I have lived in Cambridge for 6 years now and I’ve always noted the feeling that something was off. The fact that this city is comprised of 3 different communities has always been a challenge for creating cohesiveness. One of the challenges of this amalgamated city is that Hespeler Road was developed without much forethought and vision put into it’s planning as it primarily served as a way of connecting Galt and Hespeler. Mall upon mall was built around a lot of the cruft that existed between our 3 communities since all 3 had their own separate downtown cores.
Flea markets and car dealerships are typically found on the edges of most towns, yet in Cambridge we have them pretty much at the geographical centre of the city. The flea market is an absolute eyesore and it’s something people traveling from out of town drive past to get to the Cambridge Centre and our other shopping destinations. The large Chrysler dealership lot sits overgrown with weeds. The lot at the end of the block sits empty and for sale.
What I’m proposing is that the city work to redevelop this land. The whole block from Dunbar to the Can-Amera Parkway along Hespeler Road is either vacant or an easily relocated in the case of flea market. Otherwise only the Volkswagen dealership and Pioneer gas station are functioning businesses along this huge strip of land. This is a huge area that is essentially wasted potential for our community as a whole.
Consider if we took this land and created a proper transit hub that our city could really use. Make space so Grand River Transit, Greyhound and Go Transit could co-exist. We could solve the sad Greyhound station on Industrial Road where people wait in front of a factory to catch a bus. Moving the GRT hub across the street isn’t a huge change and makes it easy for people taking a bus to leave the city with Go Transit or Greyhound without much hassle.
Then we could create civic space to hold events. So often we see things like the carnival or circus coming to town and setting up shop in the Cambridge Centre parking lot. Why not create a space that can naturally hold these type of events. Being adjacent to the mall offers lots of parking for people, then having the transit hub right there makes it easy to catch the bus and come to an event. Make an area where you could have a picnic. Make it so there is something else other than strip malls and parking lots along Hespeler Road.
How great would it be if the Christmas and Canada Day parades had room to include planned outdoor events, like a vendors market before and a concert afterwards? There aren’t many residential spaces around in the immediate vicinity so there isn’t much cause for noise issues. What about hosting a food truck festival or any number of other events that could be run using this newly found space? The possibilities are endless.
The part I love most about this idea is how it could serve as a unifying space. It’s not Galt, Preston or Hespeler, but genuine Cambridge space. A space that is at the centre of the community and doesn’t aim to detract from each individual downtown. Make this the core that Cambridge has long been missing, a place that people from across our community can access and enjoy.
Sure there are lots of obstacles to overcome with this plan when it comes to displacing businesses, land acquisition and potential contamination of those properties, but all those things can be overcome. I put this idea out there merely to get the gears moving. Put the idea in people’s heads that we can have something better than the current state of Hespeler Road.