School of Architecture: Economic Spin-Offs in Cambridge

Friends of Downtown Cambridge,

Dr. Anne Bordeleau is speaking to Cambridge City Council on Tuesday evening, July 16, 2019 at 6:30pm and I would like to ask you to come out and hear her speak. She is asking Council to confirm their commitment to an expansion to the School of Architecture. With Council’s backing, it will be much easier for her and the University to seek funding from the Provincial and Federal governments. Please join us and add your voice to those who support the City’s financial contribution to the School’s expansion plans.

Architecture students are notoriously quiet and the School doesn’t make a big splash in our City but its economic and cultural impact are hugely significant. In many ways, the arrival of the School in downtown Cambridge in 2008 was as impactful as the arrival of Toyota in Cambridge in 1986. It has changed the way we see ourselves and added a tremendous economic boost to the community.

As an architect I am very much aware of the School’s cultural influence in our community and beyond. The University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture is arguably the best of its kind in Canada and one of the top undergraduate design schools in the world. The number of people worldwide who have heard of, or visited Cambridge, because of the School’s location is enormous. An institution of higher learning provides so many intangible benefits to our City, it would take a whole other email to list them. 

I want to outline the direct, sustained and positive economic impact that the School has on our community.

Recently I heard someone say, “Why should my heard-earned municipal tax dollars go to architecture students who probably won’t even stay in the community when they graduate?”. It’s a fair question. And we should be confident that an investment by our citizens in something like this can expect a good return. It makes sense that if our tax dollars are spent on expanding the School of Architecture we get something in return. And it truly is an investment. As I try to point our below, the returns that we receive as a community by investing in this institution would be almost impossible to achieve in any other way. 

 The cost of a university education far exceeds the amount of money a student pays in tuition. Universities are very expensive institutions and our government subsidizes a large percentage of a the cost of educating a student. Much of that money is spent on salaries of faculty and staff as well as operating and maintaining a large facility and organization. Much of that money is spent in the community in which the institution is located.

 I would like to make the point today that there are few, if any, places to spend our tax dollars that will return as much benefit as an investment in an institution of higher learning in our City. People, employment and investment are literally the lifeblood of any community. Attracting and keeping people, jobs and investment in a City is the key to a healthy community. Conversely, when people, jobs and investment leave, the affects can be devastating. As we all have noticed, Downtown Cambridge has struggled for many years and has not attracted the same amount of new residents, shoppers and investors as Waterloo, Kitchener, Guelph or Hamilton. For whatever reason, our downtown has been a particular unappealing place for growth for many years. This, despite the enormous economic boom we have been experiencing these past few years in the Region.

 For this reason, we need to be as welcoming and nurturing as possible with our current and future economic drivers. The School of Architecture is here now with its millions of dollars of yearly economic spinoffs. Let’s make sure that it stays, and if it want to expand, let’s give it as much help as possible. There are many other communities that would love to have this opportunity.

 I am not an urban economist. But I am very familiar with the School of Architecture. I am also a landlord in the downtown as well as member of the Board of the BIA. I personally see and experience the economic impact of the School in very personal ways. It would be a worthwhile exercise for the City to do a quick study to understand the purely economic benefits benefits that the School brings to our community. To help that process along, I thought that I would suggest a basic outline: 

 School of Architecture: Economic Spin-Offs in Cambridge

 There are four main sources of capital injections into the local area from a post secondary institution such as the School of Architecture:

 1. Student spending: Rent, meals, groceries, supplies, etc.

2. Employment: Staff and faculty (high paying, full and part time jobs.

3. Purchases of goods and services by the institution: Trades, suppliers, caterers, event planning, etc.

4. Visitors to the community: Parents, critics, visiting faculty, lecturers, etc. 

 1. Student Spending: $4.8M

In terms of economic impact, students can be seen as low paid workers. As a landlord, I have benefited from the School of Architecture. There are an average of 400 full time students in attendance year round at the school, 80% (320) of whom live in local rental accommodation, at an average rent of $625 monthly ($7,500/year). This alone equals $2.4M in rental payments injected into the local property market in a given year. 

 As a parent who has put six kids through post secondary education, I am also very much aware of what else kids can spend money on. Conservatively estimated, a college or university student spends at least as much on food and other expenses each month as they do on rent. Groceries, furniture, haircuts, coffee shops, restaurant meals, etc., add up to at least another $2.4M, much of it spent in the downtown and local area.

 All told, architecture students (or should I say their parents) contribute at least $4.8M of direct spending in the City of Cambridge, a proportionate share of this makes its way back into City coffers as property taxes.

 2. Employment: Staff and faculty: High paying, full and part time jobs: $1.25M

The School has over twenty full time faculty positions and many more part time positions, as well as ten administrative staff and a full compliment of maintenance personnel. This equals approximately 40 full time equivalent positions. In the core area, only City Hall and Regional staff exceed these numbers. These are high quality, well-paid and permanent positions. An increasing number of School employees are also purchasing property in the area and have made Cambridge their home. As with any other employer, these workers spend much of their money in our City. It is difficult to put a dollar figure on this but even half of these employees (20) are local and they spend half their salary ($100,000/2) in the community, this would add up to $1.0M.

 3. Purchases of goods and services by the Institution: Trades, suppliers, caterers, event planning, etc.: $1.0M

Like any organization, an institution such as the School of Architecture consumes a variety of goods and services on a daily basis. Coffee and catering, stationary supplies, maintenance contractors for mechanical, electrical and tech, snow clearers, landscapers, security personnel, are all among the many people whose livelihood depends at least partly on the School's needs. Many of these suppliers of goods and services are individuals and firms located right here in our City. Again, it would require a good deal of work to put a precise figure on this economic gain to the community, but it would be likely more than $1M.

 4. Visitors to the community: Parents, critics, visiting faculty, lecturers, etc.: $1.0M 

At the beginning of each term parents and the relatives bring their offspring to Cambridge for the start of school. They often stay a night or two at a local hotel or bed and breakfast, as well as eat meals locally. Lecture series are held, faculty, professionals and administrators visit regularly and often. They also need to be fed and housed. All told, it wouldn’t surprise me if this added up to over five hundred overnight stays and twice that many meals eaten locally. Converted to dollars, this would equal over $1.0M spent annually in the community.

 Total cash into the City of Cambridge from the School of Architecture to the City of Cambridge: $8.05M per year.

As an optimist and a big fan of the School, perhaps I have unconsciously exaggerated some of these items. But even if they are half of what I suggest, this is a significant amount of money coming into this community each year. It is certainly enough to give the City confidence to financially and politically support a School expansion. I challenge anyone to find an investment that the City could make that will produce anywhere near the same sustained, positive economic impact for our City, particularly in the urban core. 

 Lastly, I would like to make the case that the City should see this as not just an opportunity for a one time injection of capital, but this should also be seen as a chance to build a case for this community to become a true Design Centre. There is nothing stopping us, other than negativity, from promoting our community as a place where other design-related firms and organizations can come. We have the School of Architecture, we have Cornerstone Interiors, we have the Art of Home, we have an extraordinary system of library galleries. We also have many talented local artists and designers working among us, many associated with the textile industry that formed the backbone of this City. Why not a non-profit Galt School of Design, like the Dundas Valley School of Art? Why not start conversations with the School of Landscape Architecture in Guelph, and the interior design program at Conestoga College. With just a little more effort, we can make this community a true design destination.

 In the end, the question isn’t so much: “Do we as a City want to support the School of Architecture"? With all that this entity brings to our City, I cannot imagine how we would not want to. The question is rather: “What else can we do to strengthen this amazing institution and build upon it’s success?"

 Thanks for listening. Please circulate this message to others who you feel would be supportive. I look forward to seeing you at Tuesday’s meeting.

 Patrick Simmons OAA, RAIC, LEED AP

Martin Simmons Architects

Cambridge needs development exemption around LRT

Published Letter to the Editor

The LRT has helped create a core development boom in Kitchener and Waterloo.

A development charge exemption may no longer be needed to spur downtown core development. We sincerely wish that Cambridge was in that position as well!

Personally, when I first heard about the idea of the LRT coming to our region, I was a skeptic; this skepticism continued until I visited one of the first LRT public information sessions held in Cambridge.

As I walked around the room trying to absorb the future vision laid out, my attitude quickly changed. I left that meeting with an understanding that the LRT was about much more than transportation, it was a tool to transform our cities and stimulate development around a central spine. The potential development benefits, particularly for our core areas, became paramount in my new-found support for the LRT.

This vision appears to be coming true in spades for Kitchener and Waterloo. Cambridge really needs the LRT so we can also experience some of the key development benefits.

Continuing a core area development exemption for Cambridge will improve the LRT business case by increasing the density of residents and jobs, as well as increasing transit ridership. We understand that this is the City of Cambridge’s position, and we endorse it completely.

In a spirit of fairness, we ask our regional council for support on this exemption, at least until Cambridge gets ION Phase 2.

Dan Clements
Citizens for Cambridge

Citizens for Cambridge Founder honoured for contributions with 2019 Waterloo Volunteer Impact Award

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Dan Clements, Past President of Citizens for Cambridge, was recently presented a Grassroots Involvement Award at the 14th Annual Volunteer Impact Awards Gala dinner celebration.

This award recognizes a community leader who has gone out of his way to bring people together to address issues related to the well-being of their community.

The Gala was held at Bingeman’s Park in Kitchener. Dan had the honour of delivering an acceptance speech to a supportive crowd of committed community volunteers and leaders, as well as civic leaders.

Smart Waterloo Region submits final application to the Federal Government’s Smart Cities Challenge

We have enjoyed participating in the Smart Waterloo Region initiative.

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The goal is to become the benchmark community in Canada for child and youth well-being by using early intervention, youth engagement and a connected-community framework to create adaptive, data-driven programs and scalable learning technologies that improve early child development, mental health and high school graduation rates.

Here are some compliments to all citizens who participated:

“We are truly grateful for all of the feedback we received from residents, partners, and children and youth. All input on engagement, solution development, and creative ideas directly informed our application. We couldn’t have put together such a visionary application without your contributions – thank you!” . . . from the Smart Waterloo Region Team.

Ending chronic homelessness by 2020 - free public forum being held on May 29 at Cambridge City Hall

Waterloo Region has a plan to house community members who have been homeless and struggling with the most complex needs for the longest period of time.  The goal is to end chronic homelessness by 2020. 

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How did we get here?
Why does this issue matter to the health of our city? 
Why should you care? 
Is this even possible?

Join Citizens for Cambridge on May 29th to learn more about the challenge, how the Region, City and local social service agencies are working together and the part we each have to play in building a brighter future for all. 

We look forward to seeing you at the meeting!

New insights into the intersecting challenges of Healthcare and Opioids, discussed by community leaders.

We attended the Chamber of Commerce "Good Morning Cambridge" Breakfast - A Conversation on Healthcare, Opioids and Our Community. The meeting featured Lynn Perry Executive Director of the Bridges, Regional Councillor Helen Jowett and Cambridge Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Gaskin.

Emergency visits up 50%

A very informative discussion revealed that to date CMH emergency has seen nearly a 50% increase in opiod related visits over 2018. Lynn Perry related that the Bridges has worked hard to improve relations with EMS, with whom they depend on in partnership and the presence of an EMS vehicle doesn't necessarily mean an emergency - it could mean planning, training, or a social visit to build trust with residents and staff who must collaborate smoothly during emergencies.

Overdoses are changing shelter roles dramatically

Six years ago there was never an overdose, but now it is a regular and all too frequent occurrence. The necessary training and skills required of Bridges staff is significant and expensive. Dealing with the stress of finding someone unconscious and blue, then the adrenalin rush of fighting to save them is now an occupational hazard requiring careful management and support.

All services becoming stressed out

Helen Jowett related the need for and difficulty in finding additional police and EMS staff to replace the number of employees on LTD stress leave which has recently grown from 12 to 18%.

Community can remove Stigma as a barrier to success

Lynn Perry discussed how to reduce the stigma that is a barrier for those navigating disability, by chosing words carefully and acting respectfully towards people facing challenges. She appealed to the chamber audience by talking about managing mental health issues from a health and safety perspective. Lynn reminded the audience of the Bridges primary mission, to work hard each and every day to sustain sobriety and to provide the tools and training to sustain housing.

CMH rebuild prevents hosting CTS, no Ontario hospitals do

Patrick spoke of the CMH focus on meeting community needs and that despite this during the current construction and follow on rehabilitation and upgrade of wing B, there just isn't space to accommodate a Consumption and Treatment clinic. He also noted that none of Ontario's 21 current and 15 recently approved clinics are located in a hospital.

Online tests show nearly anyone at risk for addiction

Helen Jowett spoke about the determinants or risk factors for opioid dependency mentioning that there are simple tests on the internet that are a real eye opener regarding who can be affected. Each of us may be only one unfortunate event away from addiction.

CMH and Stonehenge place Peer Worker in Emergency Department

Patrick also spoke about how a partnership with Stonehenge Therapeutic has placed a peer worker with lived experience and street involvement in CMH's Emergency Dept 5 days per week to support people and their families in an overdose crisis while assisting and training hospital staff in caring effectively for this special needs population.

GRCA challenged by rough living

Helen spoke about the challenges faced by the GRCA in dealing with campers living rough and how they will simply pick up and move to another location out of view.

Prevention starts in schools and funding beyond property taxes needed

Helen noted that childhood trauma is a frequent underlying cause of addictive behavior and so intervention on signs of trauma evident in elementary schools needs emphasis. In order to fund the necessary resources, we need sources beyond property taxes.

Community support urgently needed

All spoke of the need for a positive community response. Lynn Perry appealed to everyone for donations to support the Bridges in this expensive and resource demanding work which has significantly increased costs which depend on community donations. Helen noted that the community needs to come along and be supportive as the best success factor will be that "we are all in".

Durocher thanks all who deal with this crisis on our behalf

Greg Durocher thanked all speakers and especially Lynn Perry and the Bridges staff, EMS personnel, and CMH emergency staff for battling on the front lines of this community crisis serving our citizens navigating disability.

HHUG is helping end chronic homelessness in Cambridge, rooming spaces are needed

Wellbeing Waterloo Region was formed with the goal of making transformative and large scale change for chronic homelessness. This is only possible when the whole community works together in new ways. ALL IN 2020 supports the excellent work being done by local service agencies by creating more awareness and mobilizing increased resources.

Are you wondering if you have a room or space in your home that might help, but are not sure where to start?

Learn from the experts. Attend a free public information session! Topics include:

  • How to make it legal - zoning, building code etc.

  • Funding available to help pay for build-out

  • Business case for in-law (secondary) suites

Date: April 24th, 2019
Time: 7:00 P.M.-9:00 P.M.
Where: Cambridge City Hall-Bowman Room

For more information, contact the Homelessness Housing Umbrella Group (HHUG) at or 519-749-8305 ext. 1417

150 Main Street dropped as CTS candidate, new location for Cambridge being sought

Public Health has released it’s report and recommendations for Consumption Treatment Site locations in Waterloo Region. The report will be presented to the Community Services Committee of Regional Council on Tuesday, April 9th. Information about this meeting can be found on the Region of Waterloo website.

The key recommendations to Regional Council include:

“That the Regional Municipality of Waterloo take the following actions regarding Consumption and Treatment Services in Waterloo Region:

  1. Seek approval from the City of Kitchener to support an application to the provincial government for funding to operate Consumption and Treatment Services at the location of 150 Duke Street West, Kitchener.

  2. Pending approval from the City of Kitchener, submit an application to Health Canada for a Federal exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act allowing for the legal operation of supervised consumption services at the location of 150 Duke Street West, Kitchener; and submit an application to the provincial government for funding of capital and operating costs for Consumption and Treatment Services at the location of 150 Duke Street West, Kitchener.

  3. Continue to work with City of Cambridge staff and council to identify an alternative site that meets provincial and federal program criteria for Consumption and Treatment Services in as timely a manner as possible.

  4. When an alternative location has been identified by the City of Cambridge staff and Council and Public Health; proceed with consultation on the new location using the same methodology as per PHE-IDS-19-02.”