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About the City of Waterloo
Good morning/afternoon/evening! Welcome to the WRX Property Group Blog. Today we continue our probing look into the exciting world of Kitchener-Waterloo and all the things that make it great. Two of the main things that make it great are right there in the name: Kitchener and Waterloo. Yesterday we discussed the City of Kitchener, and today we’ll be looking into Waterloo. To clarify something right off the bat: there is the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, which encompasses the Tri-Cities (Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo), and several townships and their constituent communities; and there is the city of Waterloo. We’ll be focussing on the city of Waterloo, not the Region.
Waterloo is the smallest of the Tri-Cities, but it’s still got a fairly sizable population at just over 100 000. Kitchener borders Waterloo to the south, Wilmot, Wellesley, and Woolwich Townships surround it to the north and east (that’s a lot of ‘W’s), and the Grand River runs (or flows, to be more accurate) along the east.
Waves of German Mennonite Immigrants from Pennsylvania began purchasing large tracts of land and establishing farms in the early 1800s. One such settler, Abraham Erb, cultivated the land that would come to serve as the town centre (his brother, John Erb, founded Preston in Cambridge, and Erb Street still runs through the heart of uptown Waterloo). The town was named Waterloo in 1816, one year after the armies of Napoleon famously fell at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium (to find out more about this famous historical scene, be sure to check out Abba’s “Waterloo,” a key secondary source of the Napoleonic Wars – who says you can’t learn while dancing?). Agriculture, milling, and manufacturing were important to the region for many years, and though the neighbouring Berlin (Kitchener) grew a little faster and would become the county’s seat of government, Waterloo remained important, and it earned official recognition as a city in 1948.
One of the defining characteristics of Waterloo is its top of the line education. Put simply, Waterloo has excellent schools, for every age. Waterloo is served by both the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB). Both have schools throughout the Tri-Cities, and several in the surrounding areas, but there is a common theme amongst them. Typically, the schools in Waterloo itself are the highest performing in the entire region (and many of them are ranked among the best in all of Ontario). Indeed, for many parents, moving to a particular area of Waterloo in order to ensure their children are zoned for a specific school is a significant factor in choosing a new home. The Laurelwood Neighbourhood (read about it in our ongoing series on Waterloo Neighbourhoods) specifically has excellent elementary schools, including Laurelwood Public School and St. Nicholas Catholic School, tied for top school in Waterloo according to the Fraser Institute in 2015-2016.
In terms of secondary schools, again, Waterloo excels. There are three public and one Catholic high schools in Waterloo, and each of them ranks higher (according, again, to the Fraser Institute) than just about every other high school in the entire Waterloo Region (both WRDSB and WCDSB). You can read about the WRX analyses of the public schools in the following links: Bluevale Collegiate Institute, Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School, and Waterloo Collegiate Institute. You’ll be able to read more about the Catholic high school in a forthcoming article on St. David Catholic Secondary School.
All this talk of schools, and one of (well, two of) the biggest parts of Waterloo haven’t yet come up: university. Waterloo boasts two comprehensive universities (comprehensive meaning they offer a wide range of programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels, as well as significant research activity). Wilfrid Laurier University (named after Canada’s first Francophone Prime Minister, and the best-dressed until the Trudeaus came along) has been a vital part of the Waterloo community since it was founded in 1911 (it’s gone through a few name changes along the way). Between full-time and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate, Laurier has around 20 000 students. Laurier has many popular degree paths, including a renowned music program, which offers the only Master’s in music therapy. The University of Waterloo (UW) is younger than Laurier, having been established in 1956, but it has become absolutely integral to the city of Waterloo. UW is well-known and widely respected as a tech innovator, and its cooperative education programs provide students with the opportunity to augment their education with both work experience and social networking. In Maclean’s 2017 ranking for Canadian comprehensive universities, the University of Waterloo ranked second. To quote UW’s famous (infamous?) chant, “Water Water Water, loo loo loo.”
With an educated, motivated population, Waterloo has many technology and service-based job opportunities. Major employers in the city include both universities, the Catholic and public school boards (WCDSB and WRDSB), Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial, many start-ups and tech companies, as well as several think tanks. And of course, we would be remiss not to mention one of Waterloo’s most widely known exports, and one of the largest employers: BlackBerry. BlackBerry is nearly synonymous with Waterloo, with its ties to the University of Waterloo stretching back to the mid 1980s. The legacy of Research in Motion (RIM), as it used to be called, looms large in the ‘Loo, and the company carried the torch (and continues to serve as a beacon of light) for the burgeoning tech movement in Waterloo. Waterloo is served by Grand River Transit, which has bus routes running throughout the region. By 2018 the LRT route should be operational, which will see ION electric train cars running from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo past the universities, uptown Waterloo, downtown Kitchener, and all the way to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener.
Life in Waterloo
Waterloo has a lot going for it. With its numerous tech companies and two universities, as well as its close-proximity to Toronto, Waterloo is a vital part of Canada’s Tech Triangle, the so-called Silicon Valley of the North. Indeed, Kitchener-Waterloo has the highest concentration of tech companies anywhere outside of California. Waterloo is well-served by the Conestoga Parkway, with Highways 7 and 8, and the 401, connecting it to the nearby Tri-Cities and surrounding areas, as well as other major metropolitan areas to the east, west, and south. Being so close to Toronto is a key advantage, and the Region of Waterloo International Airport connects residents to western Canada and the Caribbean (seasonally). There’s much to see and do here, with trails along the Grand River, the impressively large Laurel Creek Conservation Area, and RIM Park with its well-equipped Manulife Financial Sportsplex and Healthy Living Centre. Uptown Waterloo has chic boutiques, fine dining, and more along its elegant streets, and Conestoga Mall offers plenty of shopping and restaurants, too. Waterloo is growing for a reason: it’s got great opportunities for work and education, and property values are on the rise. Investing in Waterloo could be one of the best things you’ll do.
Written by Will Kummer