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'The missing piece': Regional councillors approve $19.75 million land deal for new transit hub

The plaza on the left makes up part of the property purchased Tuesday by the Region of Waterloo. The region already owns the land where the encampment is currently located. (Chris Thomson/CTV Kitchener) The plaza on the left makes up part of the property purchased Tuesday by the Region of Waterloo. The region already owns the land where the encampment is currently located. (Chris Thomson/CTV Kitchener)
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The Region of Waterloo is moving ahead with a major land purchase it says will be used as part of its new transit hub in Kitchener.

Regional councillors approved buying a property at the corner of Duke and Victoria streets – with a price tag of $19.75 million – at Tuesday’s special council meeting.

Discussion of the sale took place at a closed-door meeting before the final vote.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says the new purchase includes the plaza between Duke Street and the plot of regionally-owned land where a large encampment currently sits.

“In terms of the overall land holdings that the region already has between Weber Street and King Street along Victoria, this really was the missing piece, and that really will allow for a more full-scale major transit development going forward,” he said.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says development at the site "isn’t imminent" and the region will work with tenants. (Chris Thomson/CTV Kitchener)

In 2022, the region launched a court case, seeking an injunction to clear the encampment and make way for construction of the transit hub.

But in a precedent setting decision, the judge ruled that because the region did not have adequate shelter spaces, evicting encampment residents would violate their charter rights to life, liberty and security.

The construction timeline for the new transit hub remains unclear, as does what will happen to businesses in the plaza.

“The region will continue to work with those tenants as far as the lease agreements that they have in place. And any sort of development on that site isn’t imminent and that’s something that will be worked on in the coming months,” Vrbanovic said.

In 2020, the region released renderings of what the transit hub could look like.

The plan included a GO Train and VIA Rail station, with connections to the LRT, Grand River Transit buses and nearby multi-use trails.

In an emailed statement on Tuesday, regional chair Karen Redman said: “This is an exciting and critical piece of land that will expand opportunities for development as we build the Kitchener Central Transit Hub. This area will serve as a welcoming gateway to Waterloo Region, helping residents access transit and active transportation options as they live, work, and play across our communities.”

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