Improving the Laurel Greenway experience

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An aerial photo of the Laurel Greenway

The City of Waterloo, along with a consultant team led by SHIFT Landscape Architecture, are conducting a feasibility study for the Laurel Greenway. Moving through several phases, the ultimate goal of this study is the development of potential concept designs for key areas within the greenway.

The study focuses on the improving the experience along the entire Laurel Greenway, focusing on the trail, wayfinding, active transportation, and connections between spaces throughout.

The Laurel Greenway Feasibility Study video provides a high-level introduction to the Laurel Greenway and spaces within it, outlining the project components and focus areas and tasks.


Grounding the Greenway concept:

We are pleased to present the overall concept for the Laurel Greenway, which highlights the project vision:

The Laurel Greenway is a continuous, playful, and immersive experience that serves the needs of all users, supports natural features and processes, highlights local heritage, and responds to the surrounding urban context.

The full concept document is now available for review and the videos below highlight the overall concept and the short-term catalyst projects proposed for the greenway.

Video 1 - Overall concept



Video 2 - Catalyst projects



The Laurel Greenway:

The greenway is a linear park space and trail that weaves through uptown Waterloo, running from Waterloo Park in the west to Weber Street in the east. For this project, the study boundaries are approximately defined from Weber Street, southwest through uptown Waterloo and the public square, and west to the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex on Father David Bauer Drive.

An overview map of the Laurel Greenway

Within the study area, there are a variety of spaces that can be improved to create a more connected and integrated experience along the greenway related to the Laurel Trail. Given its significance through uptown and into the surrounding neighbourhoods, the greenway can become a space with a clear identity.

Please visit the document library to learn about the history of the Laurel Greenway and Laurel Creek, and to understand some of the initial problems and opportunities that are being identified for the project.

Two additional projects, focusing on Waterloo Public Square and Willis Way, are also ongoing and directly related to the Laurel Greenway. Please visit the Engage Waterloo pages related to your interests and move between all the following links to see information and engage with the projects:

  • Exploring a shade structure for Waterloo Public Square, supporting activities in all four seasons.
  • Creating a more vibrant and welcoming experience on Willis Way between Caroline and Regina Streets.


The feasibility study process:

The study began by developing problem and opportunity statements to direct the work throughout the project. Following this initial phase and public feedback on the work to date, the design team has developed concepts for the Laurel Greenway (current phase). Final concepts and costing will be presented to council for approval before detailed design for specific areas and features can begin.


Public consultation and comments:

The community will have several opportunities to provide feedback on the concepts and ideas developed for the study.

  • The first opportunity to provide feedback took place in early 2021 and we have provided a summary of feedback from that engagement.
  • The second round of engagement took place from October 20 to November 30, 2021. The community provided feedback on the overall design concept and catalyst projects using the ideas board, survey and mapping tool. We are now reviewing that feedback and will post a summary in the weeks to come. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas!


Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this strategy will focus on online engagement through this Engage Waterloo page and using tools that will allow for the greatest outreach possible while abiding by public health protocols.

The City of Waterloo, along with a consultant team led by SHIFT Landscape Architecture, are conducting a feasibility study for the Laurel Greenway. Moving through several phases, the ultimate goal of this study is the development of potential concept designs for key areas within the greenway.

The study focuses on the improving the experience along the entire Laurel Greenway, focusing on the trail, wayfinding, active transportation, and connections between spaces throughout.

The Laurel Greenway Feasibility Study video provides a high-level introduction to the Laurel Greenway and spaces within it, outlining the project components and focus areas and tasks.


Grounding the Greenway concept:

We are pleased to present the overall concept for the Laurel Greenway, which highlights the project vision:

The Laurel Greenway is a continuous, playful, and immersive experience that serves the needs of all users, supports natural features and processes, highlights local heritage, and responds to the surrounding urban context.

The full concept document is now available for review and the videos below highlight the overall concept and the short-term catalyst projects proposed for the greenway.

Video 1 - Overall concept



Video 2 - Catalyst projects



The Laurel Greenway:

The greenway is a linear park space and trail that weaves through uptown Waterloo, running from Waterloo Park in the west to Weber Street in the east. For this project, the study boundaries are approximately defined from Weber Street, southwest through uptown Waterloo and the public square, and west to the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex on Father David Bauer Drive.

An overview map of the Laurel Greenway

Within the study area, there are a variety of spaces that can be improved to create a more connected and integrated experience along the greenway related to the Laurel Trail. Given its significance through uptown and into the surrounding neighbourhoods, the greenway can become a space with a clear identity.

Please visit the document library to learn about the history of the Laurel Greenway and Laurel Creek, and to understand some of the initial problems and opportunities that are being identified for the project.

Two additional projects, focusing on Waterloo Public Square and Willis Way, are also ongoing and directly related to the Laurel Greenway. Please visit the Engage Waterloo pages related to your interests and move between all the following links to see information and engage with the projects:

  • Exploring a shade structure for Waterloo Public Square, supporting activities in all four seasons.
  • Creating a more vibrant and welcoming experience on Willis Way between Caroline and Regina Streets.


The feasibility study process:

The study began by developing problem and opportunity statements to direct the work throughout the project. Following this initial phase and public feedback on the work to date, the design team has developed concepts for the Laurel Greenway (current phase). Final concepts and costing will be presented to council for approval before detailed design for specific areas and features can begin.


Public consultation and comments:

The community will have several opportunities to provide feedback on the concepts and ideas developed for the study.

  • The first opportunity to provide feedback took place in early 2021 and we have provided a summary of feedback from that engagement.
  • The second round of engagement took place from October 20 to November 30, 2021. The community provided feedback on the overall design concept and catalyst projects using the ideas board, survey and mapping tool. We are now reviewing that feedback and will post a summary in the weeks to come. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas!


Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this strategy will focus on online engagement through this Engage Waterloo page and using tools that will allow for the greatest outreach possible while abiding by public health protocols.

Comments

CLOSED: Please use the forum titled: Let's Talk, so we can participate in the discussion. Please feel free to post your comments there.

Spending 1.6 Million on this study and initial implementation. You got to be crazy during a time of fiscal restraint. I agree with the questions of how many more businesses will you kill City of Waterloo? I agree once it becomes more and more difficult to travel and access Waterloo's once vibrant downtown, these businesses will say adios and move! The proof of this is half the stores like hearts and flowers have moved ND the mall downtown is half-empty. The downtown businesses have been replaced with restaurants which no-one goes to! The statement creating a welcoming experience is code for closed streets, bike lanes and slow streets. The Waterloo Chronicle published a story that 7.4 million bicycle trips in the past six years. To quote Hamlet, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. It does not pass a reasonability check and I do not trust the planners in the City of Waterloo metrics. This would translate to 1.2 million bicycle trips per year. This would translate in a six month period to 10,000 plus trips per day. If 3% of the population uses a bike in Waterloo, that would translate to approx 3600 people using a bike. Living in the downtown, I see only a few people use the bike lanes on KIng and the temporary bike lanes each day. This simply put does not pass the smell test. I do agree that the concrete square was ill conceived and needs shade from namely a thing called a tree. I do agree that there needs to be improvements to the crossing on the bike trails on Regina and Bridgeport and Erb intersections. I do not agree that bicycle lanes on King, Willis have been an overwhelming success! I do agree that we need a new council or an election on these issues. Like others who stated below, we do have a crime problem in the area and creating a green space will only give a haven for the druggies and criminals.

Marg Hoss-Bay over 1 year ago

I believe the citizens, businesses and stakeholders are weary of endless construction, bike lanes, slow streets and all the other ideas which not were not previous election issues. How many more businesses is the City of Waterloo going to kill. I am afraid that Ontario Seed, Woodsworth books, and the last remaining downtown grocery will all close up if anymore traffic is restricted. I used to shop at the Health food store whose owner Eileen was forced out of business by the endless ION and new bike lanes. Why do we need to build a shade structure? I thought those were called trees. My prediction is that if these policies continue, the down town will become just like Kitchener with its drug problems. The down town area is already experiencing problems with crime. Is this project during a time of fiscal restraint wise to do this project? Is there not a more pressing problem such as the crime problems with car break ins, thefts, drug addicts living in abandoned buildings. I can just see it now, they will now move to the green spaces. Instead of investing in mental health programs and affordable housing in the down town, we get this silliness Bike lanes, ION construction, and slow streets have only been incentives to not go to the down town and patronize businesses. By the way, I own an electric vehicle and most automotive companies are going electric by 2030. We should be planning for this not bike lanes whom people never use. I would also like the crime issue to be addressed first before we spend any more money on this nonsense.

Mary Stefan over 1 year ago

I believe the comments below show a failure on the Region of Waterloo and City staff and the councils themselves to gain buy-in from their constituents. Having read the attached PDFs I am literally tearing my hair out on the failure of leadership. I question also at time of fiscal restraint spending money for a study during the time of COVID. A lot of private organizations like the multi-national corporation I work for have had to defer projects to keep within project. So I question after years of ION construction, the ripping up of Erb street, and King Street, it is a fair question to ask did these projects achieve their goals. Do we want to subject the citizens and business to anymore disruption! I believe the answer is no! It is time to confirm that the vision is not a hallucination. Here are the actions I would like to see taken:
i) Proper consultation processes be advertised and done. Having website and social media contacts is not the best way of doing this.
ii) The leadership of this city state what problem they are trying to solve.
iii) A proper impact analysis be done on the impacts to businesses, citizens and stakeholders.
iv) That the leadership of this City and staff realize they have to get buy-in from all stakeholders.
v) That benefits both tangible and intangible need to demonstrated on any future closed streets, slow streets and bike lanes.
vi) That a study be done with constituents on how many people would actually use, could use and is it viable to use such things as bike space and green space.
vii) That council develops develops a fully costed, integrated plan with buy-in from all stakeholders. I believe that this should be an election issue for bike lanes and alternative transportation. This was never vetted by the people this direction.
viii) In any feedback or survey, there should be the option of do nothing or leave it alone. This opinion is not allowed by this feedback mechanism of engage Waterloo.

So far, I see there are only two problems to solve, the safety issue on Erb and Bridgeport road and the shade in the concrete jungle.

PracticalPerson over 1 year ago

I agree with JoLogiccommonsense whole heartedly. The closure of WIllis Way killed business in the Core. My friends business declined. I was a long time business owner in Waterloo. Seniors could not park close enough on Willis Way to go get a haircut for my elderly husband. I am in my 70s and I do not intend to ride a bike. I knew the City lied to us when they said this is temporary closure of Willis way. I am sick and tired of spending taxpayers on projects that are not used. My home on Allen Street is near a trail and my house has been broken into two times and the thieves used the trail to escape. I was pushed to ground as I entered the house and this person stole jewelery given to me by husband. The concrete jungle created in the millennium square and its rusty bell in Waterloo was opposed by people at the time and the businesses at the time. The noodle lights in downtown Waterloo need to be removed as well. I believe the square needs to be redesigned so that it provides shade through a natural structure called trees and a green space not a structure. The bikelanes on King Street are not used and the multiuse sidewalk is an absolute fail. No one uses them. I believe this is not a valid forum to receive feedback from all in the neighbourhood. You hold on-line meetings and forums for other items. The businesses in the area have sufferred enough from COVID, ION construction and bike lanes. I closed my business and retired just before the ION. I agree with JoLogicCommonSense that the BIA is funded and does not represent the businesses in uptown Waterloo. I believe as well there are safety issues at Caroline and Erb with the bike lanes, ION route, and cars. This mess was created by these planners and why would I have any confidence in them now. The 2 Ward councilors need to return constituents phone calls and respond to them. The two councilors in Waterloo clearly show they have no leadership skills. They actually responded to one of friends e-mail which was a lecture and clearly showed they did not want to listen to an opposing view. I was in business for over 50 years and achieved my MBA in my 60s, I am in my 70s, I have never seen such arrogance from council where metrics are made up, there is a failure to consult and engage with their constituents, or gain trust and buy in. I have no confidence in this engagement process because the special interest group will flood social media. A good question to ask what problem are you trying to solve. So far in this forum there is no clear problem statement. Also, the council of Waterloo needs to learn they do not rule us they serve us.

SeniorWestmount over 1 year ago

My comment was remo0ved by the moderator because it expressed concerns about this project. I have an interest in a business in uptown Waterloo and the traffic has been reduced our business revenue by 70% in the uptown area by the introduction of temporary bike lanes and the closing of Willis Way. The moderator does not like when I tried to hold Jaworsky and Tenille responsible for this fiasco. I also pointed out that the bike lanes did not bring the expected traffic to our business. The downtown business improvement association is sponsored by the City of Waterloo and has former politicians on its board and does not actually represent businesses. I agree that the Iron horse trail could use improvements and it is used by cyclists. The bike lanes on Caroline and are not used at all and the ones up on King Street. The moderator does not like when we repeat the nicknames that are on other posts that are commonly used for these politicians by the neighbours and colleagues. These politicans who do not answer constituent e-mails, lecture constiuents, and phone calls are arrogant. I am trying to hold them accountable. i am also sick and tired that the metrics for justifying the slow streets and bike lanes were not there. A recent report in the Waterloo Chronicle suggested 7.4 million people use alternative transportation. This does not pass the smell test. The concrete jungle created for the millenium square was opposed by most of the business in uptown Waterloo. I am afraid that the same thing will happen to downtown Waterloo as it did in Kitchener and Victoria Park. I owned a business in downtown Kitchener that was forced to close because of this pedestrian nonsense. What replaced our businesses was drug addicts, vagrants and sex-workers. The once vibrant down town Kitchener was ruined by politicians who killed these business and I am sorry I do not want to see the same happen to Waterloo and Moderator I believe I have the right to say this.

JoLogicCommonSense over 1 year ago

Removed by moderator.

JoLogicCommonSense over 1 year ago

I second some of the other comments that were favourable of the Stantec report: there are some good proposals in there for shared space and improving connectivity, particularly the connection between the Laurel Trail and the Iron Horse. Whether walking or cycling, the path is a little meandering to get to the other side of Uptown, and often I end up dumped on the ION tracks, which is probably unsafe for everyone. I would like to see a more natural, direct, and attractive pathway between Caroline and Regina, and some more tree shading on the parts of the trail east of Regina. I also agree that it would be cool to uncover some of Laurel Creek for some natural waterways to walk along in Uptown, but I also understand that may be challenging to do now considering how built up it is.

JacobT over 1 year ago

I would really like to see the Laurel Trail between Caroline and Regina made into a greenway. It would be amazing if parts of Laurel Creek through the mall parking lot could be uncovered as part of this project. I agree with the other commenters that the connection between the Laurel Trail and Iron Horse Trail needs improving, as well as the pedestrian and cycle connections between Willis, Father David Bower, and Willis Way Station - especially more pedestrian crossings.

Andrew K over 1 year ago

In principle, some nice ideas. However, we already have bike lanes that are not utilized, a transportation system that only services a portion of the community (LRT), and limited parking opportunities - all within a time when businesses in the area are failing and closing - so spending funds to create "shared roadways" and even more obstacles for people to actually come to the City Centre to support the local businesses - it doesn't make financial or economic sense to me.

Bren over 1 year ago

This is a crucial active transportation corridor through uptown Waterloo. I hope that any construction will be careful about maintaining access during the transition period, or providing clear and safe alternative pathways.

paulb over 1 year ago

All nice ideas in principle.

However, in light of the pandemic and the difficulty is has put on municipal budgets, I would strongly suggest the most prudent thing to do is NOT spend money on non necessary features and functions at this time.

Frustrating for all, but prudent financial leadership.

Elwood over 1 year ago

I like the feel and direction of the Stantec report.

I really do not like that the two key trails in Uptown dump the user onto streets. Developing Willis way into a bike/path dominant use lends itself to natural and easy wayfinding. How about an woonerf inspired desire where cars are the guest? Cars can still access the parking garages and parking spots but the street is designed for walkers and cyclists. Maybe the street could be one-way for cars, but two-way for cyclists?
I would also like the City to think about how Father David Bauer (FDB) meets Caroline. Cyclists coming from the Dawson St catwalk get "dumped" onto FDB which has no bike lanes or obvious signage to say the road is shared. Then FDB ends at Caroline without a good option to continue eastwards to King St or Laurel Trail other than a zigzag over the tracks to make a left onto Willis. Needless to say a cyclist waiting to make a left onto Willis is high risk of being rear ended. Could there not be an option to create a safe crossing from Iron Horse? Move the zigzag motion onto the multi-use path?

Cycling from the back alley behind Home Hardware to Erb/Caroline interchange (to reach the Iron Horse trail) has horrible wayfinding. There is no paint, no signs, and various curbs and rails to avoid. Which side of the rails should I bike on? You can tell from the desire line through the greenery at the SE corner of Erb/Caroline that there is a desire for a direct path from the parking lot to the intersection, so make one!

I have no opinion about a shade structure in Waterloo Square. We have always been able to find shade on the steps, but a piece of large sculptural art would be nice; could double as a shade structure. I'm not concerned about it attracting homeless people.

I liked the partial closing of Willis Way this summer. I think it should be a thing that happens every summer.

The way Laurel ends at Weber is awful. The way finding is non-existent.

The Ion tracks are fine and not unsightly.

TraceFossil over 1 year ago

Sadly my page glitched and I lost most of my written suggestion for this project.

I strongly urge review of the stretch of Spur Line between William and Laurel trail. This trail section currently gives a suburban strip-mall impression of sweeping lawns and large, featureless parking lots. Wind and blowing snow off of these open spaces in the winter creates an area that must be suffered & endured, not enjoyed. Review of the 6 permit spaces used by city staff (alongside the trail/tracks) and of the lawn (south of the trail and west of William, owned by the region) for landscape improvements, framing, and potentially gateway features would allow for better connections not only to the lush greenspace along the spur line trail, but to the large and feature-rich mary allen park only one block further. It's surprising that this trail section is not included in the strategy and it seems to be in danger of disconnected infrastructure falling through the cracks. Improvements to this stretch would be very much in line with all of the goals noted in the strategy, and it is part of the study area.

I've been very pleased with the closure of willis and princess, and hope to see permanent or seasonal closures again in the future. I also appreciate the increased bike infrastructure uptown on erb, king, etc.

Other proposed features to improve pedestrian experience are appreciated. Thanks for the work you've done, and looking forward to the rest of this project.

Nik Schmidt over 1 year ago

There's so much content here that I love! Two other problems that I didn't see addressed are i) noise level in UpTown caused by drivers exploding their engines, and ii) wildlife crossing at Bridgeport Rd & Laurel Trail.

CamDavidsonPilon over 1 year ago

Wilis Way & Caroline St corner is difficult when going north on a bike. Take a good look at that

Wanderer over 1 year ago

It's been an absolute dream having Willis Way closed for the summer. What a gift to pedestrians and bikers who so often are pushed to the margins of public spaces (with so much space devoted to roads!). Thank you for the work you have done and are doing to create a more active, vibrant downtown space that prioritizes pedestrians and bikers. More shade would be a huge boon, and maintaining the walkability of willis way would go a long way to fostering a vibrant uptown.

kmccann over 1 year ago

I think the closing of Willis Way is a big mistake. The bike lanes on Erb St and the having to make a longer left turn on Father David Bauer Dr already cause big time bottle necks. Willis Way was their to aid in the ease and flow of traffic. As it stands, with it closed, I now have either avoided this area or cut through the parking lot behind Value Mart along with many other drivers. I do agree though that the ION tracks are very unsightly and look more industrial than welcoming though. Sculptures or something put up that can take away from the ION lines maybe. Would take more thought and looking at other countries to see what they have done to minimize their light rail. The concern with putting up a structure at Waterloo Town Square out front is you will attract the homeless. More police would be needed to patrol this area then. I have to look at google maps to see the rest of these areas to get a better picture of the other areas in the study. Could the Glass and Clay Gallery maybe be commissioned to do art maybe... just a thought.. in the area by its location.

cancancer 72 over 1 year ago

Fine idea. But it would be a better use of funds to add green areas around the dead/concrete blocks of buildings along King Street from Union Street north

becauseitmatters over 1 year ago

Such a great project--especially shade in the square!!

Susan Bryant over 1 year ago

I hate that this section just ends at Weber. It’s incredibly dangerous, a very busy road, and it just ends, nothing continues across Weber. The city maps say the “trail” continues, but it’s a confusing warren of residential streets full of people who are not watching for pedestrians or cyclists (and are often irrationally angry at their existence), and unless I have my maps out it’s easy to get lost.
I would use this section to get from my house in uptown to my job at manulife but this section is just scary especially with a bike trailer full of kids.

Marguerite over 1 year ago
Page last updated: 01 Dec 2021, 08:42 AM