Downtown Kitchener (DTK) is a space that is important to a lot of people. In order to ensure that the downtown is serving the community effectively, the Downtown Action Advisory Committee (DAAC) is bringing together a variety of perspectives on DTK issues and developments.
Darren Becks, the City of Kitchener manager of Downtown Development and Innovation, referred to the committee as an “exchange of ideas around where the downtown is going and how we can collaborate and get feedback from businesses, citizens and [other] players who are all involved in the downtown.”
Established in 2005, the committee is headed by two co-chairs, one who is a member of Kitchener city council and one who is not. Each committee member is appointed for a term of two years. Meetings are held monthly for members to give feedback and receive updates on DTK issues.
The committee consists of a maximum of 15 members, including the two city councillors whose wards contain the downtown area, a member of the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Area (BIA), city residents, downtown business owners and downtown building owners and developers.
“It’s a very interesting group because I think the breadth of perspectives makes it what it is, and certainly gives the committee its vibrancy,” Becks said.
The committee deals with multiple issues regarding the downtown area, including events, building and land development, public art projects and how to support small businesses. For example, the City of Kitchener recently approved a new cycling plan for DTK and DAAC was asked to provide insight and feedback on the project.
Recent initiatives also include the recent redevelopment of the Vogelsang Green on Duke St. and Queen St. This installation features seating areas, stringed lights and an art installation to acknowledge those experiencing homelessness.
Like everyone else, DAAC has faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee shares an action plan with the City of Kitchener and the BIA — with goals of the most recent action plan, which expired in 2020, including improving the King St. area and fostering a collaborative community. However, many plans were disrupted by the current pandemic.
“We are struggling to figure out how we can engage people well within this timeframe and with COVID-19 and the restrictions … a lot of the great feedback comes when you can gather people around and you can get their feedback on where we’re going,” Beck said.
However, the committee along with the City of Kitchener and the BIA have found ways to work around current challenges. For example, the DTK Art Walk has allowed residents to explore the downtown area and have fun while staying safe.
Becks has expressed his admiration for the energy he has seen in Kitchener, “I’ve only been at the city for a few months, but I am so impressed by the level of engagement and commitment to the downtown, and how people feel that the downtown serves the entire city in so many different ways. It’s not just tech and it’s not just events, it’s all points in between. And there has been a ton of support.”
As of January, new members will be joining the council and a new action plan will be developed. Residents are encouraged to keep an eye out for events and initiatives announced in 2021.