King East Neighbourhood in Kitchener
First of all, to clarify for those among you who like clearly-defined terms, a Neighbourhood Association is a group of residents from a specific Kitchener-Waterloo neighbourhood that operates within that specific neighbourhood.
They work to foster a sense of community and make sure the neighbourhood is a great place to live.
Neighbourhood Associations are run by the people, for the people.
Interestingly, King East is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Kitchener, with a very new Neighbourhood Association.
And this mixing of the old with the new is a theme that runs through the neighbourhood: homes built decades apart stand within view of one another; historic streets run parallel to newly-laid LRT tracks; and residents who’ve been in the neighbourhood for generations live next to new arrivals.
It is truly a diverse, beautiful neighbourhood.
Houses in the area date back to the early nineteenth-century. The area began as an open field, with apple orchards and farmland – people interested in history will find there is much to learn and discover about the King East neighbourhood.
Now, the area offers local cafés and bakeries (and a Tim Hortons), international grocers and cuisine, the ever-wonderful Kitchener Market, and much more.
It is located perfectly to take advantage of public transportation (from buses to the LRT) and everything Downtown Kitchener has to offer, and it is very walkable (and bikeable).
People looking to move here should be aware that with an old home come certain upkeep concerns, but as we’ll discuss later, King East has a very welcoming, caring community, and everyone here knows how to care for an older home (and is willing to lend a hand if you don’t).
King East Neighbourhood Association - Formation
To get a sense of what the King East Neighbourhood Association (KENA) is all about, George Dmitrovic from WRX Property Group met with Annie Doran, the association’s Chair.
There have been a few King East Neighbourhood Associations over the years, but this iteration came into being just over two years ago.
How did it happen? Well, I’m glad you asked! King East’s neighbourhood – even before KENA – had a strong sense of community. One of the ways they demonstrated this is through the weekly neighbourhood potlucks on Duke Street.
Every Wednesday, King East residents get together to chow down and chat with one another. And on one whimsical Wednesday evening, in a neighbourhood far, far away, Annie Doran started talking with Carin Lowerison about what they loved about King East, and what their visions were for the neighbourhood’s future.
The pieces all fell into place: the relationships within the community were already there, and by putting in the time and effort to create a formal, action-oriented association, they would be able to take on bigger issues and projects.
And thus, KENA was born, with Doran serving as Chair, and Lowerison as Vice-Chair and Treasurer.
King East Neighbourhood Association - About
The King East Neighbourhood Association is driven and active. To quote from their website, KENA “is here to continue to build a connected, informed, and welcoming community” (KENA).
There are six members on the association’s Board of Directors, but anyone within the neighbourhood can contribute to the group’s ongoing projects and promote its guiding principles.
Participation is open to anyone living, or owning a business, within the borders of Cedar to Ottawa, and King to Weber – though it should be noted that there is an initiative in place to revise the bylaws and extend membership to Scott Street (KENA: the Neighbourhood Association so great that people want to redraw maps to be a part of it).
KENA uses emails and quarterly newsletters to keep residents informed and up to date with neighbourhood events.
With approximately 600 households – even more including apartments – there are a lot of people living here, but KENA does an amazing job of keeping everyone connected and engaged.
For those looking to contribute their time, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in organizing and running street parties and work on neighbourhood-issues as they arise. Community members are also welcome to attend and join in Neighbourhood Association meetings.
King East Neighbourhood Association - Goals
KENA’s overarching goal is twofold: to build connections within the community, and to keep everyone informed. Annie Doran notes that, “The more connections that you have with your neighbours, the more that you understand your neighbours, the happier it tends to make you.”
Meeting with and getting to know one another opens up opportunities to work on mutually-beneficial projects, and the sense of community this cooperation fosters brings with it a broader sense of safety and fulfilment.
KENA believes in the capacity of its residents to design their own neighbourhood. And through this, Doran says, “The goal is to create a sense of belonging and a sense of community for everybody.”
There are always ongoing projects and initiatives in King East. Doran is part of a United Way-sponsored project focused on “active building of community connections” and “learning what it is from everybody that they love about their neighbourhood.”
One of the end goals of this project is finding what people are interested in, and what skills they have, and using this information to organize skill swaps and clubs.
KENA runs and organizes community events and larger projects, but, again, community connections are really the key, overarching goal.
King East Neighbourhood Association - Porch View Dances
As we’ve discussed, KENA loves community activities. One such recent activity was the Porch View Dances, a contemporary dance piece that toured through the neighbourhood, ending in the Kitchener Market.
Audience members were invited to travel throughout King East, led by a tour guide, and watch a story unfold through dance.
It was an amazing show that felt both local and authentic; Doran describes it as, “Real people dancing in real spaces.”
This show involved quite a bit of place making: the neighbourhood came together to make art and signage, creating a truly immersive experience when coupled with the music and dancing.
And this communal artistic vision would come into play again, though under different circumstances.
King East Neighbourhood Association - Together As One
One morning, King East residents awoke to the horrifying sight of graffiti on one of their streets. But rather than letting this shocking sight wear them down, the community banded together and, under the leadership of KENA, once again put their artistic energies to work.
Armed with sidewalk chalk and the firm resolve to make the best of a challenging situation, the community came together and covered the street in beautiful art, transforming what once stood as a hateful slight into a beautiful celebration of art and community.
And now, Doran says, “We liked it so much we thought, ‘we’re going to have to do that again.’” It is now a weekly, ongoing project, which is great in and of itself, but has also opened another door for KENA.
The City of Kitchener is running a Neighbourhood Placemaking Challenge, which is an initiative to create stronger, more engaged neighbourhoods. They are offering 15 grants between $1,000 and $20,000 for which neighbourhoods can apply.
KENA is looking to apply for a grant to bring a permanent, beautiful artistic glow to Duke Street.
Since King East doesn’t have a park, Duke (a one-way street) serves as a sort of gathering place, where residents do everything from skateboard and play street hockey to chat and take a leisurely stroll.
Wrapping It Up
King East is a great community for anyone who likes getting together for creative projects. It draws a mixture of professional and casual artists, and people are free to – indeed, encouraged to – explore their creative side.
The King East Neighbourhood Association does everything it can to make sure the community feels like home, not just a place to sleep. For more information check out the KENA website, and Facebook page.
Full Interview With Annie Doran of KENA:
Written by Will Kummer