Downtown Kitchener is changing, and has been for years.
Downtown Kitchener is changing, and has been for years. In fact, especially in the last few years, the core seems to be in a constant state of flux – LRT road closures, new businesses and tech companies popping up, old factories reinvented as condos or office space, there’s a buzz and a bustle about downtown Kitchener these days, as it seems new life is being breathed into the core.
But big urban changes happening in such a short amount of time always have side effects, and usually they manifest themselves as increased geographic division between the rich and the poor. As Richard Florida wrote in our Coming Home issue, in New York, the combination of increasing inequality and out-of-sight housing prices led to the election of progressive Mayor Bill DeBlasio. In San Francisco, rising housing prices have led to growing conflicts between locals and techies, including attacks on the buses that shuttle tech workers from their pricey homes in the city to their jobs in Silicon Valley.
Recently re-opened intersection at Victoria and King is a landscape in transition: LRT tracks, new high rises and revitalized old factories co-exist. (Photo credit: Mimi Shaftoe)
It’s important to think about those who might be left behind by the speed and magnitude of the transformations taking place in downtown Kitchener, and that’s exactly what a group of researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ryerson University, the University of Northern British Columbia, and community partner Hive Waterloo Region are doing. In their study “Collaborative Solutions to Inequitable Urban Change”, the researchers are looking at gentrification in the downtown core, with the goal of hearing from and involving community stakeholders from all sectors and backgrounds in order to develop inclusive solutions. Their initial stakeholder workshop at the Kitchener Public Library in June brought out everyone from tech to nonprofits, local government and arts and culture.
The new Google headquarters can be seen behind the site of what will soon be the new Waterloo Region Transit Hub. (Photo credit: Mimi Shaftoe)
In the second stage of the study, the researchers opened the conversation further through their PhotoVoice Initiative. Members of the general public were invited to participate by taking photos of places that represent their everyday experiences of urban change in the downtown core. The organizers will share these personal stories of urban change with the wider community in an upcoming public exhibit, which they hope will generate conversation about the diverse experiences of change in downtown Kitchener.
If you’re interested in this project, keep an eye on the HiveWR website for information about the exhibit.