"A High Tech Vertex" Waterloo by mikey_e

Waterloo Travel Guide: 52 reviews and 103 photos

You work where?

For some reason, whenever I tell people back home in Toronto (all of 75 minutes away) that I work in Waterloo, they seem astonished. Then it hits them that Waterloo has, in the last 10 or 15 years, redeveloped itself quite successfully from a city dependent largely on industry, manufacturing and processing of raw goods into a high-tech city (supposedly). This is largely thanks to the University of Waterloo, which has world-renown engineering and computer science programs that have given rise to numerous successful high-tech companies. One of the most famous is RIM - that's right, it wasn't manna from heaven that was converted into your blackberry. The company that makes blackberries is based here and thanks to its two founders - Lazaridis and Balsillie - many other companies and hi-tech thinkers have come to set up shop in Waterloo.

Contrasts, contrasts

Waterloo is rather funny in that way. When I first thought of Waterloo, I thought of the Universities (I knew a few people who graduated from Waterloo) and then I thought of Kitchener. After all, isn't Waterloo just part of Kitchener? In some ways, yes, but the city of Waterloo has been quite aggressive in distinguishing itself from its poorer, less gifted neighbour over the last few years. The desire of many skilled professionals to live near where they work has helped to raise property prices in Waterloo while they fell in Kitchener, and it has led to redevelopment of much of the city. Luckily, shrewd planning has allowed for the preservation of many of the historic factory buildings, such as the Seagram's building (the people who make Crown Royal whiskey), which is where I work. This has led to a much more gentrified townthan would be initially expected, and has helped preserve some of the beauty and interesting architecture of the town.

Sometimes differences appear greater than they are

The thing is, you see, Kitchener and Waterloo aren't all that much different. Sure, wealthier people live in Waterloo than in Kitchener, and that leads to better services and more expensive stores. But the fact remains that tastes are largely the same and the distinction is very much artificial. You won't find good restaurants, bars, nightclubs or galleries in either city, and the only difference between Waterloo and Kitchener in many aspects are prices inflated by corporate accounts. Waterloo will soon host Stephen Hawkins at the Perimeter Institute, and it has hosted famous students of economics and political science at other think tanks and university departments. But the town is still a big fish in a small pond, and its cultural and social scenes don't quite compete with those of Toronto or Montreal. In all, this is a great place to do business - but living here can be a bit of a challenge for the cosmopolitan set.

  • Last visit to Waterloo: Jan 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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  • Mar 9, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    It is pretty crazy how quickly building pop up. There only used to be a couple of houses around me, and now the amount has doubled! I can't even keep up with them. There are some guys finishing up with the shutters on a house right now.



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