City councillors have approved an ambitious new plan that would reshape the Rockway/Mill-Courtland neighbourhood into a “walkable urban village” and return Schneider and Shoemaker creeks into community green spaces lined with trails.
The Rockway plan spells out the city’s vision for redevelopment for areas within a 10-minute walk of the Borden and Mill light rail transit stations, roughly between the Iron Horse Trail and Rockway golf course, and Mill and Weber streets.
It’s a long-term vision to guide development over the next 20 to 50 years, said Tina Malone-Wright, a senior planner at the city who is working on the plans for all of the areas around Kitchener’s rapid transit stops.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” she said. “It is the ultimate build-out vision for the community,” she said.
While stressing the importance of preserving neighbourhoods of single-family homes, the plan would radically increase the area’s density, from 46 residents and jobs per hectare today, to 250 residents and jobs per hectare near the Borden Avenue LRT stop and 170 residents and jobs per hectare near the Mill Street LRT stop. That extra density would come with clusters of new high- and medium-rise offices and apartments, as well as stacked townhouses.
The plan also calls for a dramatic transformation of the area, turning the car-centric retail strip of King Street into a gateway to the downtown, adding cycling lanes and walking trails and breaking up huge blocks of industrial land into people-sized sections.
“These are all exciting and needed ideas,” said Coun. Sarah Marsh.
With no parks in the plan area, the need for open spaces will become even more pressing as intensification brings in more residents and workers. The plan calls for all large-scale developments to include park space. It also recommends re-greening of Schneider and Shoemaker creeks, which now run along concrete channels through industrial areas, though it concedes creating such a green space would require “significant public investment.”
Rockway has a “gritty, eclectic character,” which could make it “a haven for innovative and creative uses that will increasingly be pushed out of other gentrifying areas along the Ion corridor,” the plan says. It cites uses such as artists’ studios and maker spaces.
Other ideas include:
• extending the Iron Horse Trail to connect to the Mill LRT station and to the south, east and west;
• creating a more pedestrian-friendly route along Borden from the LRT stop to the Aud;
• an innovative rethinking of flood risk. Most development is now restricted near the creeks, but new floodplain mapping suggests the removal of some buildings would reduce the flood risk and open up the area for some redevelopment;
• a target of 20 per cent affordable housing. Pushing developers for a mix of housing is vital, said Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “Affordability is key,” he said when the plan was presented at the city’s planning committee on Monday. “We’re not just talking about subsidized housing. We’re also talking about affordable, working-class housing.”
Councillors approved the plan at a committee meeting this week. It goes before council for ratification on Dec. 11. As the ideas in the plan get translated into the city’s Official Plan, zoning bylaw and secondary plans, there will be more opportunity for input from the public and property owners, Malone-Wright said.
More information is on the city’s website at kitchener.ca; type “PARTS” in the search.