City of Kitchener looking for feedback on downtown strategy

The City of Kitchener and the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Area are asking residents for feedback on a new four-year strategic plan for downtown as they release a draft "Shape DTK 2020" strategic plan.

Over 1200 people responded to online surveys with over 2500 comments from downtown stakeholders

The City of Kitchener and the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Area (BIA) are asking residents for feedback on an new four-year strategic plan for downtown Kitchener. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

The City of Kitchener and the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Area (BIA) are asking residents for feedback on a new four-year strategic plan for downtown Kitchener.

Together, they recently released a draft of their "Shape DTK 2020" strategic plan.

They conducted four online surveys from November, 2016 to February, 2017 to get a sense of what the local community and stakeholders would like to see in the downtown's future. 

What do we want?

Over 1200 people responded to the online surveys, with over 2500 comments from downtown stakeholders, according to the draft strategy.

275 people also shared their thoughts at round table discussions and community forums held between December 2016 and this past February. 

The draft summarized three broad categories of what the local community wants to see more of:

  • A larger marketplace.
  • More heartfelt experiences.
  • Community connections.

"There is a desire for growth in the downtown whether that was more shopping, more restaurants, more events," said Emily Robson, interim manager of downtown development for the City of Kitchener.

"But it was in the context of being local and unique. They want stuff that is diverse and inclusive, things that have a community-centric approach and things that are gritty and authentic."

58 per cent said that if there were more or better shops downtown, they would shop more. Only nine per cent said they liked the retail stores currently available in downtown.

The community also wants a more participatory nightlife, as part of an engaged group rather than being part of an observing audience. People also want more festivals downtown. 

Almost 50 per cent of participants want more outdoor communal spaces that offer spontaneous activities such as pop-up retailers and restaurants. 

3 strategic priorities

"We have three strategic priorities that will dictate how we deploy our resources, both human and financial, to move towards the kind of vision for downtown that we heard and articulated from the community," said Robson.

  • Igniting downtown as a platform for shops, restaurants and business areas: This is in response to the community asking for better shops and restaurants downtown. Robson said that the city and BIA would work towards figuring out a way to create an environment that is helpful for retail and restaurant businesses by looking at what kind of support they need.
  • Foster and support heartfelt urban experiences: Residents requested more pedestrian experiences, events and vibrancy in city streets. One solution could be to shift some daytime programs to evenings to capture the after-work crowd and add more programs on the weekend.
  • Championing a caring and collaborative community: This priority is to facilitate connections within the downtown community whether it's businesses mentoring or collaborating with one another, said Robson. This will also help businesses who are interesting in hosting events or interested in community development activities.

The city and the Downtown BIA are now looking for community feedback on the strategic priorities.

There's an open house scheduled on April 26 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the central branch of the Kitchener Public Library, 54 Queen St.

Residents can also give their feedback through an online survey until May 21.