Photo Credit: Matt Smith

Downtown Kitchener is changing, and has been for years. In fact, especially in the last few years, the core seems to be in a constant state of flux – LRT road closures, new businesses and tech companies popping up, old factories reinvented as condos or office space, there’s a buzz and a bustle about downtown Kitchener these days, as it seems new life is being breathed into the core.

But big urban changes happening in such a short amount of time always have side effects, and usually they manifest themselves as increased geographic division between the rich and the poor. As Richard Florida wrote in our Coming Home issue, in New York, the combination of increasing inequality and out-of-sight housing prices led to the election of progressive Mayor Bill DeBlasio. In San Francisco, rising housing prices have led to growing conflicts between locals and techies, including attacks on the buses that shuttle tech workers from their pricey homes in the city to their jobs in Silicon Valley.

Recently re-opened intersection at Victoria and King is a landscape in transition: LRT tracks, new high rises and revitalized old factories co-exist. (Photo credit: Mimi Shaftoe)

It’s important to think about those who might be left behind by the speed and magnitude of the transformations taking place in downtown Kitchener, and that’s exactly what a group of researchers from the University of Waterloo, Ryerson University, the University of Northern British Columbia, and community partner Hive Waterloo Region are doing. In their study “Collaborative Solutions to Inequitable Urban Change”, the researchers are looking at gentrification in the downtown core, with the goal of hearing from and involving community stakeholders from all sectors and backgrounds in order to develop inclusive solutions. Their initial stakeholder workshop at the Kitchener Public Library in June brought out everyone from tech to nonprofits, local government and arts and culture.

The new Google headquarters can be seen behind the site of what will soon be the new Waterloo Region Transit Hub. (Photo credit: Mimi Shaftoe)

The study is now in its second stage, and the researchers are aiming to open the conversation further through their PhotoVoice Initiative. The organizers of the project hope to gather personal stories of urban change experienced by diverse members of the downtown and share them through photography with the wider community.

Get Involved!

Here’s how you can participate in PhotoVoice: Head downtown and take at least ten photos of particular places or things that represent your everyday experiences of urban change in the core. Then, create short captions for your top ten photos that explain what's going on or why they are significant to you. The photos will then be displayed in a public exhibit. The deadline for participation is August 21st.

If you are interested in getting involved, please email Dasha Berezhnova at dberezhn@edu.uwaterloo to get the full details on how to submit your photos and captions.



One young Canadian is travelling to the Seychelles Islands as part of in a journey of experiential learning. A\J editorial intern, Mimi Shaftoe, shares her thoughts, experiences and insights in travelling to an island nation that is facing an existential threat from rising ocean levels. She'll share stories of the people that she meets, the lessons that she's learning, and hopes that she holds for the future of both the Seychelles and our planet.

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