The proof will be in the planning puddings.
That’s obvious as each glossy PARTS (Planning Around Rapid Transit Stations) is presented to Kitchener council while we wait and wait for the LRT to come chugging slowly down the line.
The latest PARTS study examines a future “walkable urban village” including Rockway, Cedar Hill, Mill-Courtland, Highland-Stirling and other communities near the Borden and Mill-Ottawa LRT stations. The plan, approved by planning committee this week, will be ratified by council Monday evening.
This area includes the former 27-acre Schneider’s site sandwiched between Mill and Courtland. It is now owned by London-based Auburn Developments, a company that has built high-income condo buildings in Kitchener and Waterloo. Auburn is considering a mix of housing that includes everything from stacked town homes to high-rise towers on the property.
Back to the pudding mixed by planners.
My key concern with PARTS is that the plans are not giving enough attention to the preservation and encouragement of affordable, mid-range housing currently found in established communities. And by affordable, I don’t necessarily mean low-cost, subsidized housing although I’ve yet to see any sign of that form of shelter along the LRT route.
Most attention has to date focused on developers building condos for high-income residents who want to live near the LRT and I don’t blame that housing imbalance on planners trying to mix the necessary ingredients for PARTS puddings.
Watching what’s already happening, I predict that, as usual, planners will fight a losing struggle against wealthy, powerful developers and political friends that dominate municipal councils.
You can already see the pressure to dilute PARTS in comments made by some councillors and developers requesting changes to fledgling plans. It’s partly seen through requests that planners use weasel words in PARTS like “flexibility, encourage and consider” when drafting “guidelines” that would leave multiple wiggle room as development progresses.
As an example, in this particular study, planners want to see better and more attractive use of Schneider and Shoemaker creeks that currently meander through communities in ugly, graffiti-covered concrete ditches.They want to see the waterways form focal points in new green areas snd trails both in and around the Schneider site.
But they are already experiencing pushback from landowner-developers who want to maximize development potential on their properties.
Which leaves me wondering about the final taste and texture of those puddings.