It’s not a lure, but uptown Waterloo is finally getting a full-time loo.
The prefab structure featuring automated cleaning technology will be in place later this year on the heritage green at the corner of King and William streets that’s recently seen some upgrades, including new pavement, plantings and colourful metal tables and chairs.
“We applied for a My Main Street grant and we got $100,000 to be able to do some stuff,” said Uptown Waterloo BIA executive director Tracy Van Kalsbeek, who said the city-owned property was underutilized and needed a lift.
The city already had plans in place to revamp the area; the federal funding helped fast-track some of the work, she said.
“It’s interesting how it all came together,” she said. “We talked to the city and thought, ‘We can add gardens, we can add seating, we can fix the falling retaining walls around the trees there. Let’s put up string lights. Let’s get electricity to the space so that we can have pop-up markets and performers or whatever else.’”
A federal grant from the Canada Community Revitalization Fund is helping to pay for the washroom. Site preparation was completed last year.
According to city officials, the design that’s currently being finalized will include anti-graffiti and anti-vandalism features as well as mural artwork on the exterior.
By fall, people should be able to loaf about and linger without any urgency to go.
The heritage green will eventually connect with a new civic common area on property to the east off William Street, where a former pumping station was located. People can expect to see bike racks added, along with more plantings, landscaping and benches in the weeks and months ahead.
“We’re putting in what we call the uptown heart — a bench that is shaped like a heart in commemoration of our 50th anniversary,” Van Kalsbeek said. “So that’s coming this summer as well.”
The permanent placemaking improvements underway at the gateway to the city’s core are happening concurrently with the long-awaited water feature and shade improvements in Waterloo Public Square.
Beginning this weekend and running through Thanksgiving, Dominion Lane and Princess Street, from King Street to Dorset Street, will be closed to car traffic allowing local businesses to once again expand their seating capacities.
The city’s patio program that was enhanced to aid businesses during the pandemic continues to see new participants with support from the BIA. People can expect to see more pop-up patios outside businesses such as Midnight Snack and Words Worth Books — part of what Van Kalsbeek calls a revived look along King Street, between William Street and Willis Way, with recent renovations to the former Lot 88 Steakhouse nearing completion.
One local business has applied to host a street party this summer to celebrate an anniversary, Van Kalsbeek noted.
“All these things would never have come to us before, but now that we’ve been doing it for a couple of years, people are saying ‘Let’s just do it.’”
In 2021, the BIA enlisted the help of local artists and architectural consultants to create a public space on Princess Street with interactive installations, street murals and seating. The second iteration in 2022 by local designer Amy Esplen, titled The SLATS, added artistic seating along with trees and shrubs.
The project was recognized earlier this year by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) and is being expanded to connect with patio seating at the Loloan Lobby Bar this season.
The BIA’s Thursday night markets will return to the Waterloo Public Library parking lot this summer. The city-run Open Streets Festival on June 10 will temporarily close Willis Way to traffic, with a variety of other pop-up events planned in the public square throughout the spring and summer months.
“It’s not one big overall thing. It’s a lot of great smaller things that create a vibrant place that people want to come and visit,” Van Kalsbeek said.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Placemaking improvements are underway in uptown Waterloo, and the Chronicle talked to the BIA to learn more.