Waterloo gets ‘smart’

Photo by Will Haung

Photo by Will Huang

Two years after being selected as a successful applicant for the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, Waterloo has been presented with a plan to direct its development and growth.

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team visited Waterloo city council on Monday to deliver their report and strategic plan. Areas outlined in the report include restoring a sense of community in areas such as Northdale, growing local start-up businesses and encouraging citizens of Waterloo to become “active community leaders.”

“We will take the plan further and begin implementing it right away,” said Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran. “We are excited about the implementation and development in Waterloo and to make IBM proud with this report.”

Waterloo was one of 31 cities selected to receive a Smarter Cities Challenge financial grant in 2012 from IBM. Specialists visited Waterloo for a three-week period in October 2013 to inform proposals on how to capitalize on city growth and expansion.

“There is a big opportunity for development and growth in Waterloo,” said Timothy Durniak, executive architect for IBM. “This plan will help Waterloo progress as a city and innovate what already exists here.”

Initially, the aim of the report was to improve the Northdale neighbourhood of Waterloo.

According to Durniak, their goal has expanded from just developing Northdale, to developing the entire city.

“We want to see this city grow and we want to see it become successful and there are many ways in which this can be possible,” he said.

Durniak added that university students would be important stakeholders in driving the goals outlined for Waterloo.

“Students generate great ideas and we felt that students should be much more involved in these projects,” said Joanne Fortin, the public relations practitioner for IBM.

“Students stepping up, being an influence to others is very important.”

Over the past ten years, the student population between both the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University has grown to more than 45,000.

“This is the big unique advantage of Waterloo,” Durniak explained. “The energy, the knowledge and the willingness to learn of students will help to grow this city and are important to its development.”

Not only does IBM strive to increase participation among students in Waterloo, but it also aims to be a role model for other campuses across the nation to follow.

“Students in Waterloo can be an influence to other schools across the country,” said Fortin. “Many other cities in the nation are going through the same challenges and Waterloo can show how working together to develop can create a positive change.”

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