Discussing the future of Northdale

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Over 200 community members were asked last week to define their values, their problems and their dreams for their neighbourhood as it develops over the next 20 years. This workshop, held on Oct. 5, brought together the many stakeholders in Northdale in what will ultimately determine a new, concrete vision for the area.

According to Sean Madden, vice president: university affairs for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, the session was “an opportunity to get the broader community to put their ideas forward … [and realize] we’re all working toward the same goal.”

Northdale, the area north of Wilfrid Laurier University between King and Phillip Streets, has been a source of frustration and dispute for many years as the area’s demographics have transitioned from small families to university students.

Explaining the process of the workshop, Chris Tyrrell, manager of environmental planning and design with the MMM Group, who are the hired consultants for the city on this project, said, “In essence there have been a number of individual perspectives on what the future of Northdale should be that have developed over the course of the last few years, including visions developed by the universities themselves, coalition by landlords and by others in the community.”

“The purpose of this [event] was to bring those parties in the community at large together and have a conversation about how they saw Northdale unfolding in the course of the next 20 years,” Tyrrell added.

“If you don’t set up a big scope, you don’t have the opportunity to define that into specific options or an opportunity to write a specific land-use plan and a specific community improvement plan,” said Waterloo city councillor for Ward 6 —which contains Northdale— Jeff Henry, on why the city determined to first engage the community with a visioning session.

Tyrrell, along with the Northdale Special Projects Committee, which consists of representatives of all stakeholders in the process, will be taking the information gathered at Wednesday’s workshop to present a defined vision to council in November. From there the group will be able to determine more specific plans to set that vision in place.

While many of the issues discussed are unique to the area, Tyrrell also noted that the project committee will be looking to similar processes that have occurred in university communities in Windsor, Oshawa, Vancouver and Columbus, Ohio to learn from their best practices and meet the final deadline for the project, which is scheduled for June of next year.

Community members, including students, still interested in having their voices heard can respond to an online survey available on the city’s website until Oct. 19. The next public workshop will be held in January where the “nuts and bolts” of brining the vision to life will be discussed.

To raise any ideas or concerns, people can also contact members of the special project committee, including Sean Madden for Laurier students in particular, and attend committee meetings.

Commenting on the student involvement in the Northdale planning process, both Madden and Henry said that while students were present at last week’s workshop, their representation was not proportional to their actual presence in the community.

“I don’t have to be the only student voice at the table,” Madden added, encouraging more students to get involved.

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