Waterloo region: a year in review
Occupy Movement comes to Waterloo
Last October, the Kitchener-Waterloo area welcomed its own form of the Occupy movement, which was a short-lived international phenomenon. Although the numbers were substantially smaller than those gathered in cultural hubs like Toronto and New York, they were still voicing a powerful message – the idea that the economic system needs to change to benefit all forms of life.
The protests were a symbol of the local solidarity that would be necessary to fuel such a social change, although the criticizers themselves faced their own fair share of criticisms, the fact that they lacked a single overwhelming message. The protestors at the local Occupy rally felt otherwise, and felt that the unification of minds that desire change is the only thing that will instigate it.
At the end of March, students and residents alike will bid farewell to Forwell Super Variety store that has been opened for 52 years. The store was opened in 1960 by Joe Forwell to better provide for the growing student population of Waterloo.
After his death in 2006, his daughter, Bonnie Forwell maintained ownership of the store and, after supplying students with everything from a carton of milk to a homecoming outfit, she has decided that, “it’s just time for this beautiful store to retire.”
Forwells will close its door on March 31, and all customers are welcome to attend a farewell party.
Agreement for Light Rail Transit (LRT)
Regional councillors, in a majority decision last June, approved an $818-million project to bring Light Rail Transit (LRT) to Waterloo Region.
Two councillors were opposed, including Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran, who echoed her constituents concerns about the tax increases that will be required to help fund LRT. Federal and provincial funding is covering a large portion of the costs.
The transit system will extend from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park mall in Kitchener, with increased bus services offered for those travelling on to Cambridge. There are 23 planned stations. Opportunities for public consultation are still available as the region works to create a detailed design plan. Construction is set to begin in 2014.
Mel’s Diner set to return
Early April will see the return of local favourite Mel’s Diner, nearly two years after it was destroyed in a fire at the Campus Court Plaza near the University of Waterloo.
The diner is reopening in Kitchener at the intersection of Ottawa and Westmount, and will likely target a different demographic than the original restaurant due to its more suburban location. According to Mel’s owner Jerry Smith, the diner will retain the same nostalgic feel and changes should not be expected.
Complications with insurance have delayed the reconstruction of the plaza where the original restaurant was located, although Smith still intends to rebuild as soon as the infrastructure is in place. The fire, which was identified as arson, has thus far resulted in $4.5 million in damages and the sentencing of three people, while another has been charged and awaits sentencing.
Small business boom around Waterloo
Many unique stores opened their doors recently to provide original food and clothing to the growing population of Waterloo. Meow Clothing, located in Uptown Waterloo, opened at the end of 2011 and provides women of all ages with vintage clothing from the 1940s until the 1980s, while keeping prices very affordable.
Karen Munn, owner of the store has a passion for vintage clothing, initially starting part-time in this business, and likes providing her customers with a creative outlet through clothes.
Menchie’s opened its door at the beginning of 2012 in the plaza at King and University and has quickly flourished into a popular frozen yogurt store, frequented by students and residents of Waterloo. A popular chain throughout America and big cities in Canada, Menchie’s provides customers with a unique frozen yogurt experience because, while competing stores measure their portions by sizing, customers at Menchie’s are given a set size of bowl and are allowed to determine how much they want, what toppings and sauces will suit their creation and pay according to weight. The store rotates a total of 70 flavours periodically, and offers more than 40 toppings to choose from.
Ausanda Chocolate, located on King Street between University Avenue and Hickory Street, is the first store of the franchise to be opened in North America. It differs from other cafés because it provides customers with over 20 flavours of deluxe hot chocolate, putting an unconventional spin on a typical coffee shop. While the demographic surrounding the store is mostly students, Minal Patel, the co-owner, hopes the shop will also draw attention form surrounding businesses like RIM, Manulife and Sunlife offices. The drinks also provide customers with a healthy alternative, since they are made with all-natural cocoa powder and milk.
For the first time ever, the city of Kitchener came to an agreement that there would be no car-free Sunday that year, on the basis that it just costs too much, and it’s too hot outside for it to be enjoyable. Waterloo however wisely planned it out, with the hopes that this year, it will turn out better.
Waterloo’s Car-free Sunday last year brought out about 26 different groups who wanted to participate, bring activities like yoga, exercise, tai chi, and a whole mess of stalls and booths to the street.
–Jonathan Peres Dasilva