These awards come out of some recent experiences, conversations and reflections that I have had.
Diamond Award Winner – Renovated Building at King & College
A long time eyesore, this building turned an important corner when it was renovated to be the new home of the downtown Shoppers Drugmart. But that was just the start and now even if you just judge it by its exterior it is a true gem.
But to rewrite the old advice, you can’t judge this building by its cover. The real excitement is happening inside the doors at 260 King Street West. First, its the new home of Canada’s Technology Triangle which plays a key role in selling our region as an attractive place for foreign investment. And now it’s also the home of Treehaus an innovative, collaborative workspace. Take a look inside.
I am confident that the synergy of this space will lead to projects that will help transform our community making it better. Bravo to all involved!
I gave serious thought to a couple other candidate’s for the Diamond award.
- The Country Style Deli / TCBY at King & Ontario – A positive development if for no other reason than it didn’t become a payday loan outlet as it could have easily been converted. But what I really like is that there will be a place open with dependably long hours where you can get frozen desserts. Just what we need to start getting people to linger on King after going out to dinner.
- The Breithaupt Block – The proposal to transform the former rubber factory to house a new generation of business is truly exciting. I am especially pleased with their plans related to parking (Click on the third dot in the Home section). But given my experience with the Tannery, it’s too soon to be giving it any awards. Let’s be sure that the vision and reality meet and we don’t end up with more surface parking. I should note that this development brings more people to work downtown without adding to the downtown’s street life. A conclusion both John MacDonald and I arrived at independently . I view this as yet another reason from my perspective on why the Tannery should become a true District for people by incorporating the smaller buildings into a pedestrian friendly people place. On the positive side, this development is another indicator that the city’s investment in downtown is paying off in the west end.
Speaking of which …
Coal Award Winner – Market Village
I read with interest the news that Kitchener developer Shawky Fahel’s ambitious plans to transform the former American Standard factory into condominiums has passed regulatory hurdles and has begun to sell units. It got me to thinking about the status of Kitchener’s Market Village also owned by Fahel so I investigated.
Market Village can be found almost literally in the shadow of both the old and new sites of the Kitchener Market. It includes some houses on Eby Street but the section I’ve always love best are the houses tucked in off of Market Lane between Scott and Eby. My affection for them comes from two eras when these former homes gave Kitchener an interesting pedestrian-friendly place downtown. I had many great meals at restaurants in these homes and loved going to Gary Nyp’s bar. The area had that funky, eclectic vibe that made them truly interesting. But it may have been ahead of its time because it always struggled.
Here’s the official look at what’s happened to them. Turns out 4 of the 6 have been turned into rental apartments, one is home to a X-Disc-C and a former restaurant forlornly sits empty.
Here’s my look at them:
So why the coal award? There’s people living downtown in a space that had fallen on hard times. Coal award? Really??
The coal awards are not meant as a badge of infamy, rather what I’m trying to do is to point out where we have a diamond in the rough and where we can achieve much more if we desire it. I believe Market Village now represents a lost opportunity that can still be realized. The foundation still exists.
I have known Shawky Fahel for many years and he’s a sharp businessman. I’m sure the decision to use most of the homes as rental apartments made great sense at the time he made it. But with the downtown turning a corner, a revitalized streetscape on King, more people living and working downtown, and the failure of Cadan to rise to the occassion at the Tannery, I believe that the times have changed and Market Village could now fulfill its promise.
I’d be happy to buy Fahel and Nyp drinks when it happens. How about it Shawky?