Kitchener-Waterloo

Dormant Kitchener King East neighbourhood association gets new life

Kitchener's King East Neighbourhood Association has restarted after several dormant years in "hiatus," as part of the city's move to approve 32 new hyper-local groups.

Residents join up to better their community

The picturesque corner of Borden and Dane is located in the King East Neighbourhood Association boundaries. (Jeremy Singer/KENA)

When Carin Lowerison moved to Kitchener more than two years ago from Toronto, she and her family were amazed by their new neighbourhood.

"We were overwhelmed with what a gem we moved into," she said in an interview with CBC News.

For Lowerison, getting to know those living around her was high on the list of priorities. She began attending weekly potluck dinners at a neighbour's home. That's where she met Annie Doran. The two women became fast friends who were both also very interested in seeing their part of the city thrive.

In talking with neighbours, the two women decided to breathe new life into the defunct King East Neighbourhood Association.

"Kitchener has been focusing on a neighbourhood strategy, so it made us want to unite the residents of King East so that we have a collective voice on what we'd like for our neighbourhood," Doran said.

Approved last month

On Jan. 25, Kitchener city council approved 32 neighbourhood associations. The staff report made special mention of the King East Neighbourhood Association's becoming active "after many years of hiatus."

"The goal of the neighbourhood association is to be inclusive of residents and business owners" within the boundary, the staff report read. "Their purpose is to maximize pride, safety and quality of living by encouraging interaction between neighbours, visitors and businesses."

Now the city will provide support, such as printing flyers for the group. As well, the association can apply for grants to host events or plant a community garden.

"The city is connecting us to a whole bunch of people that we didn't have access to before. For example, we're running a winter festival in a couple of weeks and when I asked the downtown neighbourhood alliance … they just put us in contact with people I didn't know existed, so that's really, really helpful," Lowerison said.

The neighbourhood association – its boundaries are King Street to Ottawa, and Weber to Cedar Street – plans to tackle a number of issues facing the area, including:

  • Potential traffic calming measures on Weber.
  • Starting a neighbourhood safety program.
  • hosting events like a winter festival on Feb. 28.
  • Addressing concerns about green space in the area.

Connections make community vibrant

In a society that is connected via social media and smartphones, it can be difficult to get people to meet face-to-face.

But Lowerison said she thinks those online relationships can sometimes people feel isolated and they're keen to branch out.

"I think there's actually quite an appetite for getting off social media and getting out into your neighbourhood and seeing who are these real people, real faces I can interact with, especially if you have young children and you need a village," she said, although she added they will not ignore the advantages of having online connections, such as the association's Facebook page as well as a website they will be launching in the near future.

Connecting with neighbours will create a more vibrant community, which will spin-off into a better living experience for everyone, she said.

"Instead of just valuing your independent property, you start to actually become tied intrinsically to the properties of your neighbours. What you consider important to protect and to nurture extends beyond your house, so it makes the entire community more vibrant and meaningful for you," Lowerison said.

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