Designing to Improve the Iron Horse Trail

We need your help and creativity. There’s a development proposal in Waterloo right by a planned LRT station. It’s for a second tower on the block bounded by Caroline, Allen, Park, and John streets, in addition to the one currently under construction at the corner of Park and Allen. (Details of the submission are here, along with slides from a recent meeting.). Apart from the egregious planned amount of parking either required by the city or desired by the developer at what should be a transit-oriented development, there is a bigger issue. The developer wants to build on top of the current Iron Horse Trail and replace it off to the side, lengthening it and making it worse as a transportation corridor. Chris Klein has written about the need to think carefully before trading away a main transportation corridor for a developer’s benefit. But more on that later.

Here’s where you come in. We want to see what ideas people have for how to develop this parcel and make the Iron Horse Trail better at the same time — by bringing it back to the original rail corridor alignment and taking out the current 90-degree turn. This is what I mean:

View Iron Horse Trail and Allen/Caroline in a larger map

Let us know in the comments or email us your depictions (or examples from elsewhere) of what could be done with that area, perhaps with some creative use of the space above the Iron Horse Trail. We don’t have much time to get this out to the developer and Waterloo City Hall, so e-mail us your ideas or examples to . We’ll put up the submissions in a follow-up.

11 thoughts on “Designing to Improve the Iron Horse Trail”

  1. If I can be completely honest, I have never used that particular portion of the trail. I have, for years, turned left at Park Street, right on Allen, and onto the wide sidewalk by the townhouses. It’s the most efficient way, while biking.

    I know that you are looking for creative ideas, but a reroute isn’t a horrible thing in my mind, and would be better than walking between buildings.

  2. Lori,

    The currently proposed rerouting will be through a 9m corridor “between buildings” (the parking garage and the southwest side of 155 Caroline). Though it is intended to be beautified, that passage– and the 3m path along Caroline past another parking garage, and which will cross the garage entrance– are not a suitable replacement for the current path.

    Road cyclists may tolerate using Park’s bike lanes, but they will have to contend with the main Park St.-facing garage entrance, and so too would a path up Park to Allen. Non-cyclists and casual cyclists will be put off by this option.

  3. I use this part of the trail every day, and I’d be quite sad to see it re-routed. I’ll try to think of something to submit…

  4. There is a consensus building that the proposal put forth by the developers is totally unacceptable…it’s unfortunate that the immediate and greater community have not been made aware of the threat to the present trail…but it’s getting more media play, and that’s good.
    This trail is a prize…we must keep most of it intact…my use of the word “most” suggests I’m ready for a compromise…I’d even go as far as suggesting we unearth the trees affected and if possible, replant them along the rerouted corridor; an emotional response ? Yes!
    We must not let it become a manicured corridor, vacant of natural surroundings; a trail is a trail is a trail…no more no less.
    Having said that I still believe that their architect/planner could come come up with a totally different design…one which would see the patios/balconies in a triangular shaped building. With tiered balconies looking down at the original trail, it would also back onto the Sun Life parking structure, eliminating the conflict with the garage and perhaps reduce the number of units which would solve a lot traffic concerns already voiced at the meetings.
    More to come…

  5. I think it would be worthwhile to have several meetings to discuss various options with the community. I think it would be worthwhile seeing how the development could incorporate the trail as a public route through the complex and still see the residential developments get constructed. It would definitely create a more urban feel to the trail than is currently there, but potentially would allow for some nice public space with covered roof and spaces to gather instead of just cycle through… Just a thought.

    Thanks for the venue to express some ideas.

  6. I think there should be a redesign of the podium at the base of the two towers to incorporate the trail and free up the ground space. The townhouses seem more of a compromise to the city and not necessarily a profit driven idea. Potential for vertical green spaces and alternative inhabitation of the upper levels are strong possibilities due to the configuration of the two towers on the site!
    – just an example of possibilities:

  7. Here’s an excellent thesis from the school of architecture that principally can apply to trail redevelopment as community space. We need to not marginalize public space outside the realm of development but instead embrace it as an excellent opportunity.

  8. I completely agree with restoring the IHT to its original alignment — & that of the former rail line
    — as it would at least permit a more continuous flow for cyclists especially if an innovative yet cost-effective road traffic control system can be devised for crossing Park with minimum delay & safety. (The same system could be used for IHT crossing of other busy streets such as Union, Victoria, etc.). Of course, pedestrians would also benefit especially young families on an outing.

    But for the sake of what I consider the immediate future — & some of you the longer term future
    — of our important LRT system, the ideal higher speed, safer, lower cost, … commuter rail corridor from Northfield Dr. to the Ainslie Terminal must be kept free of developer degradation. Specifically, I am therefore suggesting that any alternative solution proposed for the Caroline/Park section of the IHT include allowance for at least one LRT track.

    (I’ve been exploring this negative developer process operating on the [discontinuous from the beginning] Walter Bean Trail forcing key parts between King St. E. & the new section of Fairway Rd. to an even greater degree be diverted so as to go circuitously & less safely along streets).

    The age of developer dominance must be transformed so that citizens — especially ones
    whose interests embrace the needs of the whole community — are given a much greater weight in political decision-making beyond the almost token consideration, i.e. pretend democracy must become real democracy.

  9. This condo or apt. development is huge enough as it is -their ads boast over 400 units WITHOUT this additional piece of land. Vincenzo’s customers currently use this triangular unpaved lot for parking. Has anyone approached the owners of Vincenzo’s and encouraged them to buy the lot? I would think their business would suffer without that lot, as without it, there are only about 11 spots, and it is one of the busiest stores in KW with constant traffic. People will stop going there if parking is going to be a hassle. As such a successful business, I would think they might be able to afford it.

  10. Lori – as Chris Klein has written about in more detail, the proposal includes parking for the Bauer shops. I assume that was part of the deal in which this developer bought that parking lot. To be clear, Vincenzo’s has way more than 11 spots on its side of Caroline Street, as there are oodles of underground parking.

    As for the size, we are happy to see density right next to LRT stations. It only makes sense to put people where you’ve got the transportation capacity and where they can rely on ways of getting around without a car. Except that is all undermined by the amount of parking being built. In that sense, it is “transit-adjacent development”, rather than transit-oriented development.

  11. I’m equally concerned about the architecture of the buildings. Judging from the images on the walls surrounding the current project, the tower will be set upon a base with huge 20-30 foot windowless brick walls. So if you’re walking along Park, or along the iron horse, you’ll be walking along a giant blank wall.

    That’s a terrible way to foster community. It makes pedestrians feel tiny, uncomfortable, insecure and isolated. It’s unsafe and unfriendly. I can’t understand why city council would have approved it.

    One towers built like that way totally destroy the feeling in the area along the iron horse trail, and I can only imagine what two would be like.

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