Tannery District - Charles St. & Francis St.
Tannery District - Charles St. & Francis St.

Since I first wrote on the topic of the future of the Tannery district, it has been added to the agenda of City Council meeting on Monday, May 17 that starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall. It appears closer to the beginning of the agenda. I (and others) will be appearing before Council so if you share my concerns and vision, please come. A strong show of support can make a huge difference. I continue to encourage you to write letters to the editor of the Waterloo Region Record and to join and be politely vocal on the Tannery’s official Facebook page.

The Waterloo Region Record on May 14 had a very interesting article about the future of the Tannery. Thanks to the strong interest (500+ views in less than four days) in my earlier post on this topic, I wanted to provide an update from my perspective.

The demand for parking is immediate

Great news! The project is 75% leased and 120,000 square feet will be occupied within two months. At the same time, there is a temporary shortage of parking spaces downtown due to the construction of a new parking garage on a former surface lot. Let’s be creative and find a temporary solution to this problem. Tearing down heritage buildings is a rather permanent solution.

Some possible temporary options are:

  • John MacDonald believes that the Bramm Works Yard is the best temporary solution. The city still needs it in the short term but he believes that enough space could be created by the city.
  • The building at 280 Joseph Street has unused paved and gravel parking on both ends that could easily accommodate the 100 parking spaces to be gained by tearing down the ancillary tannery buildings.
    280 Joseph Street (Victoria Street side)
    280 Joseph Street (Victoria Street side)
    280 Joseph St. (back end)
    280 Joseph St. (back end)
  • Maybe the Kaufman Lofts could be enticed to temporarily lease some of its spots for daytime use?
  • Could Manulife temporarily accept some Tannery parking in its lot across Francis Street from the Tannery?
    Manulife Parking Lot (across Joseph from Tannery)
    Manulife Parking Lot (across Joseph from Tannery)
  • Additional options may exist that the city and Cadan could arrange if the will exists.

    • The City is also rightly concerned about losing parking on Centre Block as it gets redeveloped. But I am sure that there is more than enough time before that project breaks ground to be proactive and plan for that need.

      Cadan plans to put up a new building across Joseph

      The most interesting nugget in the article for me was that Cadan plans to put up a mixed use building to replace the ancillary Tannery buildings. Presumably this plan also includes parking. While I expect that the building would be an asset to the downtown if it ever replaces the temporary parking lot, losing the heritage buildings is not a price I’m willing to pay.

      I love the energy and atmosphere of Toronto’s Distillery District. It has a range of uses that include a brewery, offices, a theatre and restaurants. It is lively all day every day. What really brings the Distillery to life are the wide open pedestrian-friendly spaces between the numerous buildings that inspire people to gather and explore.

      We have a chance to recreate that successful formula in Kitchener but only if the smaller buildings are included in the redevelopment. Creating a district requires more than a single massive building surrounded by streets. By keeping these heritage buildings, we can create a district that is outside and pedestrian friendly.

      While I can’t guarantee how lucrative it might be, I am confident that making this choice will create a crown jewel for downtown Kitchener that will attract tourism and investment while enhancing the developer’s reputation.

      It’s a quality of life issue

      Attracting talent—especially the creative class—is a top priority for Waterloo Region’s community and business leaders. What is more likely to attract the interest of the high tech workers at the Tannery such as those working for Desire2Learn or the Communitech Hub (a digital media & mobile accelerator) which is a node of the Canadian Digital Media Network? What is more likely to attract and retain talent for the Waterloo Region as a whole? Is it a Tannery District based on the Distillery District model or a surface parking lot that is to be replaced by another everyday mixed use building that can be found everywhere? I believe the answer is obvious.

      I hope the community and business leaders see that the decision being made in downtown Kitchener affects their efforts to sell our community to the talent it needs. I hope that the tenants of the Tannery and their staff make their preference known.

      Having world class technology companies, universities and research institutes are not enough of a draw for Waterloo Region to realize a prosperous future, we must give people enough of a cosmopolitan experience without the big city hassles that they want to live and work here. For me it’s a question of what quality of life we desire and offer.

      Let’s start by making the Tannery a true district.


      2 thoughts on “The future of the Tannery as a district for people

      1. {Moved from an unrelated post}

        James and all,

        Here are further statements from the Heritage Impact Assessment, often repeated in Staff’s acceptance reports, that do not make sense to me:

        “The property does not support the character of the area, particularly the attributes of the Victoria Park Heritage Conservation District.” How can the present buildings and spaces not support the present character? Surely the present character is made from these buildings and spaces. How would a gravel parking lot support the character of the area?

        “The largest intact grouping of buildings were evident in 1938 and a
        number of these buildings were demolished after 1947. The loss of these buildings resulted in the depletion of the heritage value of the site.” So admittedly tearing buildings down and destroying the spaces between them diminishes the heritage value of the property. How can tearing more buildings down (in fact all of them) be proposed in another part of the report as NOT diminishing the heritage value of the property?

        “The parking as amenity to Site “A” programming will ensure
        the viability of the entire complex.” After taking the buildings down for interim parking, there will be no entire complex. There will be a large building only, and a sea of parking.

        “The impact the proposal will have on the heritage character and streetscape of Linden Avenue and Oak Street are the following:
        • provide unobstructed views of the smokestack from grade and new vistas of the smokestack and heritage features of Site “A”;
        • provide a permeability to Site “B” that is not currently provided;
        • positively impact the attributes of the heritage character and streetscape of Linden Avenue and Oak Street as it will mitigate the impact the industrial
        scaled buildings currently have on the residential buildings;
        • positively impact the attributes of the heritage character and streetscape
        of Linden Avenue and Oak Street as it will improve pedestrian circulation
        through Site “B” and
        • provide mitigation measures for the impact of the parking on the streetscape along Linden Avenue and Oak Street.”

        Wow. I don’t even know where to start with that. If you tear down the buildings on Site B, you will be better able to look at the building on Site A (the main block). The ability of pedestrians to cut through the parking lot (the “permeability”) is an improvement. How do we feel walking through the Manulife parking lot? Is this the Official Plan’s “lively streetscapes”?

        Positively impact the character of Oak and Linden. Is not the character primarily made from the juxtaposition of residential and industrial heritage in the streetscape? How is it positively impacted by the removal of the industrial heritage?

        Yours in confusion

        John MacDonald

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