In the 1990’s downtown Kitchener’s reputation was far from stellar. A once booming core was now abandoned. Large malls had taken the retail traffic and the main streets became a home for bars, fighting, drugs and homelessness. The cavernous downtown malls had become ghost towns. Families that did come downtown were on a mission of in and out as quickly as possible. The core seemed irredeemable.
Fast forward to today and there is a renewed sparkle to the streets of our downtown. Startup tech companies now populate the core. It is now being called the Innovation District with 40+ startups creating 800 plus jobs. The Communitech Hub, Velocity Garage & Vidyard all call downtown their home. Wait is that Google on our street corner!
The Children’s Museum has taken its place among Centre in the Square. Strollers are being seen again. Restaurants are opening, funky indie stores are coming back and office space is beginning to fill again. Intensification and infill developments are occurring at selected nodes along the new LRT transit route and are quickly becoming high demand office space for new-office relocations. This year Europro Real Estate purchased seven commercial properties in downtown Kitchener. The seven Kitchener buildings represent about 40% of all the office space in downtown Kitchener. The attraction for Europro was the incredible potential and entrepreneurial population base with healthy market fundamentals they see in Kitchener Waterloo.
Office & retail space aren’t the only noticeable change to our cityscape. Condo towers are beginning to appear. Old abandoned factories are being turned into luxury condos. The Zehr Group now owns all of the land between the railway tracks and Wellington Street South and into the block as for as the Ontario seed property. This paves the way for a redevelopment of 2.4 hectares of land costing millions of dollars. Preliminary plans call for 1 million square feet of new buildings with 3 condo towers, an apartment building and office & retail space. 1 Victoria Street condo development is a example of the renewed interest in downtown. A 1 bedroom + den condo sold for $343,000 in September of this year. Young professionals are beginning to work from home and want to leave their homes and walk into a vibrant, energized environment. They want to feel connected to the human race and what better way than to live in a densely populated space.
Our downtown core is now the main hub of the new LRT rapid transit system that will eventually connect the 3 major urban centres of Cambridge, Kitchener & Waterloo. The LRT makes commuting efficient, reliable & convenient and living next the centre of the system will be a desirable factor in urban living. The LRT will also play a significant role in the revitalization of the downtown core by faciliating quick, convenient and economical transportation in and out of the downtown area.
The City of Kitchener is in the process of approving a $2 million dollar plan to bring Queen Street back to life with improvement to a 2 block stretch between Duke & Charles Street, Vogelsang Green and improvements to parkette. The improvements would give the area more of a historic feeling with the intention of attracting more people to the downtown core. Work would begin as soon as 2019.
Recently the Schneiders meat processing plant on Courtland Avenue was purchased by Auburn Developments. The 27.6 acre property will be developed as a mixed use neighbourhood. The plans are to include medium and high-rise residential units along with office & commercial. There is a possibility for retail & restaurants.
The core has retained its historic charm. Victoria Park is a short walk from city hall and is considered the jewel of the city. With a lake, iron bridge, flower beds, playgrounds and picnic areas Victoria Park adds a great value to life within the core. The park is home to a number of special events throughout the year including the KW Mulitcultural Fesitval, Kitchener Blues Festival, Chrismas Fantasy and Ribfest. The park is surrounded by the lovely Victorian Homes of St Mary’s area.
From a Real Estate prospective revitalization of the core can only mean good things for all home owners in the KW area. A strong downtown core will increase property values within the city and attract long term investors to our area. More retail and office space in downtown will decrease our unemployment rate and attract talented professionals to our area. With continued popluation growth and responsible urban planning Real Estate within the downtown area will continue to florish.