Waterloo Mayor hopes to expand student culture

Dave Jaworsky may have the best seat in Waterloo.

Graphic by Lena Yang
Graphic by Lena Yang

Dave Jaworsky may have the best seat in Waterloo.

The mayor of Waterloo sits on the third floor of the City Hall building on Regina Street, his office overlooking the many high rises being built strategically close to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. With the strategic plan for the City of Waterloo beside him, Jaworsky talks about the student influence.

“That’s the key offering of the City of Waterloo, is all of the talent that we produce here with 55,000 students in our region,” he said. “We have a great opportunity to be a world leader in skills … if we can provide the right quality of life and jobs, I think people would want to locate here just as I did three decades ago.”

Coming to Waterloo in 1983 for a degree in computer science at UW, Jaworsky understands the importance students have for the growth and stability of Waterloo. Moneysense magazine ranked Waterloo 16 out of 209 cities for “best place to live,” and the mayor says he wants to continue this with the students that come into the area by focusing on Waterloo’s vision statement.

This highlights being world renowned, a home for discovery and creating jobs through entrepreneurship and opportunity.

“I view us as one of the best medium-sized cities in Canada … we are a very unique community,” Jaworsky explained. “We have very exciting things going on in the area of discovery.”

Jaworsky and the city hope to keep students here once they graduate from UW, Laurier or Conestoga College by creating strong economic development through area planning, increasing the Northdale private sector, using station area plans and embracing and planning around quantum technology, nanotechnology and other research clusters, as outlined in the strategic plan.

They are also working with local companies one-on-one to match what their needs are to grow economically.

“What we’re growing here is buildings of knowledge and buildings of employment for things that have yet to be invented. It’s exciting to be here.”

However despite the large amount of students in the area — over 55,000, according to Jaworsky — students don’t have the desire to explore outside of the university and college bubbles. Many students stay entranced in the university district and, unless they become invested in their new home, rarely adventure uptown to see what there is to offer.

“One of the challenges I found, even when I was a student, the universities offer so much that you often don’t have to go beyond the university borders,” he explained.

“And I want to change that. I want students to say, ‘I want to go to Waterloo Park,’ ‘I want to explore Laurel Creek,’ ‘I want to see some shopping and do some dining in uptown Waterloo’ and the other things the city has to offer because I do believe that’s how people become more engaged with the city or comfortable with the city.”

“That’s something I’d really like to change; to get people off campus. [I want to] get people out of those towers and more into the streets and into the parks.”

Jaworsky says the City of Waterloo is trying to embrace the urban lifestyle that “a lot of the younger people want.”

The city is also doing more with streetscapes and active transportation to increase mobility for students and residents, while working with Laurier and the district school board about an appropriate plan for Northdale and Waterloo Collegiate Institute. This includes a new streetscape plan, new parks and implementing walkways.

“We want to be invested in it, not just watching it happen,” Jaworsky said.

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