Tannery gravel parking lot

Having been assured that the temporary gravel parking lot that replaced three small building removed from the Tannery property would only be temporary–three years maximum, I have looked for something to be done on that block.

Last year, I shared my concerns that the clock on this temporary use had not even started ticking because a demolition permit was still open.

I followed up with the city via Twitter a few weeks ago and learned that city staff were working with Allied Properties that owns the land about making it a permanent parking lot with enhancements such as landscaping.

On the one hand, this news was disappointing since the last thing downtown Kitchener needs is another surface parking lot. On the other hand, my faith in the system was restored because what folks trying to save the four buildings on the second Tannery block were promised was happening. Our concerns that we’d have a temporary gravel lot indefinitely such as existed where the new provincial courthouse now sits have been avoided.

The Kitchener Post saw my exchange of tweets with the city and published this update on the future of the block.

My perspective on moving forward

I am disappointed that Allied Properties plans to demolish the last remaining Tannery building on the site. I agree with Councillor Frank Etherington that even this one building has interesting possibilities.

I still believe that the future of the Tannery could be as a true district for people.

And that’s what I meant when in the article I said that I’d prefer if the property was used for a more interesting purpose.

While I’m happy we’ll lose the temporary parking lot as promised, I wish something that added value to the area was being done on such a great property fronting the busy Victoria Street and so close to its renewed intersection with KIng.

I realize that Allied Properties must have good business reasons for not building on the lot. They are one of the largest property owners in downtown Kitchener and their priority is certainly to maximize use of their existing projects. Once King and Victoria has the central transit hub and the new condo project is built, there might be a stronger business case for Allied to develop the second Tannery block. Or they may be more interested in selling the property since its value will undoubtedly increase.

But I don’t believe that’s what’s best for downtown Kitchener.

We certainly don’t need the parking.

The argument for the parking lot was that the city knew it could provide more parking for the Tannery but not in time for attractive new tenants like Google to move into the building.

  • The Charles and Benton parking garage was not finished in the spring of 2010 and in fact wouldn’t open as scheduled that fall. But it is open now so those spaces are available.
  • The Bramm Street work yards have also been vacated as planned in 2010. The city in fact is creating more than double the number of parking spaces promised on that site.
  • The LRT project is close enough to being a reality that it can reasonably be expected to start reducing parking needs in downtown Kitchener.

What I’d like to see is some kind of development happening on the second Tannery block sooner than later. In other words, before we get that permanent parking lot.

How about a development that encourages pedestrian traffic along Victoria Street? Maybe one that includes restaurants and shops to serve the university students and Kaufman residents and those in the coming condo. Some patios might be nice too though I’d also like to see some public space with benches and vegetation where people can hang out and people watch.

In fact, I’d carry the same approach along Joseph Street–in part to work to connect that area with the heart of the core along King Street.

If that does not match Allied’s plans, that’s fine. But (I’d hope they’d be open to selling the property to a developer who is interested in making it happen sooner. I believe that’s in the best interests of downtown Kitchener and can only benefit the long term interests of Allied Properties.

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