Gateway Project creates new vision for University Avenue

Photo by Qiao Liu

The City of Waterloo and Region of Waterloo have partnered up with the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College to create the University Gateway Project in order to develop a new vision for the future of University Avenue.

The first public consultation was held on Thursday, Nov. 23 at St. Michael’s Church, where the team begun working with the public to decide on what should be changed in the University corridor. A date of when work will begin has yet to be determined.

The project has begun and is in its first phase which focuses on community input for future projects. In order to gain input the team has been using questionnaires, social media and VoxWaterloo, an online 3D model of the corridor, so participants can share their comments and ideas.

The project is looking at the University corridor, which includes the road between University Avenue and Conestoga Parkway and University Avenue and Westmount Road, passing all three post-secondary institutions.

“University Avenue is a unique place in the city and Region,” Ric Martins, policy planner and growth management for the City of Waterloo, said. “It is often the first place people see when they visit the community.”

The first step of the project was to gain insight from community members.

The first meeting featured presentations and a question and answer session to keep community members informed and listen to concerns, ideas and thoughts about the upcoming University Avenue makeover.

A major concern of the public so far has been the lack of safety many feel when using University Avenue.

“I think most people just don’t feel safe. When you come off that expressway people are going quickly,” Adam Holland, senior landscape architect for IBI Group, said.

Specific projects for the street have yet to be determined, although the team is working to create changes while considering the many travellers and visitors who take University Avenue.

The high speed of cars has been a major concern, especially when considering the other modes of transportation on University Avenue.

In addition to safety, the project has talked about distinguishing a brand standard for the corridor, which would include creating a sense of specific identity for University Avenue. The possibilities of integrating patios and celebrating each university and college more have been some ideas.

“The corridor area has great potential to become an even more unique place to showcase the city and the region as a centre for learning, innovation, discovery and entrepreneurship. The study will aim to create an overall vision for the corridor and serve as a guide for future projects,” Martins said.

The end of the meeting allowed community members to write down concerns and ideas they have and post them on that specific part of a map of University Avenue in order for the team to create a plan that benefits everyone.

“They want more sophisticated looks, a lot of technology companies are coming here they really want to celebrate that this is the gateway to the city,” Holland said.

Specific projects for the street have yet to be determined, although the team is working to create changes while considering the many travellers and visitors who take University Avenue.

“There are three excellent post-secondary institutions located all on the same street, there are numerous businesses located there as well,” Martins said. “The road is a key link for automobile and transit users and has a lot of pedestrian cyclists.”

University Avenue is one of the busiest roadways in the City of Waterloo and the project team is working to address its many challenges.

“A public meeting is important to introduce the study to the public and to gain feedback from those who interact with the corridor most often. Feedback from the first meeting will help shape future phases of the study like what to prioritize et cetera,” Martins said.

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