Category Archives: urban design

Something BIG

The Tannery, Kitchener

We realized that we’d become regulars when the barista asked us if we wanted “the usual”. Her question surprised us. We hadn’t thought that we’d been coming here often enough for her to remember us and our order. Perhaps we should have figured out that we were heading down this path earlier. We were, after all on a first name basis with Meaghan, our barista and days when we couldn’t get to Balzacs inspired a morning sulk that lasted through to lunch.

We tried to quantify what it is that draws us to this particular spot. We tended to not be creatures of habit, meaning that there was something beyond the coffee, no matter how great, that inspires our daily trek.

It could be our appreciation for old spaces finding new life – the past, present and future gelling.  Or perhaps it is the ethereal energy generated by the massive collection of creative brains inhabiting the Tannery that result in the feeling that “something”  BIG is in play, drawing us in.

It doesn’t hurt that BIG companies like Google and Desire to Learn have taken up residence here. Or that the Communitech Hub, a digital media accelerator, has opened 30,000 square feet for start-ups and their allies. They are all doing BIG things in a BIG way. However, arguably more exiting are the myriad of small BIG idea companies that have found their perch among the the creaky floors and open beamed ceilings.  Some have already achieved BIG status themselves or been bought by other BIG BIG companies. Some are just starting out, as evidenced by their Scandinavian-ly bare spaces. But all have come this far, amassing their dreams into a terra firma piece of office space, and that takes guts.

This week I visited a very BIG company that is doing VERY BIG things in Liberty Village, Toronto. They are and have been a very BIG part of shaping the Village and developing similar creative spaces in other communities. The energy of their space and their staff is virtually kinetic  – perhaps a natural result of the fact that they take the BIG risks that often accompany BIG ideas. Like the Tannery, a sense of awesomeness is a veritable part of the walls in Liberty Village and, despite the encroachment of the very shiny, new condos that are a result of the success of the  area’s revival, you can feel a mix of history and future-making emanating from every corner.

Walking through the adapted buildings, sipping my Balzacs Liberty Village latte, I felt the same sense of excitement – something on the cusp of happening – that draws me to the Tannery in Kitchener. Is it my brain finding telepathic purchase with a greater like minded community, or is it just the omnipotenet power of my Balzacs latte that makes my adrenalin kick into overdrive? Do BIG ideas produce an air borne by product that stimulates passers-by, or is it the idea alone – that people can create something BIG from something very small- that acts like a very effective drug?

So what brings us to the Tannery? Perhaps it is the combination of the vision, innovation, talent and the masses of raw guts it takes to turn all of this into something BIG permeating the place, which inexplicably drawing us there for our daily dose.

Liberty Village at sunrise

Liberty Village at sunrise

PS- We also love Mon Ami’s pizza and can’t wait for the pub (which is now hiring) to open its doors for another kind of daily dose.


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Filed under Kitchener-Waterloo, kwawesome, urban design

Transit Debate Continues

The newest Regional transit survey comes from The Record. Given, the paper’s hot and cold coverage of the “debate”, with its often controversial letters to the editor and opinion pieces, this should be interesting.

If you missed my post about the LRT Rally, I am pro light rail. I am pro anything that encourages people to use their feet and transit to get from A to B. Granted KW is not currently set-up that way, we are a sprawling city, and I have had countless people argue with me that the LRT will not serve everybody, only those along the line, therefore it is not a good use of money. Ok.

My final two cents on this debate: move along the line. When relocating here we chose where to live based on its accessibility to amenities like restaurants, transit and my place of work. As a result, we are able to make do with one vehicle (the other unfortunately goes to Guelph every week day).  If we could do without, we would. An LRT would provide us with a quick scoot into Uptown Waterloo and down to the Market – making it a viable option even in bad weather. Yes, we get less square footage than we would if we moved into the suburbs. But the freedom of being carless evenings and weekends is delicious (and far more economical).

Get involved. If you are a newbie to the debate, check out Tritag for the pro (and ways to have your voice heard) and search The Record for any number of cons.

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Filed under Kitchener-Waterloo, urban design