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Kitchener Centre by-election: candidates’ ideas and approaches to the redevelopment of the former Charles Street bus station

In the middle of downtown Kitchener, in between City Hall and Victoria Park, is one of the last pieces of available prime real estate in downtown Kitchener. The former Charles St. bus terminal at Gaukel St and Charles St, which sits on 2.94 acres, has sat empty and for the most part unused, since 2019.

The building, which still stands, was designed by local modernist architect John Lingwood in 1989. The property, which is currently being considered for a number of projects, is owned by the Region of Waterloo (who own 88%) and the City of Kitchener (who own 12%), but regardless of who owns it, the community, including the member of provincial parliament, will be part of whatever comes next.

With the Kitchener Centre by-election this week, CKMS took the opportunity to ask the four front-runner candidates, what do they personally think would be an appropriate use of that space and how would that benefit the people of the region?

The four main candidates are Rob Elliott of the Progressive Conservatives, Debbie Chapman of the NDP, Kelly Steiss of the Ontario Liberal party, and Aislinn Clancy of the Ontario Greens. Many attempts over 10 days were made to contact the Progressive Conservative candidate Rob Elliott, but we did not hear back from the PCs in time for broadcast.

In answer to our question, Kelly Steiss focused on the importance of collaboration and how her experience will lend itself well to the development of the project.

Aislinn Clancy also focused on the importance of collaboration and in addition the need to include and manifest Kitchener and regional-specific values.

Debbie Chapman talked about the property’s split ownership and the suggestions that she has heard, including turning it into an indigenous centre with a drop in centre and affordable housing, or extending Victoria Park into the site, moving the entertainment centre, the Kitchener Aud, to the site, or building a conference centre for the space.

Advance voting has closed, and reports show over 5400 people took advantage of the early voting. You can vote in person on election day from 9 AM to 9 PM (Eastern Time) at your assigned voting location based on your home address.

This is one in a series of shows about the Kitchener Centre by-election and in which we ask candidates some of the less-asked questions that are important to our community.