask myself, what about the rest of east downtown Kitchener? Surely, it could use some love and attention too!
On the upside, the City of Kitchener has recently initiated a mixed use designation for the stretch of King St. East from Cedar Street to Montgomery (where it turns into Highway 8). That zoning is expected to create an urban streetscape is what many of us associate with the major neighbourhood arteries in central Toronto. They are pedestrian friendly and contain a mix of commercial, services and offices so that people can easily live, work and play near where they live. They make it easy to live a vibrant urban lifestyle that doesn’t require being dependent on cars.
The prospect of Ottawa Street receiving a similar designation from Weber St. E. near the Auditorium to Charles St. E. where there will be an LRT station is truly exciting. My dream of King and Ottawa becoming the new King and Victoria–in other words a newly redeveloped dynamic major intersection–appears to be possible. I’ll admit that is something I didn’t even dream about when I started and named this blog.
But still, I think it requires a bit of a nudge to help it happen sooner than later. That brings me back to the request to extend the Downtown Community Improvement Plan.
I understand and support the logic of that request. At the same time, I see it as a temporary, stop-gap solution driven by the need to meet a wonderful opportunity. By that I mean it really isn’t the best solution.
East downtown requires a Community Improvement Plan
The best solution to transform King Street East from an underutilized strip that is full of potential to a vibrant urban living experience is to develop a Community Improvement Plan for the same area as what has been rezoned as mixed use.
Why? The new zoning doesn’t change anything. It only changes what is possible. When the possible becomes reality depends entirely upon the property owners. They need to want to seize the new opportunities. But until they do or until they sell, we are left with land that has potential greater than its use. That process can painstakingly take years or decades.
Community Improvement Plan Objectives
A booklet from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing outlines why a municipality might create Community Improvement Plan.
Through community improvement plans, municipalities can:
• focus public attention on local priorities and municipal initiatives
• target areas in transition or in need of repair, rehabilitation and redevelopment
• facilitate and encourage community change in a co-ordinated manner
• stimulate private sector investment through municipal incentive-based programs.
A community improvement approach is a flexible, comprehensive, coordinated and strategic framework for dealing with lands and buildings, which can address many physical, social, economic or environmental matters.
Over the years, community improvement plans have been used for a broad array of priorities aimed at rehabilitating and revitalizing targeted areas.
Take a walk from King and Frederick through east downtown Kitchener to at least Ottawa if not further. You’ll see plenty of evidence that a strategic approach to improving this area will assist it to be rehabilitated, redeveloped and rejuvenated.
So let’s seize that opportunity and then turn our attention further down King Street East!