The UpTown Waterloo BIA recently published questions for all Ward 7 candidates. I’m proud to be a supporter of local business, both as a shopper/diner and as a maker. My Townee Tees t-shirts were sold at Delirium for a couple of years, my Waterloo postcards were sold at Words Worth Books, and my hand-made gift bows are currently stocked at Gifted. I am also proud to have received endorsements from both long-term and recently established businesses in this campaign.
Here are my responses to the BIA’s questions:
How will we bring age-friendly concepts to the Uptown area? "Age-friendly" should be more than a label: it should be a central tenet of how we build our city. I will advocate for more variety and diversity in housing, so seniors can downsize and stay near the core. I will explore options for snow clearing beyond just King Street. I will work with the Region to ensure public transit is accessible, affordable & goes where we need it to go. I will advocate for all-ages parks, for parkettes throughout the core where people can relax and rest, and for the provision of more shade. We need to make sure our streets are designed with all users and all abilities in mind. I will also work with the City's economic development team to encourage greater variety of stores & businesses Uptown so the core thrives day and night.
What do you plan to do to bring business and vitality back to the Uptown core? For too long, Uptown waited for the world to arrive on our doorstep. Instead, we need to be proactive. The City has started on this process – I will fully support them in this effort. Meanwhile, I will encourage the creation of smaller footprint stores, so that new businesses can get started without massive overhead, and to explore the potential for pop-up venues to help online and micro retailers.
Currently, the City offers property tax rebates for commercial buildings that are empty. I would like to discuss setting a limit on how long those rebates can be claimed in order to discourage long-term empty storefronts. We should also be encouraging a diverse mix of retail, services, leisure and dining. A healthy Uptown thrives day and night.
What will you do to advocate for the small businesses in Uptown Waterloo? I am already talking to businesses in the Uptown BIA and across the Ward to find out their most pressing issues. Without a doubt, the construction and its impact on shopping/dining habits has hurt business. I will work with the BIA and with businesses outside the BIA’s borders to make sure the City is listening and acting on your needs – whether it’s finding a way to improve signage, providing more information to the public about parking, providing bicycle racks mid-block, or continuing the accessibility retrofit program. Small businesses are the heart of our Uptown core. We need entrepreneurs with bold ideas to create a vibrant mix of retail, dining, leisure, and services.
After three years of struggling, how will we get back on our feet? What do the candidates have in mind to do so in a way that reflects the values that Uptown Waterloo already has? Waterloo is built on cooperation, community, and a willingness to embrace new ideas and new people. This is why I love it, and this is the spirit we need to embrace to revive Uptown. First, we need to acknowledge that the hard days are not over. We are still waiting for the LRT to run, more construction lies ahead, and we’re a few years off from having the increased population that will come from some of the intensification projects.
As Councillor, I will encourage the City to continue any supports that were offered during LRT construction and to be open to new ideas for alternative ways to assist independent businesses. I’d like to reassess our special events to see if they are still meeting the needs of the community, much like we reassessed the Solstice Sampling and made it a more vibrant event. I want to make Uptown more physically welcoming by having shade sails over the Town Square in summer, embracing public art and converting under-used plots of land into parkettes.
What are you going to do about reconstructing the Golden Mile, from Erb and Caroline to the University of Waterloo? We do not have the lighting and safety people deserve to feel safe. What will you do to improve that? Our city should be safe to get around, no matter how you travel. That’s why I’m focusing on healthy spaces that work for all ages and all abilities. When we extend the bike lanes, I want to ensure we put safety first. I support segregated bike lanes on that stretch due to the higher speed and higher density of traffic. We also need great sidewalks so that students can easily get Uptown. It’s not far, but the current infrastructure is unwelcoming and makes the trek feel arduous. It doesn’t have to be. I’ll advocate for better signage along the trails, for a strong bus grid to support the LRT, for parkettes where people can linger, and for adequate lighting so people working nights Uptown can get home just as easily and safely as those who work during the day.