In 2007 the City of Kitchener, Ontario, retained IBI Group to develop a Streetscape Master Plan for the City Centre District: the core of Kitchener’s historic downtown. The City recognized the need to revitalize the area, to transform the once neglected streets into a lively, liveable area that would renew the district’s civic pride, awaken its creative energy and, most importantly, bring people and businesses back to the downtown core.
The focal point of the revitalization is the downtown’s six-block main hub which stretches 1.1km along King Street, from Frederick/Benton Street in the southeast to Francis Street in the northwest. The area is home to important civic, academic and cultural institutions, as well as public spaces. It houses City Hall and its plaza, Speakers Corner Plaza, THEMUSEUM (formerly Waterloo Region Children’s Museum), the University of Waterloo’s new School of Pharmacy, and—in a recent addition to the neighbourhood—Google’s new regional office.
In collaboration with the City, the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Association and the public, IBI Group redesigned King Street. The design creates a pedestrian-first public realm that reconfigures the street by converting the existing lay-by parking and sidewalk into a flexible sidewalk-parking system that maximizes the pedestrian-zone width, while being adaptable for alternate uses during the winter months. Removable bollards separate vehicle parking and pedestrian circulation, allowing them to share the same level surface. During warmer months the bollards are located close to the curb to maximize space for pedestrians, outdoor cafés, restaurants, retail and small-scale street performances
Meanwhile, the curb around City Hall Plaza is continuously flush with lit bollards that allow the plaza to extend seamlessly onto King Street when the street is closed. As well, the redesign of Speakers Corner Plaza makes that space more open and spatially efficient. Both plazas maximize crowd capacity and amenity space for a variety of public gatherings.
Other distinctive urban furniture include benches and granite seat walls for various seating options, bike racks, removable parking signs, bus shelters, recycling and garbage receptacles with an innovative waste management solution, and movable planter pots for seasonal planting. Also included are decorative tree and seat wall lights for accent lighting, and a combined street-pedestrian lighting system with a contemporary aesthetic.
There is also public art. At Speakers Corner Plaza a set of sculptures, “Relocation and Transformation of Memory,” pays homage to the site’s past, Kitchener’s present and the city’s future aspirations.
Trees and ornamental grasses are also instrumental in the stormwater infiltration planters. They collect and filter water runoff into these planters before entering the municipal sewer system: a sustainable stormwater management strategy. Decorative raw iron inlet/outlet grates direct this runoff, while in winter trap gates prevent salt contamination of soils. The native plants are chosen for seasonal interest as well as drought and salt tolerance.
Together, all of these landscape elements make the King Street Revitalization—completed after two years of construction in the fall of 2010—the first of its kind in the region. Its success is based on the principle that an investment in high-quality public realm will serve as a catalyst for private sector investment, intensification and renewal of the City Centre District.
To date, the project has received a Green Street Award by Tree Canada and a 2010 Community Place Award from the International Making Cities Livable Council.
City of Kitchener (Eric Saunderson – Project Manager , Cory Bluhm – manager of downtown community development)
Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Area (Mark Garner – Executive Director)
Landscape Architect: IBI Group, Toronto (Trevor McIntyre, Jay Cheon, Julius Aquino)
Contractor Administration & Civil Engineer: IBI Group, Waterloo (Kelly Cobbe, Ted Martin, Mike Sampson, Arend Lootsma, John Vleeming)
Planning: IBI Group, Kitchener (Don Drackley)
Geotechnical: Chung and Vander Doelen (Eric Chung)
Electrical: Rombald Inc. (Roy Ojala)
Telecommunication Design: UTS Consultants (Wayne Groves)
Lighting: John MacDonald Architect Inc. (John MacDonald)
Irrigation: Vanden Busshe Irrigation (Andy Firth)
Public Art: Allan Harding Mackay
General Contractor: Steed and Evans Limited (Jim Hurst)
Landscape Subcontractor: Moser Landscape Group (Jason Kropf)
Electrical Subcontractor: JCH Contracting (Jeff Snyder)
Irrigation Subcontractor: Waterworks Lawn Sprinklers Inc. (Neil Risavy)
Expanded Asphalt Subcontractor: Roto-Mill Inc. (Chris Thompson)
Completion: Fall 2010