Last week Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc. played host to the BIG IDEAS Charrette at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture in Cambridge. Business people, municipal officials and students from Conestoga College, University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University fastened the straps on their thinking caps and came up with some great ideas for development in Waterloo Region.
Six potential development sites across the Region were pre-selected by an organizing committee and participants eagerly signed on. The six sites included in the Charrette were:
- The Regional Airport Employment Lands
- Grand River Downtown Galt
- Hespeler Road Commercial Strip
- Kitchener Frame
- Kitchener Civic Centre
- King Street Uptown Waterloo (Erb-Bridgeport)
Now, for those of you wondering ‘What the heck is a Charrette?’ let me elaborate! A Charrette according to Wikipedia is summed up as consisting of an intense period of design activity. Often broken into smaller teams, groups much come up with a solution to a problem or in last week’s case, a BIG IDEA for a potential development target put before them.
After the informal lunch got underway a bit late (due to the big crash on Highway 8 delaying our generous caterer Bingemans!), the participants were greeted to the School of Architecture by Director Rick Haldenby followed by an overview of the BIG IDEAS Charrette from CTT CEO John Jung. The Municipality Economic Development representatives, along with Amanda Kutler from the Region of Waterloo gave all participants insight into each site, and then it was time to get down to business!
The teams broke out throughout the school. Some groups quickly came to agreement about what will benefit the community at their site while others, let me just say it was a battle of BIG IDEAS!
As the day progressed it was fantastic to watch the interaction between students from a variety of backgrounds in planning, architecture and business studies paired with a generous group of experts in our Region. Students continued to express throughout the Charrette that this was a wonderful opportunity for them to gain mentorship from professionals they eventually aspire to be themselves!
After a busy Thursday afternoon homework was divvied up for the presentations on Friday afternoon. Each group was responsible to present a 4-slide presentation detailing a site analysis, proposal, prototypes and a reality check for the BIG IDEA they would present.
Friday afternoon arrived and students eagerly awaited the chance to showcase what they had in mind for their respective sites. The crowd was treated to bold visions for development in Waterloo Region! Reoccurring themes with an emphasis on sustainability and pedestrian friendly areas were present across the board.
When all was said and done, an honorarium of $1000 generously provided by the Region of Waterloo was awarded to the top three teams.
*Drum roll please…*
- Grand River Downtown Galt – The Grand Walk
- King Street Uptown Waterloo (Erb-Bridgeport) – King Street “Cultural Gateway” To Waterloo
- Kitchener Frame – Arena and Conference Centre
Congratulations to all those who participated and helped energize development ideas in Waterloo Region while preparing the first steps in broader urban planning, investment, and tourism promotional opportunities. We believe that was accomplished. We would like to extend a thank you to the Invest Canada – Community Initiatives (ICCI) – as this project was made possible in part thanks to their support of the ICCI program and the Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade Canada.
We all know Waterloo Region is innovative, full of diversity and there are plenty of exciting adventures to see and do. With this in mind, may you to always be thinking of that BIG IDEA that will continue set us apart as an envy of the world!