Combining imaginative planning vision with quality design in order to boost and create downtown revitalization is always expensive but Kitchener has already proved the cost is worth the investment.
Which is why I support a dynamic $1.8-million city proposal in 2019 to upgrade Queen Street between Charles and Duke Streets on both sides of King.
It’s also why, at municipal budget time next year, this councillor would be willing to do the job properly and, if necessary, invest as much as double the anticipated price for the overdue renewal project.
I think project planners and councillors should aim higher and have the courage and foresight to dream bigger.
At council committee this week I was pleased to see eight councillors tentatively support the proposal while the tiresome trio of negative nellies— Yvonne Fernandes, Zyg Janecki and John Gazzola — expressed customary opposition to spending cash on the future health of the downtown which, to me, represents the beating heart of our city.
Still, I remain nervous about the half-hearted support displayed by some councillors who, one eye on votes in the 2018 municipal election, might dilute the vibrancy of the proposed renewal by nickel and diming an excellent project.
Despite that price tag, the plan has my support because I continue to see results of the economic boom in the west-end innovation district originally financed after councillors made a courageous decision in 2004 to support a $110-million loan over 10 years to pump new life into an area further boosted by Light rail Transit. I also see the development and gradual financial return on cash spent by the city to renew King Street.
On Queen, major street infrastructure work was already planned and budgeted for 2019 and this proposal represents a more efficient way of using taxpayer cash. The project would also provide an interesting pedestrian stroll between LRT stations on Charles and Duke.
On the price tag issue, part of the cost of the upgrade could be shared by higher levels of government, Kitchener’s Downtown Business Improvement Area as well as core developers who have already invested millions in the area including an upcoming residential-retail and office project that will soon replace the shabby American Hotel block at Queen and King.
Included in the heritage-preserving proposal:
° Redesign of the Vogelsang Green at Duke-Queen complete with a natural amphitheatre, a new parkette-water area at Charles-Queen, renewal of Halls and Goudies Lanes, green walls, more bike racks, decorative paving, street murals, string and globe lighting.