Downtown Kitchener is now referred to as the innovation district and houses around 45 startups leading to around 800 new jobs.
Urban Kitchener of the 1990s did not have a good reputation. It was known for homelessness, drugs and even prostitution. For families and small companies, the suburbs were the place to be at those times. However, now the largest city in the Waterloo region has transformed into startup central.
Downtown Kitchener is now even referred to as the Innovation District and houses around 45 startups, leading to around 800 new jobs. Startup Incubators Communitech Hub and Velocity Garage have had a significant role to play in this transformation.
The new companies and people in Kitchener have led to its change; the place has become swanky, two new condos and many new shops have opened. Also in the works is a light-rail service to cater to the demands of the population of young professionals.
Office spaces that have in the past remained half-empty are now filling up, and even a new destination restaurant serving modern European cuisine made with locally sourced produce has opened up.
[pullquote align= “normal” cite= “Former Langdon Hall chef Jonathan Gushue”]Downtown Kitchener is almost becoming Canada’s little Silicon Valley[/pullquote]
“Downtown Kitchener is almost becoming Canada’s little Silicon Valley”, former Langdon Hall chef Jonathan Gushue said. His ‘The Berlin’ opened its doors to customers last December.
People increasingly want to live a downtown lifestyle, and it doesn’t have to mean living in Toronto, Chris Plunkett, director of external relations for The Communitech Hub said.
However, not everyone in favour of the change.
Poorer residents have had to move out to the suburbs to make way for the funky condos, and gleaming offices, Oz Cole-Arnal member of the Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) said. However, social services remain downtown and access to these services is now proving to be expensive for the poorer residents, he added.
“There is no affordable housing downtown anymore. The whole city caters to the tech companies at the expense of everyone else.” He said.
Photo: JasonParis / Flickr