Some of the Civicplan team had the recent opportunity to visit beautiful downtown Cambridge, Ontario.
The revitalization along the banks of the Grand River was impressive with many historic buildings being brought back to life including the home of the University of Waterloo Architecture School. The economic spin-off from the university campus is very evident in the immediate vicinity on both sides of the river with many businesses catering to students and staff from the school.
One particularly interesting redevelopment project is the renovation of the historic post office as part of the Idea Exchange, an innovative network of libraries and galleries across the region.
The Post Office Project, “will be a space for creative minds to gather – to tinker, code, bend, sketch, fabricate and build. The revitalized building will be a place for makers, creators, learners and readers of all ages. From 3D printers to recording suites to a teen performance space, this will be the learning lab and entrepreneurial hub of the city.”
Cambridge has done an impressive job of using public investment in civic assets and economic development infrastructure to spur the physical revitalization of historic spaces that form the core of an urban area. The Cambridge approach to the use (and reuse) of historic buildings for the information and creative economy aligns with previous urban research we have conducted that showed the clustering of creative industries in highly walkable, older downtown locations with more heritage urban fabric.
The Idea Exchange could be the foundation of a precinct plan for downtown Cambridge that could further transform this urban area and create an even more vibrant community. Similar to our award-winning study for a performing arts district in downtown Hamilton, enacting a strategic vision has the potential for economic development through creative place-making in our urban centres.
We’ll leave the last word to Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig who notes, “[The Post Office is] going to be one of the finest architectural buildings in Ontario once it’s done. It’s a marriage of the past and the future with regards to where we’re going as a community.”