Charles Street Terminal Visioning

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The Region of Waterloo and City of Kitchener are working towards a vision for a mixed-use development on the former Charles Street Terminal site, in the heart of downtown Kitchener. This vision will be informed by environmental and technical findings, financial modeling and community engagement.

Located at 15 Charles Street West, the property occupies a key location in downtown Kitchener. With a footprint of 10,470 square meters (1.047 hectare / 2.59 acres in size), the size and location of the property make the future use of this site an important discussion point for the community.

Based on the strategic direction of the Region of Waterloo and the City of Kitchener, and determined by the community, the site's four guiding priorities include:

  1. Affordable housing options
  2. Climate action
  3. Equity, diversity and inclusion
  4. A thriving economy

Technical studies to date include completion of a property boundary survey to understand current physical infrastructure on the site, as well as Environmental and geotechnical work to understand the make-up of the soil, and the presence of any contaminants in the ground or groundwater as a result of previous and/or surrounding uses.



Visioning the future use of Charles Street Terminal: what we've heard

Community-Wide Engagement to date

  • The Region of Waterloo’s Charles Street Terminal community engagement initiatives have received over 1500 community responses to date.
  • A community-wide survey launched in winter 2021 determined the project's four main guiding priorities:
    1. affordable housing, 2. climate action, 3. equity, diversity and inclusion, and 4. a thriving economy. Community feedback also emphasised the importance of equity, and a desire for community-based, community-driven engagement opportunities.
  • On-the-ground outreach teams in summer 2022 engaged community members at festivals and in community spaces in Downtown Kitchener, along with an online survey to determine current needs across downtown. The summarized insights indicated the desire for affordable and supportive housing options; space for Indigenous, Black, racialized and 2SLGBTQ+ peoples groups; community space with indoor and outdoor options (with a majority of responses emphasizing need for an Indigenous Community Space); creation of a multi-use site with housing, healthcare services, retail and community space.

Community-Inspired Engagement

  • Following community-led dialogue and visioning, Indigenous community leaders and co-founders of Land Back Camp Amy Smoke and Bangishimo Johnston presented a proposal to Regional Council on Nov. 21 2021 outlining the Terminal redevelopment as an opportunity to invest in an Indigenous community hub based on current Indigenous community space needs. In addition to the presentation at council, the group created a short film, Recollections and Imaginings, featuring stories from community members about their memories, experiences and future vision of the Charles Street Terminal.
  • The Region of Waterloo acknowledges and thanks the community leaders who continue to support and enable discussion on the future of the Charles Street Terminal. All community feedback that is shared with the Region of Waterloo will be considered in this visioning process.


Upcoming Engagement Opportunities

Downtown Kitchener Community Survey
An online survey for downtown Kitchener residents and business owners is open now until March 1, 2024.

This phase of engagement is focused on determining site-specific features to inform future design options.


Technical Considerations

MTE Consultants Inc. were engaged to complete both Environmental and Geotechnical analysis of the site in the summer of 2022. The work program commenced on site in September 2022, with final on site sampling and analysis completed in November 2022. Draft reports issued have identified environmental concerns in both soil and groundwater at the site. These results are not considered dissimilar to other urban infill sites with former industrial uses either on, or in proximity, but do verify the complexity of the redevelopment program, and the need for a Remediation Action Plan.

Environmental & Geotechnical Findings to date include:

  • Shallow soil contamination related to lead and hydrocarbons, generally at depths of less than 1.5m below surface.
  • Deeper soil contamination at one location attributed to waste from past demolition of buildings.
  • Road salt impacts also present in soil throughout site.
  • Excess soil management during future construction will need to involve disposal of contaminated soil to landfill.
  • Groundwater contamination related to chlorinated solvents (no on site source
  • identified) as well as localized metals and acid/base/neutral compounds.

Geotechnical Considerations

The MTE report provided recommendations related to site preparation, excavations, dewatering, foundation design, site servicing, and pavement structure. These recommendations will inform future design analysis. The final report will be provided through the formal RFP process, to inform submissions.

Technical Study Work Plan

Technical design and landscape studies, along with financial modelling, disposition strategy, and market analysis will commence in the spring to help guide the path toward re-development. This work will occur concurrent to the ongoing multi-stakeholder and community engagement work over the course of the spring and summer. Regional staff will bring back recommendations to Council at key milestones including the approach to environmental remediation, and disposition to the market.

Background + History

The Charles Street Terminal located in downtown Kitchener, Ontario is a settler development built on the Haldimand Tract and the traditional territory of the Attawonderonk, Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe Peoples. The stewardship and contribution of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples is a living history and culture that the Region of Waterloo is committed to learning, celebrating and integrating.

1880s – 1950s
From 1882 until 1958, the Berlin Gas Commission operated a coal gasification plant on Gaukel Street between Charles and Joseph Streets. The majority of the facility was located on the west side of Gaukel Street but the main gas-holding tank was located on the Subject Site. The environmental contamination caused by the former coal gasification plant required significant remediation efforts led by the City of Kitchener on surrounding sites beginning in 2007. Regional staff led environmental assessments of 15 Charles St W in 2022.

1940s – 1980s
In 1949, expanding on their father’s downtown furniture business, Roy and Ross Bulla (Bulla Bros Ltd.) opened a department store on the site as the anchor for the Bullas Building. This mixed-use development was used for commercial, residential and innovative placemaking features, including a public fountain and two concrete and quartz statues created by artist Helen Waimel depicting sea goddesses riding dolphins, which are now on display at Centre in the Square. The brothers and their visionary development contributed to the eventual expansion of Charles Street from a laneway into the main urban corridor it is today.

1980s – 2000
The site was left vacant in 1987, and by 1988 local modernist architect John Lingwood created the design of the new Terminal building for the City of Kitchener's transit service which operational by 1992.

2000 – 2019
On January 1, 2000, ownership of the terminal transferred to the Region of Waterloo, the operator of Grand River Transit (GRT), when Kitchener Transit and Cambridge Transit merged. It became the GRT Transit Hub and Greyhound Bus Terminal.

2019 – 2022
In 2019 the completion and launch of GRT’s Light Trail Transit System shifts the centre of transit in Waterloo Region, ending operations of the Charles Street Bus Terminal. The central Victoria Park ION Station is located 130 meters from the terminal. From 2020-2022, the site was temporarily used by Grand River Hospital as a COVID Testing and Vaccination Centre.


The Region of Waterloo and City of Kitchener are working towards a vision for a mixed-use development on the former Charles Street Terminal site, in the heart of downtown Kitchener. This vision will be informed by environmental and technical findings, financial modeling and community engagement.

Located at 15 Charles Street West, the property occupies a key location in downtown Kitchener. With a footprint of 10,470 square meters (1.047 hectare / 2.59 acres in size), the size and location of the property make the future use of this site an important discussion point for the community.

Based on the strategic direction of the Region of Waterloo and the City of Kitchener, and determined by the community, the site's four guiding priorities include:

  1. Affordable housing options
  2. Climate action
  3. Equity, diversity and inclusion
  4. A thriving economy

Technical studies to date include completion of a property boundary survey to understand current physical infrastructure on the site, as well as Environmental and geotechnical work to understand the make-up of the soil, and the presence of any contaminants in the ground or groundwater as a result of previous and/or surrounding uses.



Visioning the future use of Charles Street Terminal: what we've heard

Community-Wide Engagement to date

  • The Region of Waterloo’s Charles Street Terminal community engagement initiatives have received over 1500 community responses to date.
  • A community-wide survey launched in winter 2021 determined the project's four main guiding priorities:
    1. affordable housing, 2. climate action, 3. equity, diversity and inclusion, and 4. a thriving economy. Community feedback also emphasised the importance of equity, and a desire for community-based, community-driven engagement opportunities.
  • On-the-ground outreach teams in summer 2022 engaged community members at festivals and in community spaces in Downtown Kitchener, along with an online survey to determine current needs across downtown. The summarized insights indicated the desire for affordable and supportive housing options; space for Indigenous, Black, racialized and 2SLGBTQ+ peoples groups; community space with indoor and outdoor options (with a majority of responses emphasizing need for an Indigenous Community Space); creation of a multi-use site with housing, healthcare services, retail and community space.

Community-Inspired Engagement

  • Following community-led dialogue and visioning, Indigenous community leaders and co-founders of Land Back Camp Amy Smoke and Bangishimo Johnston presented a proposal to Regional Council on Nov. 21 2021 outlining the Terminal redevelopment as an opportunity to invest in an Indigenous community hub based on current Indigenous community space needs. In addition to the presentation at council, the group created a short film, Recollections and Imaginings, featuring stories from community members about their memories, experiences and future vision of the Charles Street Terminal.
  • The Region of Waterloo acknowledges and thanks the community leaders who continue to support and enable discussion on the future of the Charles Street Terminal. All community feedback that is shared with the Region of Waterloo will be considered in this visioning process.


Upcoming Engagement Opportunities

Downtown Kitchener Community Survey
An online survey for downtown Kitchener residents and business owners is open now until March 1, 2024.

This phase of engagement is focused on determining site-specific features to inform future design options.


Technical Considerations

MTE Consultants Inc. were engaged to complete both Environmental and Geotechnical analysis of the site in the summer of 2022. The work program commenced on site in September 2022, with final on site sampling and analysis completed in November 2022. Draft reports issued have identified environmental concerns in both soil and groundwater at the site. These results are not considered dissimilar to other urban infill sites with former industrial uses either on, or in proximity, but do verify the complexity of the redevelopment program, and the need for a Remediation Action Plan.

Environmental & Geotechnical Findings to date include:

  • Shallow soil contamination related to lead and hydrocarbons, generally at depths of less than 1.5m below surface.
  • Deeper soil contamination at one location attributed to waste from past demolition of buildings.
  • Road salt impacts also present in soil throughout site.
  • Excess soil management during future construction will need to involve disposal of contaminated soil to landfill.
  • Groundwater contamination related to chlorinated solvents (no on site source
  • identified) as well as localized metals and acid/base/neutral compounds.

Geotechnical Considerations

The MTE report provided recommendations related to site preparation, excavations, dewatering, foundation design, site servicing, and pavement structure. These recommendations will inform future design analysis. The final report will be provided through the formal RFP process, to inform submissions.

Technical Study Work Plan

Technical design and landscape studies, along with financial modelling, disposition strategy, and market analysis will commence in the spring to help guide the path toward re-development. This work will occur concurrent to the ongoing multi-stakeholder and community engagement work over the course of the spring and summer. Regional staff will bring back recommendations to Council at key milestones including the approach to environmental remediation, and disposition to the market.

Background + History

The Charles Street Terminal located in downtown Kitchener, Ontario is a settler development built on the Haldimand Tract and the traditional territory of the Attawonderonk, Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe Peoples. The stewardship and contribution of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples is a living history and culture that the Region of Waterloo is committed to learning, celebrating and integrating.

1880s – 1950s
From 1882 until 1958, the Berlin Gas Commission operated a coal gasification plant on Gaukel Street between Charles and Joseph Streets. The majority of the facility was located on the west side of Gaukel Street but the main gas-holding tank was located on the Subject Site. The environmental contamination caused by the former coal gasification plant required significant remediation efforts led by the City of Kitchener on surrounding sites beginning in 2007. Regional staff led environmental assessments of 15 Charles St W in 2022.

1940s – 1980s
In 1949, expanding on their father’s downtown furniture business, Roy and Ross Bulla (Bulla Bros Ltd.) opened a department store on the site as the anchor for the Bullas Building. This mixed-use development was used for commercial, residential and innovative placemaking features, including a public fountain and two concrete and quartz statues created by artist Helen Waimel depicting sea goddesses riding dolphins, which are now on display at Centre in the Square. The brothers and their visionary development contributed to the eventual expansion of Charles Street from a laneway into the main urban corridor it is today.

1980s – 2000
The site was left vacant in 1987, and by 1988 local modernist architect John Lingwood created the design of the new Terminal building for the City of Kitchener's transit service which operational by 1992.

2000 – 2019
On January 1, 2000, ownership of the terminal transferred to the Region of Waterloo, the operator of Grand River Transit (GRT), when Kitchener Transit and Cambridge Transit merged. It became the GRT Transit Hub and Greyhound Bus Terminal.

2019 – 2022
In 2019 the completion and launch of GRT’s Light Trail Transit System shifts the centre of transit in Waterloo Region, ending operations of the Charles Street Bus Terminal. The central Victoria Park ION Station is located 130 meters from the terminal. From 2020-2022, the site was temporarily used by Grand River Hospital as a COVID Testing and Vaccination Centre.

  • Downtown Kitchener Community Survey live until March 1, 2024

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    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    The Region of Waterloo and City of Kitchener are working towards a vision for a mixed-use development on the former Charles Street Terminal site, in the heart of downtown Kitchener, and are actively seeking input from the downtown Kitchener community. This vision will be informed by environmental and technical findings, financial modeling and community engagement.

    The project is in the third phase of engagement to understand how the downtown Kitchener community and other interest holders envision the project's four guiding principles on the site. These site-specific attributes will inform the design phase of the project.

    Your informed survey response will enable staff to gather ideas across the community to ensure the successful redevelopment of the Charles Street Terminal site.

    This survey is open until March 1, 2024.

  • Design Consultant - Request for Proposals

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    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    The Region of Waterloo on October 27th, 2023, has initiated a Request for Proposals to procure a qualified architectural firm that will join the public consultation process to help guide the visioning process for the Charles Street Terminal Site in downtown Kitchener. The successful architect will assist the region and the city in developing the design principles for the site and lead design conversations with the community.

    RFP - Bid Details(External link)
    Bid Closing Date: Fri Dec 1, 2023 2:00:00 PM

  • The Region of Waterloo is currently seeking public applications for Community Connector position(s) for the Charles Street Terminal Working Group

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    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    As described in the June 2022 report to Council, the Region of Waterloo is now accepting applications for community representatives to work alongside Region of Waterloo and City of Kitchener staff to strengthen community involvement in the Charles Street Terminal visioning process, and create space for residents to help inform future engagements. These community connectors will join the Charles Street Terminal Working Group, and should represent a diverse mix of expertise and people with lived experiences in priority communities. The Region of Waterloo is currently seeking public applications for Community Connector position(s).

    Learn more and apply here.

  • Second survey now closed

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    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    Thank you to everyone who participated in our second survey – either online or in person throughout downtown Kitchener. The survey is now closed, and we are beginning analysis on the feedback we collected.


    In the coming weeks, we will be recruiting for members of the community to join the engagement working group for this project.


    Technical studies on the property have been initiated, with preliminary environmental and geotechnical soil sampling completed last week. This work will continue into 2023.


    Subscribe to this page to keep to up-to-date.

  • Second round of engagement kicks-off August 5, 2022

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    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

    The Region of Waterloo and City of Kitchener are working towards a vision for a mixed-use development on the former Charles Street Terminal site, in the heart of downtown Kitchener. Starting Friday, August 5 our Charles Street Engagement Team will be out actively seeking input from the community.

    The engagement team can be identified by their blue “Ask me about the Charles Street Terminal Visioning Project” t-shirts.

    The team will be in and around downtown Kitchener from August 3 through to mid-September collecting input and ideas on the future vision for the site.

    Look for team members at downtown ION light rail transit stops, the Kitchener market, central library branch, local farmers and artists markets, and summer events happening along Gaukel Street and in Victoria Park.

    Feedback can be provided:

    • In person to a member of our street team
    • Online through the survey tab on this page
    • By phone at 519-575-4400
  • Project Updates

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    CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.
    supporting image

    On behalf the planning teams at the Region of Waterloo and the City of Kitchener, we would like to extend sincere thanks for your response to our initial survey on the future of the Charles Street Terminal site.

    We are grateful to have received significant interest in this project and are still working through the data and responses you submitted. We intend for the findings of this survey to inform the next stage of engagement, which we expect to share in the coming weeks. An update on, and invitation for, the next phase will be posted to Engage.

    Thank you again for your participation in this process and we look forward to continuing this work with you.

Page last updated: 01 Mar 2024, 12:00 PM