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The largest redevelopment project in Waterloo Region is about to take place on an historic property within walking distance of the heart of Kitchener. And overall, that’s a very good thing.

The Schneiders property, where J.M. Schneider and his family built a meat packing empire, has been sold to Auburn Developments after sitting empty for three years — a relatively short period of time for 27.6 acres of property. Out of the 27.6 acres, 750,000 square feet is built on.

So now the big question is what will Kitchener’s meat-packing district look like ten or more years down the road?

Details are scarce so far. Reports indicate a mix of 150,000 square feet of commercial use is to be mixed with 2,000 residential units. Hopes of uncovering the portion of Schneider Creek buried on the property appear dim, as one building Auburn desires to keep prevents that from happening. The back end of the property is along the LRT line, making this portion rather accessible.

So I thought this was a good time to share some ideas for the property with Auburn before their planning gets too advanced. I encourage you to take this opportunity to make your voice heard, too.

I’m pleased to hear that there are plans for adaptive reuse of some of the buildings, and that they are looking at ways to mark the site’s heritage.

My big idea for the site is to build a large modern arena to be the new home of the Kitchener Rangers. Being on the LRT line and near the upcoming iXpress on Ottawa Street means that public transit becomes a viable alternative to driving and parking for such a major venue, while still convenient for driving, as it is close to the expressway. It also provides the city with a facility that can attract entertainment and trade shows that now bypass Waterloo Region for London and Hamilton, two cities that rival us with larger arenas.

I’m confident that a business case can also be made. It also allows for the Aud Complex to be sold by the city for a mixed use residential development suited to that site or perhaps the athletic facilities missing from our Canada Summer Games bid.

In terms of housing, I’m looking for a sizable portion to be affordable housing. This project is a great example of the need for inclusionary zoning that would require a certain portion of it to be affordable. Legislation to allow it was passed by Queen’s Park and became law on Dec. 8, 2016. Unfortunately, it may be too late for this and other recently announced projects, as the government is still in the process of drawing up the regulations our municipalities need to use this new power.

Still, I think it’s critical that our local governments push hard for affordable housing to be a part of the Schneiders property redevelopment. They must also work to have as many three and four bedroom units included so that families can live there.

Altogether, this property holds so much potential and it would be a huge loss to the Region to see that potential wasted.

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