On January 25, 2018 the Mt. Hope – Breithaupt Park Neighbourhood Association held our first public forum of 2018 called “Approachable Density”. This featured Robin Mazumder, a doctoral candidate in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo and Craig Beattie from Perimeter Development group.
MHBPNA Co-Chair Levi Oakey played a key role in organizing this and other forums because “we wanted to help bring neighbours together and challenge everyone to see their neighbourhood through a different lens. Our first forum was an attempt to see a more humane way of building a neighbourhood through good design that would bring people together rather than separate them.”
Approachable Density took place in Workplace One at the Breithaupt Block and demand exceeded our expectations! The room can seat 30 – 40 comfortably and the event “sold out” on Eventbrite a couple of weeks before it began. Many Neighbourhood Association events are held at the Breithaupt Centre and we wanted to try holding these forums in other places around the community, but it has been difficult to find public space.
Robin’s research is inspired by his passion for urbanism as well as his front line experience working as an occupational therapist (OT) in mental health. He graduated with his Master’s in Occupational Therapy from the University of Toronto in 2011. He worked with discharging patients and understood that city design impacted mental wellness. Robin saw how many people were lonely and when walking through their neighbourhoods with “cookie cutter houses” and poor transit, sociability was adversely impacted. Robin mentioned “Happy City” by Charles Montgomery as a book that influenced his thinking. Previously Mazumder has stated “People are becoming increasingly urbanized and moving to cities, and we have to start building cities and design them in ways that promote wellness and happiness”.
Craig Beattie originally came to Waterloo Region through his work with the Waterloo Town Square. In that development, Craig’s work at the square earned him an Urban Land Institute Award as one of the top projects in North America. Craig discussed “why design matters” and analyzed several buildings to discuss what worked and what did not. For example, Absolute Towers in Mississauga won many design awards and look great from a distance but up close the design falls apart. When Craig and Perimeter Development proposed removing the parking from in front of Waterloo Town Square and creating an urban space there was resistance from the merchants. But over the past few years the former parking lot has transformed into a space for events and is used every day.
Both speakers received many questions and the audience was engaged throughout the evening. We thank everyone who came out and apologize there was not more room. This event highlights the need for more community space in our neighbourhood.
MHBPNA has initiated a development committee to engage with the city and developers about planning within our neighbourhood. We also want to provide more information about engagement meetings, developments, government and citizen interactions and many other pieces of information that are often lost.