DOWNTOWN STRATEGIC PLAN
DOWNTOWN KITCHENER The evolution of downtowns has been influenced by many things.
Industry moved from the downtown and into business parks on the
Historically, it has been the focal point of the Region. It has been a centre
fringes of the city – changing where people worked. The popularity of
for trade. For politics. For transportation. For entertainment, the arts
the car meant people no longer had to live and work within walking
distance – changing how people moved from place to place. Malls
As the heart and soul of our community, it has always been a place became the shopping destination of choice – changing where people
for people. bought their goods. New housing and commercial developments were
being built farther and farther from the downtown, and people followed.
At the height of its success, it was a reflection of residents’ pride and They abandoned the downtown, and buildings became vacant.
prosperity. But, something changed. In Kitchener, and across North
America, people started leaving their downtowns.
URBAN EVOLUTION 2
The City of Kitchener has been working hard in response to the belief that it is people that create a downtown - and on the need to draw
downtown’s natural evolution. There were several large-scale plans that people back to the core.
influenced the development of the downtown in the 60s and 70s. And
Although the importance the downtown plays in day to day activities may
they have left a lasting impact - Market Square and the King Centre are
have been lost to many residents, its importance as a reflection of
examples. In the last several years, the City has been taking numerous
community pride was not lost. Today, the vision for downtown Kitchener
small incremental steps to improve the downtown. These steps,
is as clear as it was 100 years ago – to make downtown a place for people.
collectively, have laid a further foundation on which the City can build
the future of its downtown. The current strategy is intended to integrate To succeed in this vision, the downtown needs to be an area where all
these ‘pieces of the puzzle’ into a comprehensive plan for the downtown people, regardless of status or background, feel welcomed. To do this, the
that can serve long into the future. The strategy will always centre on the area has to be of relevance from a regional, city and neighbourhood context.
…IN THE REGION
The historic centre of Waterloo County, downtown Kitchener can once
again regain its position as the focal point for the people of the Region of
Waterloo. Although there are many downtowns throughout the area,
Kitchener has the largest. And, as the geographic centre of the region, it
is the most strategically positioned.
As the Region's centre for government, administration, office and
commercial activity, it is a place where the people of Waterloo Region
come to work. As the Region's cultural centre, it is the place they will WATERLOO
come to be entertained. Downtown also has the opportunity to strengthen
its focus as a regional transportation hub, having a train station, bus DOWNTOWN
terminal and proposed Light Rail Transit station in close proximity.
ITS POSITION… 4
Though not the geographic centre of the city, downtown is the heart of
Downtown’s image can be repositioned to represent the spirit of
Kitchener. As it evolves, it will be a reflection of residents’ pride and Mt. Hope Huron Park
prosperity - a place they gather in times of celebration or to attend special
events. The area will unite all Kitchener residents, regardless of where Civic Centre Central Frederick
they live in the city.
…AS THE CENTRE OF A COMMUNITY Downtwn
OF NEIGHBOURHOODS Auditorium
Downtown Kitchener is a community amongst nine adjacent Victoria Park
Cedar Hill King East
neighbourhoods. The downtown’s success is vital to these
neighbourhoods. And their success is vital to the downtown.
For the people in these neighbourhoods, downtown Kitchener will be an
extension of where they live. It will be the place they come to work, to do
their banking, to shop, to be entertained and to do their day-to-day
chores. They not only have a vested interest in its future but a belief that
it will succeed.
BUILD ON OUR INDUSTRIAL LEGACY OPPORTUNITY IN DOWNTOWN TODAY
While downtowns in other cities have distinct attributes like rivers, lakes The opportunity has never been greater. In the past, despite persistent
or quaint, historic streetscapes, Kitchener’s downtown is recognized for efforts, people weren’t interested in living in the downtown. Today,
its rich industrial heritage. however, the demand for downtown living has returned.
Once known by the moniker “Busy Berlin,” industry is the backbone of Residents wanting an alternative to suburban homes are looking to the
downtown Kitchener. Uniquely Kitchener, the buildings and machines downtown to find other types of living spaces. These people want to
of the industrial age showcase the strong blue-collar roots of the city and experience the urban lifestyle in an area defined by social relevance and
present a unique way of looking at the human-made landscape of the a fuller quality of life. They want to live and work within walking
region. Through its rich history, residents and tourists alike will feel a distance. Attend plays at night. Go for coffee or lunch with friends.
connection to the city. Dance the night away in clubs. Visit art galleries. Explore museums. They
want to be in the heart of their city. They want to be in their downtown. are experiencing a transition - once again becoming a vibrant community
with rich and thriving neighbourhoods and bustling energy indicative of
This current trend has created an opportunity in the marketplace to fill the
an urban downtown.
gap that currently exists for quality residential development in the core.
The City fully intends to take advantage of this opportunity to bring people From the mid-1990s, more than $80 million has been invested in the
back to the downtown by strengthening its position as a place for everyone. core. Over 1,000 new housing units have been built. The surrounding
residential neighbourhoods are generally stable and housing prices have
In 1995, the City began focusing its efforts on shaping the urban steadily increased. Office vacancy rates have dropped. Today, downtown
evolution of downtown Kitchener. Since that time, it has set key, long- Kitchener is the Region’s largest employer with more than 12,000 people
term priorities for the core. Kitchener City Council has again reaffirmed working in the area. The core has more than 100 restaurants and dining
its commitment to the downtown’s urban evolution. locations. More than 400,000 people annually have visited downtown
The results have been encouraging. Downtown Kitchener and the core Kitchener to attend festivals, events and entertainment venues.
LANCASTER ST E
Nowhere can downtown Kitchener’s potential be better seen than in the
Civic District. A true success story, it is the model of downtown and core
area redevelopment. RG
Once struggling, with significant long-term public investment, the area Civic
is thriving. Today, the Civic District plays a major role in several Centre 7
important, yet diverse, functions.
As the location of the Waterloo Regional Police District Headquarters, AH
Regional and Provincial courthouses and Canada Customs & Revenue W
Agency, the District provides a supportive public service infrastructure to
business, commerce and the community. As the location of Centre in the T E
Square, the Registry Theatre, KW Art Gallery and the main branch of the 4
Kitchener Public Library, it is a major centre for arts, culture and 8
entertainment in the region. 9 3
1 - Provincial Courthouse 1 2
2 - Registry Theatre ER
3 - Waterloo Regional Police
District Headquarters 6 - Regional Courthouse TS
4 - Region of Waterloo 7 - Centre in the Square
5 - Canada Customs 8 - Kitchener Public Library
& Revenue Agency 9 - Governor’s House and Gaol
These successes have created a ripple effect that has seen positive Like the public investment that anchors the Civic District, the City has
development in adjacent neighbourhoods and districts. The basics of identified key anchors for these three districts that, in conjunction with
neighbourhood living have been retained. Property values have infrastructure improvements, will help spur development and create
increased and new developments continue. spin-off effects.
Using the Civic District as a model, the City hopes to duplicate its success
in three strategically defined downtown districts: the Warehouse
District, the Market District and the City Centre District.
LANCASTER ST E
TO W NS
VIC EB ST
JOS W E
CITY CENTRE MARKET
In the Warehouse District it is the numerous industrial heritage buildings.
In the Market District it is the building of the new Kitchener Market. In the Mount
City Centre District, it is City Hall. Hope
By concentrating on these investments along King Street, it is anticipated
that the private sector will begin to fill in the areas in between.
Cherry Hill TO
Historically an industrial city, downtown Kitchener has been left a valuable VIC
legacy from that era.
Framing the west entranceway to the downtown is the Warehouse District, 5
which has an impressive inventory of expansive factories and buildings of
industry. Characterized by high ceilings, large windows and spacious ARL
rooms, these beautiful older buildings are now a sought after commodity
with developers looking to convert them into office or residential space and PL
1 JO S
individuals willing to buy or rent space in them. In addition to the OA
buildings, there is also sufficient land available in the district to build. AM
1 - 72 Victoria South
2 - 70 Victoria North
3 - Former Kaufman Footwear 5 - Former Epton Site
4 - Former Lang Tannery 6 - Bramm Street Yards
72 Victoria Street. The Lang Tannery. The Kaufman Factory. It’s an urban
alternative to traditional development that preserves the building’s heritage
qualities and showcases the city’s rich history.
Private sector investment will lead the evolution of the Warehouse
District. However, there also exists an opportunity for public investment.
The Region has proposed a transit terminal anchored by a Light Rail
Transit station on the former Epton site. And the City of Kitchener
occupies its own lands on the Bramm Street Yards. Consolidating this
expansive area of land offers the potential for long term development in
Just as the Warehouse District is the downtown’s gateway in the West,
the Market District is the downtown’s gateway in the East. A thriving Auditorium
area with a rich blend of culturally diverse restaurants and shops, it offers
visitors a unique cosmopolitan experience in Kitchener’s downtown. EB
While the Warehouse District has large industrial buildings framing its
entranceway, the Market District really has had no such distinction.
Therefore, the City made an essential investment. In partnership with a
private developer, it is building a new multicultural, urban market that
will include residential and retail space, an underground parking garage
and a public square. The new Kitchener Market will serve as an anchor
G 5 NE
1 - Market Square CH
2 - Market Lane
3 - Market Village
4 - New Market Site Hill
5 - Retail Core
6 - Four Points Sheraton
for the district and an eastern entrance feature for the downtown. It will
be a hub of culture, shopping and tourism. And a catalyst that will
promote change, bring new investment and present new business
opportunities for the surrounding areas.
The City will continue to explore how to best maximize the opportunities
that exist in the Market District. In particular, to connect Market Village
and Market Square to the New Kitchener Market through Market Lane
by offering opportunities to redevelop the streetscape and the properties
that back on to the lane. As well, the City will encourage residential
development along Duke Street to complement the New Market’s
Le Marché residential condominiums.
Recognized as the heart of the downtown, the City Centre District is the
most diverse of all four districts. It is filled with an eclectic mix of uses
including shops, restaurants and bars, museums and art galleries, large
and small-scale offices and service sector facilities. NC
The City sees this district as the one requiring the majority of its
revitalization efforts. While the City Centre has seen many numerous
independent successes in recent years including the Children’s Museum,
the King Street Theatre and Manulife’s conversion of the King Centre, 1 W ST
the area as a whole has struggled.
1 - City Hall ST
2 - King Street Theatre
3 - Waterloo Regional
Childrens Museum Victoria
4 - Manulife Park
5 - Transit Terminal
6 - Retail Core
7 - Walper Hotel
CENTRE DISTRICT 14
The district is anchored by the City’s significant investment in City Hall.
That single investment has not, and will not, create investment in
adjacent properties. However, the City is leveraging the position of City
Hall by making strategic acquisitions of surrounding properties.
Just as the Civic District would not have flourished with just one
singular public sector investment, the City Centre District will not
flourish with just City Hall. Using the strategy deployed in the Civic
District, the City hopes to echo the success, but this time with private
City Hall is strategically placed in the middle of downtown, on King Creating a sense of community, the development of the Young/ Gaukel
Street. The building is at the intersection of the historical King Street axis will pull the neighbourhoods into the downtown. But just as vital, it
axis and a new potentially critical axis created along Young/ Gaukel will push the downtown out to the neighbourhoods and in particular
Streets, from the Victoria Park to Civic Centre neighbourhoods. Victoria Park, a significant community amenity. It will bring intensity to
the centre of the downtown and refocus the energy around City Hall. It
Offering a pedestrian-friendly route, the Young / Gaukel axis will
will also become the formal ceremonial promenade for celebrations.
complement the King Street axis, one of the busiest vehicular routes
A PLACE FOR PEOPLE 16
Downtown is the heart and soul of the city. It embodies the spirit of the
community. It is a reflection of residents’ pride and prosperity. With a
long-term commitment from City, and from residents, the vision for
downtown Kitchener will be achieved…it will be a place for people, a
place for everyone.
FOR THE CONSIDERATION
WAREHOUSE DISTRICT MARKET DISTRICT
• The City is encouraging the private sector conversion of former • The City has worked with the businesses that have been displaced as
warehouse and industrial buildings into office and residential uses. a result of the construction of the New Kitchener Market to retain
them in the downtown.
• The City is proposing to reconstruct Park Street to provide flood
relief and to enhance the entrance of Victoria Park. • The City is investing in a new downtown parking garage to
accommodate increased activity in the downtown.
• The City is exploring offering additional incentives to companies
redeveloping brownfield and heritage sites in the district. • The City is working in partnership with the Barrel Works Group to
create residential development along Duke Street as part of the New
• The City is considering centralizing its maintenance facilities. There Kitchener Market.
may be an opportunity to review the City’s current land ownership
in the Bramm Street Yards to explore ways to maximize the • The City has recognized the importance of Market Lane as a
site’s potential. connection for Market Square, Market Village and the New
Kitchener Market. The City is considering a concept for Market
• The City is supporting the Region of Waterloo’s proposal for a Light Lane that will illustrate potential streetscape improvements. In
Rail Transit station and other amenities at the former Epton site. concert with these plans, the City is exploring ways to redevelop
• The City is considering marketing the distinct attributes of the the properties that back and front on to Market Lane.
Warehouse District with an emphasis on creating a streetscape that is • The City is creating opportunities for business development in the
unique to the district. east end of downtown by building a catalyst project - the New
• The City is upgrading its surface infrastructure (roads and sidewalks)
in the area surrounding the market.
OF KITCHENER CITY COUNCIL 18
CITY CENTRE DISTRICT CULTURE IN THE DOWNTOWN
• The City has initiated a request for proposal to attract developers to • The City will be exploring the potential to maximize its Kilometer of
invest in the Centre Block, with an emphasis on mixed-density Culture, Downtown Mural and Industrial Artifacts programs to
development on Duke Street, mixed used and store-front retail on continue to develop arts amenities in the downtown.
King Street and open space in the central portion of the block.
• Through the Kitchener Industrial Artifacts Project, the City is
• The City is planning for an entranceway to Victoria Park and is identifying sites in the downtown to place industrial artifacts as a
considering improving the streetscape along the Young/ Gaukel tribute to Kitchener’s industrial heritage. A major concentration of
corridor to make it a more welcoming, pedestrian-friendly the plan would centre in the Warehouse District.
• The City will continue to focus on the development of cultural and
• If the transit terminal station is consolidated with Light Rail Transit family events and festivals within the downtown to bring people to
proposal on the Epton site, the City will explore opportunities to the area and help develop community pride.
maximize the land use on the current transit site.
• The City is prepared to work with landowners for the further
development of sites that are complementary to Centre Block.
• The City is considering residential and complementary development
on David and Joseph Streets.
CONTACT INFORMATION SOME PHOTOS COURTESY OF:
Anne Marie Elizgen
Carla Ladd Michael Mathias
Director of Corporate Research & Planning Ron Hewson
Phone (519) 741.2909 Denise Antle
Director of Economic Development
Phone (519) 741.2291