May 12, 2021

Recently, local officials in Cambridge announced that eight heritage properties would be facing demolition to make way for new construction on the Light-Rail Transit (LRT) system. 

Many people jumped to the defense of these properties, as they have been acknowledged as a part of the city’s history. However, the question becomes how are they providing knowledge? Aside from a plaque acknowledging their designation, there is no way of knowing what the building has contributed or that it even is a heritage building.

In the City of Waterloo alone there are 41 heritage properties, out of these 27 are residential homes. The rest of the properties are commercial buildings, libraries and schools which have maintained their outward appearance but inside have been fully renovated and hold little history aside from the plaque they bear.

For the residents living in these houses, renovations can be a nightmare. Aside from the significant amount of permits one must obtain, oftentimes the materials needed for renovations are incredibly rare and expensive. As exteriors to the houses are kept as close as possible to when they were originally built, homeowners are searching to find craftsmen who specialize in these specific modifications.

Many may argue that keeping these houses in pristine condition is the only way to maintain our local heritage. But that is simply not true. Instead of forcing homeowners to spend time and money on repairing these houses, why doesn’t the city invest in creating educational heritage spaces?

The city of Waterloo studied Cultural Heritage Landscapes from 2018 to 2019, and from their research discovered 27 landscapes that were deemed significant to local heritage. So why does the city not act on this new information?

Investments could be made into ensuring these properties are maintained and developed into sites where heritage in the community is taught. There could be heritage walking tours, similar to the one that currently runs through Mary Allen neighbourhood. This would not only benefit the local community, but could also boost tourism in the future and build a stronger identity for Waterloo. It could also boost the local economy by providing both part-time and full-time employment to keep these newly preserved sites maintained and operational.

Surely this would be a better way to teach heritage and history in Waterloo, as opposed to continuing to keep old buildings that do not fit with the modern, technology based image of the city. 

How many of you have gone searching for heritage homes? What did you learn from them? Unless you had done prior research or were on a guided tour I would assume not much. 

They are exactly what the name implies, homes. People should be able to live in their homes unbothered, and heritage should be accessible to all in a much more public fashion.

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