While reading the Record this past weekend it occurred to me that we might have an issue with something in Downtown Kitchener. You don’t notice it right away, but it slowly creeps into your mind the more that you think about things. You really notice it at the corner of King and Queen. Kitchener has an abundance of second hand stores, pawn shops, and pay-day loan stores within minutes of each other. These stores have little or no value to anyone. Their main purpose is to prey on the poor. Buying items for much lower then should be received, or giving you money for more money in the future.
This usually wouldn’t warrant any further discussion, but we just had a great restaurant have to close its doors because of rent increase; and we have a brewery desperately looking for somewhere to set up shop in the downtown. If Kitchener would like to shape up their central area and maintain the momentum that they have going from the tech district, they need to start removing the dragging-down- society retail shops. There is a need for these places, but these should be destination stores. Not in the central part of the city. The reason we have pawn shops and pay day cash loans is mainly because of alcohol and drug habits. By allowing businesses to thrive on the masses, Kitchener will always be doomed to live the cycle of a failing downtown district.
By watching first-hand how much trouble TWB Coop Brewery has had trying to find a way into the downtown, it’s been disheartening. Most businesses would have given up by now. Or would have gone to another city to begin their pursuit. They have been looking for more than a year for a place to call home; to begin to make some profit and build their brand. Zoning by-laws and high rent have come into play as well. TWB’s start up campaign was a huge success. Residents of Kitchener have shown time and time again that if you have a great product, you will succeed. Still nothing, it’s not for a lack of effort on their front. They have looked at multiple places to make this happen. Nothing has panned out as of yet.
Meanwhile, Imbibe was the absolute best place to go for a beer after work. Having multiple craft beer options daily. Laid back staff, and a very chill vibe. They were just starting to get into a groove of having regular customers. I thought they were going to have something special for years to come. The lease for their spot in the Museum was up, and the rent was hiked based on what the going rate was in the area. Another one bites the dust. It’s discouraging to see people with great ideas on how to enhance the downtown have such a difficult time making the dream become a reality. And if they have a sliver of success the rent then gets increased.
I want to support local businesses. But it has to be a business that has a value. Something that gives back as much as it takes from the community. Donates their venues to local events. Stays on top of all things Kitchener. We need the city to take a stand, and look at all angles when it comes to making this city a better place to live. I am personally in a competition with Waterloo. I believe that the city of Kitchener has more character, and can be a great landing spot for people that want to set up shop here. Let’s have a look at these zoning by-laws that are in place. Are they outdated? Maybe if you own a building take a look at the type of place that is going to be moving in to the spot. Will Imbibe increase the value of your property or bring in business for you? Yes, I think it will. Make it work with them so that everybody can be successful. We are almost there. This is already a city that I am proud to live in, but I want it to be a city where I can bring anybody to the downtown area and wow them with a unique experience. Which does not include a pay day loan. It has been a great run over the past five years or so seeing the central area of the city transform into an entertainment district. Let’s keep the ball rolling, and make this a city worth talking about.