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About the City of Kitchener
Hello again, or for first-time readers, just hello! Welcome to the WRX Property Group Blog: your source for Kitchener-Waterloo real-estate news. We’ve covered many of the secondary schools in the region, and a few of the fantastic Neighbourhood and Community Associations. We’ve also taken close-looks at some of Kitchener-Waterloo’s individual neighbourhoods. Put simply, we’re going through the constituent parts of the broader whole: the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. The Waterloo Region is nearly 1 400 km2 in size (the Region shape roughly resembles the 2012 London Olympic logo), and more than half a million people live here. Most of the population lives in one of the ‘Tri-Cities’ (Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge). Today, we’re going to dial back our investigative lens and take a look at the City of Kitchener (don’t fret – we’ll be covering Waterloo tomorrow).
Kitchener is located in Southern Ontario, nestled between the cities of Waterloo and Cambridge, along with the towns of Wellesley, Woolwich, Wilmot, and North Dumfries. It has a population of around 230 000. The Grand River runs along Kitchener’s eastern border, and to the west are fields and rolling hills, the tallest of which are called the Bade Hills. These hills aren’t all that tall, but they’re the highest things for kilometers around, and thus serve as a perfect place for TV and radio antennae.
The history of Waterloo Region stretches back to Canada’s pre-Confederation period. Towards the end of the eighteenth-century, and the beginning of the nineteenth, groups of predominantly German Mennonite families began arriving in the area after leaving their homes in Pennsylvania (the ‘Pennsylvania Dutch,’ which is a bit (a lot) of a misnomer as they are German, not Dutch – the Dutch comes from a mispronunciation of ‘Deutsch,’ the German word for German). immigrants came in greater and greater numbers – particularly German and Swiss immigrants. As such, the new town was named Berlin, after the German capital, and it was chosen as the county seat of the County of Waterloo.
Berlin’s population rose steadily (particularly when the Grand Trunk Railway was extended, connecting Berlin to Toronto [public transit has been a cornerstone of Kitchener-Waterloo’s prosperity for over a century]), and it became a city in 1912. When WWI broke out, and public opinion turned against Germany, the city changed its name from Berlin to Kitchener. But as much as things have changed, it’s still not hard to find the German history here: many streets still bear German names (even if they’ve been anglicized, the W’s no longer pronounced as V’s), and every October Kitchener holds Canada’s Greatest Bavarian Festival – the second-largest Oktoberfest celebration in the world, which draws hundreds of thousands of lederhosen-sporting beer gardeners each year.
There’s a lot to love about Kitchener, and a lot to love about living here. For the purposes of clarity, we’ll break it down into three categories: Economy, Transportation, and Culture.
When you’re choosing where to live, you need to know that you’ll be able to make your livelihood. And in that regard, Kitchener (and indeed, the entire Waterloo Region) has plenty of opportunities. Historically, Kitchener has been a prominent manufacturing centre, stretching back to the furniture factory and sawmills of its earliest days. Manufacturing remains an important part of Kitchener’s economy (and a significant employer, with 20% of the work force), but the city has become increasingly economically diversified over the years.
The City of Kitchener has initiatives in place to make it a great place to work. These include an open, accessible system of governance; a collaborative-spirit in the business community; reliable city services; great, safe neighbourhoods; and sturdy infrastructure with an emphasis on sustainability. What does all this mean? Well, for one thing, Kitchener is one of the best places for entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The Waterloo Region is world-renowned as a centre of innovation and technology-based careers. This is no accident or coincidence: for over 20 years, Canada’s Technology Triangle attracted around 100 new businesses to the region. And of course, let’s not forget RIM (Research in Motion) and BlackBerry Limited – at times Canada’s largest tech company (but more on that in the Waterloo article). Google has a massive headquarters in downtown Kitchener (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended its grand opening) which employs many Canadian workers (known as Canooglers – Canadian Googlers).
Kitchener has plenty of job opportunities – large health care facilities and three hospitals, Conestoga College, multiple elementary and secondary schools, tech companies, municipal jobs, and countless retail and service opportunities (including Fairview Park Mall, the largest mall in the region). Another key benefit of Kitchener is its proximity to Toronto. Businesses are connected to Canada’s largest city, with all the opportunities that provides, as well as Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Kitchener has great travel options. Highways 7 and 8 run through the middle of the city, which offers several distinct perks: for one, it makes it fairly quick and efficient to get from one end of the city to the other. And perhaps more importantly, it makes it easy to travel into and out of the city. As mentioned earlier, Toronto is close by – you can make it there in just over an hour. Additionally, the rest of the Tri-Cities and Waterloo Region are quite accessible, and other nearby cities include Guelph, Hamilton, London, and St. Catharines and the Niagara Region. You can even make it to Niagara Falls, New York in the United States of America in under two hours.
Grand River Transit serves the entire Region of Waterloo (three cities, and more, for the price of one!). And in terms of coverage and availability, it really is quite good service. Including downtown terminals, the GRT has service hubs at the major malls, and well-labelled bus stops that make it clear which routes they serve. There are also iExpress routes that travel quickly between popular locations, such as Conestoga College. Getting to know a new transit service can be overwhelming at first, but with friendly staff and well-made service maps, the GRT makes it as easy as it can be. The big news for the near future is the LRT service that will eventually connect Kitchener and Waterloo, and a few years after that, extend all the way to Cambridge. The ION electric train cars will make it easy to hop on at Conestoga Mall, and hop off at Fairview Park Mall before you know it. There is GO service in Kitchener, as well as passenger rail with Via Rail.
Kitchener has festivals, large and small, throughout the year. The largest, of course, is during Oktoberfest, which brings 700 000 people to the region for over a week of revelry, and a Thanksgiving Parade. Kitchener has a wide variety of local radio stations, including one run from Conestoga College. Conestoga College is an important institution in Kitchener, as it provides many jobs, attracts new residents to the region, and helps train and create a skilled workforce for the future. Indeed, Conestoga College has ranked as the top Ontario college in multiple surveys.
Kitchener has plenty of natural attractions to enjoy, too. Beautiful trails can be found up and down the Grand River, and running throughout Victoria Park in downtown Kitchener. Whether you’re a physical activity enthusiast, a birdwatcher, a hiker, or a bodybuilder, there will be something for you in Kitchener. Chicopee Ski Club, for example, offers skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and tennis, volleyball, and biking in the summer (and much more).
There are museums, historic sites, and art galleries of various shapes and sizes throughout Kitchener, including Woodside National Historic Site (childhood home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s tenth Prime Minister), and Doon Heritage Crossroads, which recreates life at the turn of the twentieth-century. Kitchener has been revitalizing its downtown area over the past few years, and today it’s a vibrant, active hub of activity.
Written by Will Kummer