I was poking around online the other day looking for info on the various KW factory-to-residential loft redevelopmment projects (no, I’m not in the market, yet), and came across a guy whose blog had some very useful info. However, he was also a classic example of a type that has annoyed the crap out of me for some time. I shall call them Toronto Lovers, TL for short.
Now, I know people who live in Toronto; I lived there myself for two years. I admit I do not understand their passion. Toronto and I have never clicked. I don’t hate it; there are some cool neighbourhoods, great restaurants, fun things to do, but it wasn’t “home” when I lived there and I don’t think ever will be. (That said, I’ve become rather more urban since I lived there, so I don’t think it would chafe or scare quite as much.)
Now, Toronto never having felt like home, I understand how the TLs in the KW area feel. I quote:
Although I spent five years at UW and have been working full-time in Waterloo for over 2 years, I still feel very much a visitor to the city. When I hear the word “home” I picture Bayview & Steeles, not Victoria & Park; the entry in my cell phonebook reads “Home Waterloo”, not “Home”. So it should come as no surprise that I approached this purchase more as an investment rather than the establishment of some kind of firm roots (probably much to Bonnie’s chagrin). Source: distrust.net.
Now, I want to be clear. I have nothing against this guy personally. I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me. He just conveniently embodies an attitude that bothers me and provided a nice, well-written example. Andrew is a TL to a degree. Cody is a glaring example. These folks aren’t all that rare. There are reasons the rest of the country glares in the direction of Lake Ontario.
What bothers me is this: TLs live here, work here, go to school here, buy homes here, presumably make friends and have families and socialize here. And yet they’re just visiting? KW pays your bills and educates your children and provides you with the opportunity to live in a house with more bedrooms and bigger backyards and, presumably, a better education than you think you would have gotten back in the Big Smoke or elsewhere.
Yes, KW lacks a few things that would be really awesome to have. There’s no kickass place to get Thai food (only decent Thai and pretty damn good Vietnamese). There’s no kickass place to go dancing (only hit or miss weakly “alternative” clubs). We’re short on leash-free dog parks and cafes to mellow out with a latte and your laptop. But we’re getting there. A nice chunk of Waterloo is now a WiFi zone. There’s a major redevelopment happening in the Waterloo core, with lofts and a bigger, better Vincenzo’s, and new stores, and better green space and parking. Neighbourhoods that had hookers and crackhouses in Kitchener five years ago now boast houses that regularly sell for over $200,000. There are theatres and restaurants and you can walk down King St. at 3am and not worry about it. That’s not bad. This is not a city of three million people. We’re a tenth that size. But we have two excellent universities and a college and some leading tech companies and a major chunk of the insurance business in Canada and we’re growing and changing to provide the things the TLs and their ilk have been complaining about KW not having. We also have some great “rural” stuff like two excellent Farmers’ Markets. And real, live Mennonites! It’s actually not that hard to eat fresh, local, and even organic here. And when you can get lemongrass and fish sauce at the Vietnamese markets in downtown Kitchener, that particular masala blend you like at the Indian grocery stores throughout the city, buffalo steaks or summer sausage at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, over 200 cheeses (and just about everything else) at Vincenzo’s, and some of the best maple syrup on the planet both in stores, at markets, and at the end of people’s driveways, there isn’t much behind an argument for not being able to find just the perfect _____ for that dinner party.
The other part of what annoys me is that people like to whine, not act. The people that complain that KW lacks XYZ, have they done anything about it? Have they written their municipal government or spoken to businesses in Toronto that they like and said, “Hey, KW is really growing and there’s a major need for XYZ, you should totally open a shop there!” I doubt it. Why would you, when it’s easier to just hop on the 401 and flee to the east for the weekends? Why would you patronize the local businesses and help them grow and evolve into wildly popular services? Why would you patronize the artistic endeavours, or drink at the bars, or enroll your kids in the extra-curricular activities, or start a club?
Sure, some people do these things, but KW still isn’t home to them. Okay, it might never be. BUT. No one held a gun to your head to come live here, or take a job here, or buy a house here. You chose to be here, presumably after doing some research and finding out what the area is like (and if you didn’t, just shut up right now). But you chose to come, regardless of what negatives you learned about. So really? You knew what you were getting into. You don’t get to whine, especially if you’re not doing anything about it.
And hey, at the end of the day, it’s not like Kitchener-Waterloo is Hamilton or something… 😉