Lippert Park Picnic, TODAY!!! July 10, 2010 noon - three

The 10th annual Lippert Park picnic is happening TODAY, July 10th!

The event has been organized, posters delivered, it is up to YOU to attend and have fun!

Where is it located? Why, in Lippert Park of course! This has become a great annual event with many different activities. Please drop by, bring the kids, say hello to friends and make new friends.

For more information, here is the official poster (you might see it displayed around the neighbourhood). Click on the image to expand to a larger size.


The Breithaupt Block: coming to our neighbourhood soon

The June 16 meeting of the NMA (Neighbourhood Mobilization Alliance) was packed full of excitement and intrigue. We had a guest speaker, Craig Beatty from Perimeter Development Corp (a Toronto company). Mr. Beatty had worked for First Gulf who have transformed the downtown (or "uptown") Waterloo area and Perimeter Development was created by a group of former First Gulf executives.

Perimeter Development have purchased several former industrial properties in Galt (Cambridge) and have also acquired the former Collins and Aikman building at Breithaupt and King Street in Kitchener (beside the train tracks). This is what the building currently looks like (click on image to enlarge):

For a short introduction to its recent history, click here to read an interesting article from the Guelph Mercury. At the end of that article a real estate agent calls it a "challenge property".

Apparently, Perimeter Development likes a challenge because they have bought it and have been cleaning it up for the past few months. Mr. Beatty explained they have great plans for turning it into a valuable office space they are calling the "Breithaupt Block". It sits on about four acres of land and the total space is about 250,000 square feet including the basement.

There are actually several core buildings and many additional structures that have been built on. After clearing out tons of old equipment Mr. Beatty said they will tear down some of the "tin shed additions" and "adaptively reuse" the main buildings. He said they have uncovered some "fabulous spaces" in these brick and beam concrete buildings.

In a brochure presented to the NMA Mr. Beatty presented an elegant vision that is a considerable upgrade from the existing facility (click on image to enlarge):

Mr. Beatty indicated this was a minimum three year project composed of a large "King Street building" with a glassy facade (as a counterpart to the School of Pharmacy across the street) and then five other buildings with two shared courtyards, glass enclosed elevators, sandblasted brick etc.

This is a very exciting project for those of us in the area who are used to walking past the semi-derelict buildings full of smashed windows. Mr. Beatty had asked to address the NMA to keep us aware of their plans and, we imagine, to generate a bit of excitement over the development plans.

Some residents posed questions. For example, "are there any historic photos inside?" and the answer is "no". What about equipment that might be re-used as historic structures throughout Kitchener? Mr. Beatty said there was one wheel they were going to use as a centre piece in one of their courtyards. And that they were in contact with the city over zoning and other regulations, but no one had mentioned artifacts. John Smola was present and it was arranged that the city administrator in charge of historic artifacts would contact Perimeter Development.

Another resident asked about the standards that would be applied during the tear down of some structures and the renovation of others. Mr. Beatty said all contractors they hire adhere to provincial and municipal standards and the city regularly conducts inspections. The resident made the point that the site may be zoned commercial, but it is very close to residences and people are worried about asbestos and other contaminants.

The NMA asked to be kept in the loop as this development goes forward. There are a few issues about the safety of residents during construction, but overall it seems very positive and we appreciate the time Mr. Beatty took to speak to all of us.

We will post more information as this project takes shape.

Margaret Avenue bike lanes

On Wednesday, June 16th, Ken Carmichael (Supervisor of Traffic and Parking Engineering-Transportation Planning at the City of Kitchener), attended our Neighbourhood Mobilization Alliance meeting at city hall. He told us about some plans for "traffic calming" on Margaret Avenue between Victoria and Guelph streets.

As a reminder, Margaret street looks like this between Wellington and Breithaupt, just before the bridge over the railway tracks. Residents have complained for many years about the excessive speeds of cars in that area.

The city is introducing two initiatives to slow down traffic. The first is that Margaret Street is being designated a bike lane so a bike path will be marked and parking will be more restricted. The city will eventually introduce "speed humps" along the street to slow traffic as well.

Ken stated that it is impossible to slow drivers who insist on driving poorly and too fast, but studies show that if you have more restricted parking, and if the bike lanes are drawn in, there is less space on the street for the cars. Therefore, the drivers slow down because they have to pay more attention to the markings. So over the next couple of years we hope some calm will come to this area of the city.


NMW Meeting tonight

Just a reminder that tonight at the regular meeting of the Neighbourhood Mobilization Alliance, we will have a special guest talking about development plans for the Collins & Aikman industrial facility at Breithaupt and Moore Street. As usual, the meeting will be in the Conestogo Room at Kitchener City Hall, beginning at 7 pm. After this presentation, we will return to the regular meeting business.

All area residents are welcome at this meeting.

Some folks may not be familiar with the Collins & Aikman building, so I went to Google street view, and got this picture.


Things to do in Kitchener in the Summer

As the summer is getting started I hope everyone will be attending various events around the city and in our own neighbourhood. Currently there is the ongoing Tapestry Festival and the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. More locally, we have had a Jane's Walk (I promise, I'll add more photos soon!) and a picnic in Duke Street Park.

If you are planning a picnic or other event, and want a bit of publicity, please email us at mhbpna@gmail.com and we'll post it to this Blog. We can also put it on the Calendar that appears on the right hand side. We hope to have more listings so anyone in our area can use it as a resource for what is "going on".

We'd also like to remind everyone that the city of Kitchener sponsors a Festival of Neighbourhoods  program. For each event you have (like a walk, picnic etc.) you can register it and get a ballot. At the end of the summer the city sponsors a Finale celebration which includes a draw for a $10,000 improvement grant. The neighbourhood with the most ballots has a better chance of winning the grant.

The Blog's New Look: I hope no one was startled this week with the "new look" but the Blogger folks published a number of new (and free) templates. I chose one that opens up the site a bit and makes it easier to see the calendar and other links.

I also added a "counter" that everyone can see (on the right side, under the Blog Archive section). This morning the number is "71" which means the site has had around 70 unique visits in the past week or so. It is encouraging that a few people are reading the Blog and I hope the number increases as more of you send in links, event information, even photos for us to publish.

Ted Parkinson


Shanley and Duke St. Factory Building

On Wednesday, May 19th, officials from the Ministry of the Environment attended a special meeting of the Neighbourhood Mobilization Alliance at City Hall. Volunteers did a great job advertising this meeting. Posters were designed and printed and handed out around the community. There was a listing on this Blog and the press was contacted as well. Approximately 30 people attended the meeting and that shows the importance of this issue to all of us in the area.

In case you haven't read it, there was a great article written in The Record about the meeting and the history of this building. The article is still online here.

Ministry officials gave a PowerPoint presentation at the meeting and they have now sent it to us. This has been uploaded to our Neighbourhood Association website and you can view a PDF version by clicking here.

There is another "Final Report" which the ministry will forward to us after they have removed some personal information from it. We will post a Blog entry about that report and also upload it to the same "Shanley Street Building" folder on the MHBPNA Website.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the meeting to show support for resolving this issue.


Tapestry festival in Kitchener from June 4 to 27

My wife and I decided to have a "downtown" experience today after work. First stop Budds for clothes! It's a great store with friendly people, great prices and for this weekend, NO TAXES. (Actually, there were no taxes last month as well). Anyway, I finally got some shorts that fit and look nice. They only problem is they close at 5:30 on a Friday. What is that all about? I guess it goes with the 1965 vibe.

Then to Ye's Sushi where we just ordered off the menu instead of indulging in the "all you can eat". We wanted to minimize our consumption and also have enough time to catch the music in front of city hall. So after a Bento Box and Sushi combo, we headed across the street. The distance is short but with all the streets torn up, it is not easy to get anywhere. Fortunately, it looks like the end is in sight as there is more concrete than dirt on King Street these days. In another year the Google Street View folks will be able to come back in their car and actually make it down the whole street!

We were greeted at city hall by the sounds of the "New Horizons" concert band which is composed of some senior citizens and a few middle-aged folks. OK, they were a bit out of tune, but they had enthusiasm (especially the conductor) and all wore the same nice blue shirts which counts for something.

 After the concert band departed, a group of youngsters took to the stage to play some really fabulous jazz. These kids looked like they still had to have their parents drive them to gigs, but they played some really awesome inventive jazz. They are called Macondo (although the Tapestry brochure available in city hall calls them "Mandoco") and the sax player is originally from Chile, while the bass, piano and drummer are local.

They are also playing at the Kites of Joy and Freedom Festival on June 13. You should really check them out because they displayed a subtlety way beyond their years. I hope they continue to play together for a long time.

In fact, there is lots of good (free) music happening tomorrow night at city hall, and throughout the month. Check out the city's web site here. There is also a film festival going on inside city hall in the rotunda so while the jazz was heating up outside (despite the rain) a few people sat inside watching a Neal Young concert film. Strange but true.


The Tannery "District"

The boundaries of our neighbourhood association (as shown here) end at King Street. But just across this street and a block further is the Tannery. This has been called the "Tannery District", probably to positively associate it with the Distillery District in Toronto. But if Caden (the developer) has their way, and tears down two heritage buildings to build a small gravel parking lot, then there won't really be any "district", there will just be one building and a lot of parking.

Let's never forget that Caden has done many positive things in developing and promoting the Tannery. However, tearing down these buildings, nondescript as they are, is a bad thing for the downtown and for any hopes of creating a "district". 

There has been a great deal written on this controversy in The Record and elsewhere. Rather than rehash the issues, I merely want to provide links to where you can get more information.

James Howe does a great job describing the issues on his Blog "kingandottawa".

Here is a good article on the Tannery in The Record

I would urge everyone to write, email or contact city councillors and the Mayor and anyone else you think important to show your support for these buildings. (Of course you can also voice your support for the gravel parking lot option, but I would disagree....).

There is also a Facebook group called Save the Lang Buildings! Please consider joining it. 

Live Music in Downtown Kitchener

This summer there will be live music in downtown Kitchener at several locations. These performances will happen on Thursday and Friday during noon hour and after work. Isn't that great? They will all be within easy walking distance of the MHBP Neighbourhood.

For more information, click this link.

See you there!