The City of Kitchener covers an area of 136.86 square kilometres. In 2004, the city celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Within this part of Ontario, Kitchener is the largest city situated within the Grand River watershed. Just to the west of the city is Baden Hill, in Wilmot Township. This glacial kame remnant formation is the highest elevation for many many miles around. The other dominant glacial feature is the Waterloo Moraine, which snakes its way through the region and holds a significant quantity of artesian wells, from which the city derives most of its drinking water. The settlement's first name, Sandhills, is an accurate description of the higher points of the moraine.
In 1784, the land that Kitchener was built upon was an area given to the Six Nations by the British as a gift for their allegiance during the American Revolution; 240,000 hectares of land to be exact. From 1796 and 1798, the Six Nations sold 38,000 hectares of this land to a Loyalist by the name of Colonel Richard Beasley. The portion of land that Beasley had purchased was remote but it was of great interest to German Mennonite farming families from Pennsylvania. They wanted to live in an area that would allow them to practice their beliefs without persecution. Eventually, the Mennonites purchased all of Beasley’s unsold land creating 160 farm tracts. By 1800, the first buildings were built , and over the next decade several families made the difficult trip north to what was then known as the Sand Hills. One of these Mennonite families, arriving in 1807, was the Schneiders, whose restored 1816 home (the oldest building in the city) is now a museum located in the heart of Kitchener Other families whose names can still be found in local place names were the Bechtels, the Ebys, the Erbs, the Weavers (better known today as the Webers) the Cressmans and the Brubachers. In 1816 the Government of Upper Canada designated the settlement the Township of Waterloo.
Much of the land, made up of moraines and swampland interspersed with rivers and streams, was converted to farmland and roads. Wild pigeons, which once swarmed by the tens of thousands, were driven from the area. Apple trees were introduced to the region by John Eby in the 1830s, and several grist- and sawmills (most notably Joseph Schneider's 1816 sawmill, John and Abraham Erb's grist- and sawmills and Eby's cider mill) were erected throughout the area. Schneider built the town's first road, from his home to the corner of King Street and Queen Street (then known as Walper corner). $1000 was raised by the settlers to extend the road from Walper corner to Huether corner, where the Huether Brewery was built and the Huether Hotel now stands; a petition to the government for $100 to assist in completing the project was denied.
Immigration to the town increased considerably from 1816 until the 1870s, many of the newcomers being of German (particularly Mennonite) extraction. In 1833 the town was renamed Berlin, and in 1853 Berlin became the County Seat of the newly created County of Waterloo, elevating it to the status of Village. The extension of the Grand Trunk Railway from Sarnia to Toronto (and hence through Berlin) in July 1856 was a major boon to the community, helping to improve industrialization in the area. On June 9, 1912, Berlin was officially designated a city
The originally large German population was the reason for the settlement being named Berlin. However, when the First World War began, citizens were coerced to separate themselves from Canada’s opponents. In 1916, Berlin changed its name to Kitchener; named after Boer War hero Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, following a series of violent attacks.
On September 17, 1981, the first ever "blue box" recycling program was launched in Kitchener. Today, more than 90% of Ontario households have access to recycling programs and annually they divert more than 650,000 tonnes of secondary resource materials. The blue box program has expanded in various forms throughout Canada and to countries around the world such as the United States, United Kingdom, France and Australia, serving more than 40 million households around the world.
While Waterloo has benefited from the presence of two universities and a number of high tech companies, Kitchener has been a more blue-collar town. The auto-parts manufacturer Budd Canada, now known as Kitchener Frame, continues to employ over 1500 workers. The city is home to four municipal business parks: the Bridgeport Business Park, Grand River West Business Park, Huron Business Park and Lancaster Corporate Centre. The largest, the Huron Business Park, is home to a number of industries, from seat manufacturers to furniture components. A number of the old industrial companies of Kitchener have fallen on harder times: the Kaufmann shoe manufacturer has closed its factory and companies like Electrohome have ceased local production in favour of licensing or supply agreements with overseas makers. Schneider Foods (a meat producer) has been bought out by Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, but continues operations in Kitchener. According to the 2006 Census, 24.2% of the labour force is employed in the manufacturing sector.
Kitchener's downtown core, though improved in recent years, has experienced urban decay, thanks largely to the decline of industrial jobs in the city and the growth of its suburbs. Things worsened when urban renewal plans in the 1960s cost the city its neo-classical city hall and did not achieve its goals of redevelopment. In the late 1990s, an arsonist began destroying abandoned and underused buildings in Kitchener's downtown, the issue of downtown renewal and cleanup of the adjoining Victoria Park neighbourhood came to the fore in municipal elections and has been the focus of city council for the past ten years. Achievements during this period include selling off a dying mall and converting it to office space for Manulife Financial, a major insurance firm, relocating a theatre downtown, converting the old Goudies department store to a Children's Museum, and converting vacant industrial space into residential units.
The city now boasts a new city hall, which opened in September 1993. Your Kitchener Market, the modern incarnation of its historic farmers market, opened in 2004. Other projects include an assortment of lofts, utilizing old factories and other buildings. Various plans for 20 floor condo units have been put in place. And although Waterloo is home to many insurance companies, two universities, and high-tech industries, Kitchener is hoping to increase demand for office space by building office towers and inviting companies from around the golden triangle to move in.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Waterloo school of pharmacy and downtown health sciences campus was officially held on March 15, 2006. The building will be located on King Street near Victoria Street, across the street from the former Kaufmann shoe factory (now converted to lofts).
Economic and social impacts from the new health sciences campus that are expected to be felt locally include: the potential for more family doctors and other health professionals practicing in the city and region; significant economic benefits associated with an injection of as many as 1,200 students, faculty and staff to the downtown core each day and spin off business and industry that will diversify the economy and bring additional jobs to the area.
The redevelopment of the 'Centre Block' in downtown Kitchener has its vision set and is planned to start sometime in 2008. It will include a 12 story and an 18 story condominium, more retail spaces, the redevelopment of the Mayfair Hotel and a central courtyard.
|Source: StatCan (includes multiple responses)|
At the time of the Canada 2006 Census, the population of Kitchener was 204,668. By gender, 49.2% of the population was male and 50.8% was female. Children under five accounted for approximately 6.0% of the resident population of Kitchener, compared to 5.5% in Ontario, and 5.3% for Canada overall. Some 11.7% of the resident population in Kitchener was of retirement age, a smaller proportion of the population compared to 13.6% in Ontario, and 13.7% in Canada. The median age was 37 years, younger than the 39 years for Ontario, and 40 years for Canada. In the five years between 2001 and 2006, the population of Kitchener grew by 7.5%, higher than the growth rates for both Ontario (6.6%) and Canada(5.4%). Population density of Kitchener was 1,495 people per square kilometre.
According to the 2001 Census, approximately 10 percent of the population claimed to be members of a visible minority, and are primarily people of Asian (mostly East Indian: 2.73%), Black Caribbean: 1.79%, including mixed race, Chinese, Arab and others.
Christianity continues to have the greatest number of adherents. From the 2001 census, 78.85% of the population adhered to various Christian denominations. Due to the higher concentrations of German Canadians, Protestantism has a greater percentage (41.32%), followed by Roman Catholic (32.44%), while the remaining 5.07% follow other Christian groups such as Eastern Orthodox, LDS, Jehovah's Witness, the New Church etc. Minor religions include Islam: 2.24%, Hindu: 1.00%, and other including Judaism, Sikhism, and Buddhism.
Kitchener is governed by a council of six councillors, representing wards (or districts), and a mayor. Council is responsible for policy and decision making, monitoring the operation and performance of the city, analyzing and approving budgets and determining spending priorities. The residents of each ward vote for one person to be their City Councillor; their voice and representative on City Council. Kitchener residents also elect four councillors at large to sit with the mayor on the council of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. The next election is scheduled for 2010, and elections will be held every four years moving forward.
The current mayor of Kitchener is Carl Zehr, who was re-elected to his fourth term in November 2006, after first being elected in 1997 and then re-elected in 2000 and 2003. Before that, he sat as a municipal councillor from 1985-1994. See Kitchener City Council for a complete list of councillors.
In 1976, residents of Kitchener voted almost 2:1 in favour of a ward system. The first municipal election held under the ward system occurred in 1978. The city is currently undergoing a ward boundary review. A consultant is studying boundaries for a 10 ward system for the 2010 municipal election which means that there will potentially be 4 additional councillors/wards depending on his recommendations.
The current Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Kitchener Centre is John Milloy. Other MPPs include Leeanna Pendergast (Kitchener-Conestoga) and Elizabeth Witmer (Kitchener-Waterloo) who both represent small portions of the city in addition to adjacent areas. The federal and provincial electoral boundaries are now aligned and the federal Members of Parliament (MPs) as follows: Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre), Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga) and Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener-Waterloo).
The Doon neighbourhood, formerly a separate village but now part of Kitchener, is home to the primary campus of Conestoga College, one of the foremost non-university educational institutions in the province.
For nine consecutive years, Conestoga has earned top overall ranking among Ontario colleges on the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) surveys, which measures graduate employment rates and satisfaction levels, and employer and student satisfaction. It is one of only seven Polytechnical Institutes in Canada.
The former St. Jerome's High School in downtown Kitchener currently houses the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University. It opened at this location in 2006, bringing 300 faculty, staff and students to downtown Kitchener.
The University of Waterloo is proceeding with opening a School of Pharmacy in the downtown area. The City of Kitchener has contributed $30 million from its $110 million Economic Development Investment Fund, established in 2004, to the establishment of the UW Downtown Kitchener School of Pharmacy. Construction began in 2006, and the pharmacy program was launched in January 2008 with 92 students. It is operating out of a temporary location pending the completion of construction on the downtown campus.
The school is expected to graduate about 120 pharmacists annually and will become the home of the Centre for Family Medicine, where new family physicians will be trained, as well as an optometry clinic and the International Pharmacy Graduate Program. Construction on the $147 million facility is slated to be complete in the fall of 2008.
The provincial government has also announced that the University of Waterloo's (UW) Downtown Kitchener Health Sciences Campus will be the site of a new satellite campus of McMaster University's School of Medicine. The Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine is expected to train 15 doctors a year, primarily through distance learning.
The training of medical professionals in downtown Kitchener include developments such as:
Long term rehabilitation and physiotherapy is addressed at the Freeport Health Centre, at the south of the city. Built originally as a tuberculosis sanatorium and home for the terminally ill, its last link with that past is the palliative care unit. It nestles along the banks of the Grand River, and is part of Grand River Hospital.
Family doctors are in short supply in K-W, and a source of great concern among residents. The Chamber of Commerce runs a waiting list for people looking for a doctor, but as of 2006 the wait is over two years. Two urgent care centres cater for much of the routine services for thousands of people without a family doctor, from routine immunisations and health screening, to repeat prescriptions and referral on to specialist services. A third urgent care centre is being added to a renovated supermarket development in the desirable Forest Heights area of the city.
Announced January 2006 was the inauguration of a new School of Medicine attached to the University of Waterloo. From 2007, 15 new family doctors will be trained each year in new premises being constructed in the downtown core on rehabilitated industrial lands along the railway.
In 2009, the mental health unit is slated for relocation from the downtown core to an unused floor at the Freeport site. By this, patients needing mental health care shall gain options for local long term care and monitoring. The current site for the unit is in the basement of the downtown hospital in an area in dire need of renovations and the absence of options for local long-term mental care forces the transfer of such patients to neighbouring London, Ontario.
After renovations, the Child and Adolescent Inpatient Program will be moved from a small 9-bed wing to the downstairs in place of the current adult mental health unit. Once moved in 2009, upwards of 26 beds shall be available to this program.
Kitchener's cultural highlights include CAFKA, The Open Ears Festival, Multicultural Festival, and Blues, Brews & Barbecues, all of which are free to the public. Kitchener is also home to venues such as Homer Watson House & Gallery, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, The Centre in the Square, and Theatre & Company. Live music by popular artists can be heard at venues such as the Centre in the Square and The Aud. The Kitchener Public Library is another community stalwart.
While its best-known draws are the beer-based celebrations, other family and cultural events also fill the week. The best-known is the Oktoberfest Thanksgiving Day Parade held on Thanksgiving Day; as it is the only major parade on Canadian Thanksgiving, it is televised nationally.
Another icon of the festival is Miss Oktoberfest. This position was formerly selected in a televised beauty pageant, with the applicants coming from across North America. The position is now selected by a closed committee of judges from a panel of local applicants; community involvement and personal character form the main criteria under the new system. A ribald spin-off of the Miss Oktoberfest pageant is celebrated in some local high schools, in which all participants are male, but dressed as women.
A cast-bronze statue of Queen Victoria is located in Victoria Park, along with a cannon. The statue was unveiled in May 1911, on Victoria Day (the Queen's birthday) in the tenth year after her death. The Princess of Wales Chapter of the IODE raised the $6,000 needed for the monument.
The city has announced the construction of a new Gaukel Street entrance to Victoria Park. Gaukel Street is to be used as a corridor linking Victoria Park to City Hall. The new entrance will include a complete streetscape upgrade on Gaukel Street with new lighting, stamped concrete, and other features. The new entrance to the park itself will include stone masonry gates, walkways, new lighting, flower gardens, a pond complete with waterfalls, and a sculpture created by artist Ernest Daetwyler.
Another significant beauty spot in the city is Rockway Gardens. Adjacent to the Rockway golf course, the gardens occupy a long narrow strip of land alongside King Street as it rushes down to meet the Conestoga Parkway and become Highway 8. Here there are many fountains and rock grottoes. It is a popular site for wedding photos in the summer months.
Kitchener has an extensive and safe community trail system. The trails, which are controlled and run by the city, are hundreds of kilometres in length. Due to Kitchener's close proximity to the Grand River, several community trails and paths border the river's shores. This convenient access to the Grand River has drawn nature-seeking tourists to the city.
However, Kitchener's trails and especially natural areas remain underfunded by city council and as a result, many are not adequately maintained.
Kitchener was very proactive and visionary about its transportation network in the 1960s, with the province undertaking at that time construction of the Conestoga Parkway from the western boundary (just past Homer Watson Boulevard) across the south side of the city and looping north along the Grand River to Northfield Drive in Waterloo. Subsequent upgrades took the Conestoga west beyond Trussler Road and north towards St Jacobs, with eight lanes through its middle stretch, and it is busy at all hours.
The Conestoga Parkway bears the provincial highway designations of Highways 7 and 8. King Street becomes Hwy 8 where it meets the Conestoga in the south and leads down to the 401, but Old King Street survives as the street-route through Freeport to the Preston area of Cambridge. Up until construction of the Conestoga, Highland Road through Baden had been the primary highway to Stratford. Victoria Street was then and remains the primary highway to Guelph but this is slated to be bypassed with an entirely new highway beginning at the Wellington Street exit and running roughly north of and parallel to the old route.
There are two interchanges with Highway 401 on Kitchener's southern border. In addition to the primary link where Hwy 8 merges into the Hwy 401, there is another interchange on the west side with Homer Watson Boulevard.
In order to reduce the congestion on Highway 8, a new interchange has been proposed on Highway 401 at Trussler Road, which would serve the rapidly growing west side of Kitchener. Although this proposal is supported by the Region of Waterloo, the MTO has no plans to date to proceed with an interchange at Trussler Road.
There is good historical reason for this. Kitchener was one of the few places in Ontario where the settlers arrived in advance of government surveyors. The Mennonites who had banded together as the German Company to purchase the township from Richard Beasley simply divided their vast parcel of land by the number of shareholder households and then drew random lots to confer title on individual farms. There was no grid survey done -- no lines, no concessions, no right-of-way corridors for roads. When it came time to punch roads through the wilderness, the farmers modelled the road network on what was familiar to them, which was the pattern of villages in Switzerland and southern Germany.
This is a Continental Radial pattern and the result was major streets extended through diagonals cutting across the grid of smaller streets and converging at multiple-point intersections which, as the communities became more prosperous and if the automobile had not displaced the horse, might someday have become roundabouts decorated with circular gardens, fountains or statuary in the style of European cities. Five-point intersections created by converging diagonals are legion in the older areas.
The plan to extend River Road through an area known as Hidden Valley has been sharply controversial for forty years, but the pressure of traffic and the absence of any other full east-west arterials between Fairway Road and the Highway 401 is forcing this development ahead.
In 2004, roundabouts were introduced to the Region of Waterloo. Besides improving traffic flow, it will help the region lower pollution from emissions. In 2006, two were installed along Ira Needles Boulevard in Kitchener. As of May 2007 another two will also be placed on that street, and three more are planned through 2007 into 2008 on Fischer Hallman Road. Roundabouts are ideal for intersections in this area because of the aforementioned historical growth along Continental radial patterns versus the British grid systems.
Most streets that cross the municipal boundary between Kitchener and Waterloo retain the same street name in both cities. However, several streets which are divided into east and west sections in Kitchener shift to a north-south division in Waterloo. This primarily affects Weber and King Streets and Westmount Road. Although these roads do not actually change their primary directional alignment, the shift in labelling minimizes the confusion that would result from having separate west and east segments of the same street existing simultaneously in both cities.
Since 2000, public transport throughout the Region of Waterloo has been provided by Grand River Transit, which was created by a merger of the former Cambridge Transit and Kitchener Transit. GRT operate a number of bus routes in Kitchener, with many running into Waterloo and two connecting to Cambridge. In September 2005, GRT added an express bus route called iXpress from downtown Cambridge through Kitchener to north Waterloo.
Recently, proposals have been put forth regarding a rapid transit system serving the downtown cores of all three cities. An Environmental Assessment is being conducted by the Region. The current phase (2) of the EA is looking at options for technology, route, and station locations for the Region. Numerous Public Consultation Centres have been held where the public is encouraged to give feedback on the Rapid Transit Initiative.
Passenger service is provided by VIA Rail. Three trains in each direction travelling between Sarnia and Toronto stop at the Kitchener railway station daily. The station is slightly to the northeast of the city's downtown on Weber Street near its intersection with Victoria Street.
GO Transit does not serve Kitchener; the nearest Go Train station to Kitchener is Milton station. City councillors and public petitions have called for the extension of GO Train service to the Region of Waterloo, but at present GO is studying if it will go beyond already-announced bus links. On September 2008, GO Transit announced a feasibility study into extending GO train service on the Georgetown line through Guelph to Kitchener, contingent on a source of funding.
Freight trains in Kitchener are operated by the Goderich-Exeter Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway. These railways serve several customers (including ThyssenKrupp Budd), many of which are located in industrial parks in southern Kitchener.
Officially there are 6 wards, and 53 planning communities or neighbourhoods. There are also 30 neighbouhood associations recognized by the City. At the next City council elections, (2010) there will be ten wards, as recently voted at council, in order to better represent the residents of Kitchener. Boundaries are yet to be finalized.