Cambridge – why you should seriously consider moving here

Cambridge is made up of three smaller areas- Galt, Preston and Hespler. Each has its own personality, but all share a history and charm found only in small towns. Cambridge is part of Waterloo Region, and just a short jaunt down the 401 (or on some nice country roads).  Here’s our top reasons why we love Cambridge:

 

The natural landscape – The Grand River flows right through Cambrdige and provides some of the loveliest landscapes. Home to rare charitable reserve other trails maintained by the Grand River Conservation Authority, you can easily be immersed in nature all year around. There are many restaurants, businesses and homes along the river with stunning views.

 

The architecture – The University of Waterloo built their School of architecture here for a good reason! The school is housed in the former Riverside Silk Mill along the banks of the Grand River and Cambridge is home to many designated heritage buildings and sites. Cambridge has a history of being an industry area, with a focus on textiles. In fact, Hespeler was developed primarily with this in mind. During the Depression of the 1930’s, one of the largest mills, Dominion Woollens and Worsteds, made sure that at least one member of each family living in Hespeler was employed at the mill. During the Second World War, with much of its workforce on military duty, Dominion Woollens recruited young women from across Canada. Many of these women continued to work and live in the community long after the war ended and today some of the original mills are still standing, as are many of the workers homes.

 

The arts scene – The City of Cambridge has recently had an arts explosion. The public library system rebranded itself as Idea Exchange and does so much cool stuff. From pop up taco stands to seed libraries and so much more, the Idea Exchange always has something cool going on and in every part of Cambridge. Cambridge also has many galleries, live theatre, music venues and tons of creative people from all walks of life.

 

Small town charm, big city ideas – Cambridge prides itself on having a small town charm where neighbors know each other and community is a strong value. However, we know Cambridge has some big plans ahead. The City is part of the Region’s Light Rapid Transit plan, is building a community multiplex and has plans for new architectural features and public art throughout the downtown cores.  Not to mention all of the big city amenities nearby such as 3 large universities, Conestoga College, proximity to the 401 and

 

The homes – many of the homes have a historic feel, built by Scottish masons that originally came to the area more than 100 years ago. Some homes are even closer to 200 years old. There are converted homes that have a rich story to tell and many ready for the right person to put their decorative touches on. Take a self-guided walking tour and enjoy the visual and historical splendors.

 

Langdon Hall – Tucked away in the woods just outside of the city is the internationally acclaimed Langdon Hall.  This was the historical estate and summer home to a wealthy American family and only became the hotel in 1987. Langdon Hall is open for visitors to stroll the gardens, dine in the fine restaurant and enjoy the luxurious spa. There are also many special events, such as garden tours, archery lessons and cooking demonstrations.

There really is nowhere else like Cambridge and it is worth exploring if you are considering a move in Waterloo Region. 

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Breweries in Kitchener Waterloo

Waterloo Region is historically famous for beer and whisky making. Many years ago there was a Labatt plant and the Seagram distillery, both of which closed in the early ‘90s. Craft breweries keep popping up across the Region and here’s a list of our favorites! As always, please let us know what we’re missing.

 

Descendants – Located on Victoria Street, this brewery has such a great community vibe with events almost every night of the week including Family Fun Days on Sundays.  They boast a “European-style bierhalle with a full bar, eatery, and a retail shop with cans, bottles, and growler fills and merchandise”.

 

Innocente – Voted Waterloo Region’s Favorite Craft Brewery for 2016 and named after Head Brewer, Steve Innocente, this brewery combines a devilishly playful theme with high quality hand crafted beers.

 

Block Three – Located in the heart of St. Jacobs, this brewery has a friendly vibe, with communal tables and regulars coming and going.

 

Grand River Brewing – Cambridge has some of the most beautiful old buildings and architecture, and a lush river landscape so it’s ideal for a stop on your brewery tour.

 

Abe Erb – Abe Erb has a great selection of beers, but their menu and décor is not to be missed. Channeling the pioneer spirit of the Mennonite Erb brothers, this is an experience not be missed. 

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Getting Caffeinated: Coffee in Kitchener Waterloo

There are many places to go for coffee in Waterloo Region. We’ve compiled a few of our recent favorites, but please let us know what others to add to the list!

 

Balzacs – With locations in Waterloo, Kitchener, Guelph and Stratford you are sure to come across a Balzacs while in the Region. Balzacs is known for the unique environment and excellent roasts and strive to be artisanal, sustainable, local and natural.

 

Smile Tiger – Smile Tiger roasts their own beans and will host a cupping/tasting event for you to learn everything about coffee. They have a stunning harvest table that seats up to 13 people, making for a fun (and educational) coffee date.

 

DVLB – Death Valley’s Little Brother is in Uptown Waterloo and not only offers artisanal coffee, but has an extensive collection of whisky and freshly baked goods, including Cornish pasties Scottish pies. Treat your palette to some of the finer things, this is a coffee (or whisky) experience not to be missed.

 

Baden Coffee Company – Take a drive out of the city to enjoy this hidden gem. A small café with patio is a wonderful place to get away for a coffee. Peek in the windows to see how the coffee is roasted, and enjoy one of the special blends created with local places in mind, such as the castle reserve (for Castle Kilbride).

 

Monigram Coffee Roasters – Another reason to visit Galt! This place is community hub of activity, housed in a beautiful historic building and with a ballet studio on the top level.  

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Ask an expert – how do I rent out my house?

We’ve asked a local landlord/property manager to more than a twenty rental homes across Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Woodstock to answer some questions for us today on renting. All of these questions have been sent to us by people like you, so please continue to send us topics you want to hear from experts on and any questions!

 

Q: I already have a home with a mortgage but I want to get into rental properties. How do I even know if I am eligible to buy a home for renting out?

 

Speak to a mortgage broker about an equity takeout or new mortgage and to a Realtor regarding a good rental purchase.

 

Q:  What kinds of places should I be looking at as safe for rental investments? Condos? Townhouses? Or single family?

 

All are good investments at the right price. Remember: the tenant is paying off your investment so more importantly, think about if the home is suitable for tenants and what the ongoing costs to maintain the property may be. A good realtor can help you determine this.

 

Q: How do I determine what the rental price will be?

 

Check Kijiji adds for current market rents. If your ad is not drawing prospective renters, the rent is probably too high, simple as that. You may have to adjust your price or be open to negotiation, so think about where you can be flexible.  

 

Q: What exactly am I responsible for? What if the toilet floods or the fridge breaks?

 

Depending on the way the lease agreement is structured, you may be responsible for it all. That's why it's so important to have a lease clearly defining each part's responsibilities.  Your realtor can help you draft a lease, or a lawyer or a local property owners association. Be wary of any online “fits any size” lease.

 

Q: Is it better to rent a house as furnished or empty?

 

Are you concerned about wear and tear on the furnishings? Do you mind the extra cost to replace items? or will the rental be more appealing and rent quicker and for more money furnished. You have to decide what type of accommodations you want to supply for what kind of renter. An international student may be interested in a furnished rental unit, but an established family may want to bring in their own furniture.

 

Q: What are the best neighborhoods to buy rentals?

 

Buy in neighborhoods that will attract from the largest pool of potential renters and has best future potential for appreciation. So, if the choice is between a 1 bedroom condo in a high-rise with 20 other rental units owned by investors or a 3 bedroom in a family friendly neighborhood, where would you prefer to live yourself (and invest in).

 

Q: Student rentals – good idea or stay away?

 

Student rentals are very lucrative but can be hard to finance, can be costly to maintain & service, and have a high turnover. The question may be: How busy of a landlord do you want to be?

 

Q: What is one piece of advice you’ve learned that you would share with anyone wanting to own a rental property?

 

Do your checks early at the application stage, and be aware of any red flags. Always follow your intuition. Once a "bad" tenant is in, they can be tough and costly to evict from the unit.

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Adventures is Community Building: How to Build a Playground

Every neighborhood is built around people that see a problem or gap and wonder “how can I fix this/make it better?” This was the case in the Clair Lake Beechwood neighborhood. In the spring of 2012 Jennifer moved to the neighborhood with her husband and two young children. They were walking along the street, exploring the area – the greenspace, the Clair Lake duck pond, the winding pathways and community pools and tennis courts. She stopped and asked a neighbor “Where is the playground around here?” The neighbor said she though the closest one was at Keatsway Public School, about a 15 minute walk from where she was, more like 30 minutes with the age of the kids. She went home, looked online and saw that indeed, the closest playgrounds were all quite far for kids in the neighborhood.

 

During her neighborhood opening BBQ she asked if others were interested in building a playground. She was unprepared for the response, and ended up collecting names and email addresses on a paper plate! With about 50 people willing to be involved she set up a meeting with key people from other neighborhood associations, City Councilor Jeff Henry and City of Waterloo staff.

 

It took a few times (and a few years) to get the right mix of people but once the current group formed they were unstoppable! With only a few months of fundraising they reached their goal of $50,000 and continued working with City of Waterloo staff to design their playground.

 

If you are in Beechwood, be sure to check out the newest playground on the path between Amos and Candlewood, built with community support, spirit and determination!

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Blue bin, green bin, every other week bin

In March 2017 the Region of Waterloo made some important changes to how waste would be managed. For several months before the community was consulted in many areas such as recycling, garbage pickup, leaf pick up and yard waste.

 

Leaves

 

In some neighborhood of Waterloo, residents can rake their leaves to the curb and truck will come by to take them away – no bags needed! This usually only happens once in the late Fall, so keep an eye out for signs in the neighborhood or check the City website to find out when they will be in your area.  If you miss it, just pick up some extra yard waste bags. Pick up days for bagged yard waste can be found here.

 

Blue Bin

 

Blue bin pick up is every week. Neat fact: The first ever blue bin program started in 1983 in Kitchener! Put all of your recyclables in here. There is no need to sort, but if you want to show some love items can be sorted in multiple blue bins, which are available for pick up at the Region on special days. Right now we’re sorting into two boxes – one for containers (all materials) and one for paper and plastic products.

 

Green Bin

 

Our household is so happy with the green bin, we find a lot of waste is diverted this way. If you are new to the Region you can pick up a green bin welcome kit, full of extra bags, a counter top container and your brand new large green bin – everything you need to get started! Replacement green bins are also available for pick up, just bring your broken one to trade so it can be recycled.

 

Green bins are picked up weekly and you can put tons of stuff in there including pet waste, meat and bones, paper and cardboard. There are lots of helpful tips online, but our favorite is to keep egg cartons to layer with and put on the bottom. This really helps contain any mess!

 

Garbage

 

With all of the ways to recycle, the Region has recently introduced garbage pickup every other week. So far our household has enjoyed the challenge and with a few small changes we’ve reduced our garbage to one container every other week. However, if that’s not possible there are some options such as purchasing tags for extra bags, bringing waste to the landfill or sharing a garbage bin with your neighbor that doesn’t fill theirs!

All of the collections days and numbers can be confusing, so be sure to download the My Waste app, available for any smartphone.

 

Finally, celebrate Earth Day every year with a trip to the landfill. You get a one hour guided bus tour and you’ll get to see how recycling is sorted, organics are turned into compost and all of the heavy machines. When we were there we got to meet the birds used to control the seagulls too. Then wow your friends because they probably don’t even know a landfill tour day exists! Call 519-575-4400 to book your spot.

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Property taxes – why they’re not all that bad

When looking for a new home, property taxes may figure into your budget. In general, taxes in Kitchener seem to be less than Waterloo, but what does that money get put towards?

 

Fire, police services, paramedics – basically anyone who will help you in an emergency. This is super important. 

 

Roads and transportation – maintaining existing roads, building new ones and clearing all of the snow in the winter.

 

Public Transit – Waterloo Region is working hard to make it easier to take public transit. With the LRT being built and new structures coming into place, take advantage of leaving your car at home.

 

Libraries – Waterloo Region has some fantastic libraries with not only a huge section of books, but programs for all ages and interests. Our libraries have started to become more of a community hub and less of a dusty quiet place. Visit a local library for a yoga class, scrabble night or ballroom dancing.

 

Arts and culture – Tax dollars go to support local museums and art galleries, keeping their admission costs low or free.

 

Parks and greenspaces - visit any local greenspace and you’ll see how well kept they are. Some of our favorites are the Walter Bean Trail, the Iron Horse Trail and the Kissing Bridge Trail. Some lesser known trails worth checking out are the Mill Race Trail and Snyders Flats, both just outside of the city.

 

Waste Management – this is so much more than just picking up garbage from your curb. Waterloo Region is one of the most innovation areas when it comes to waste management. The blue bin was actually invented here!

 

While property taxes can be a drag, they help our Region flourish and be a great place to live, work and play. 

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Local Haunts

Waterloo Region has a great history with many fascinating stories. Here are a few local spots that claim to be haunted, although this author hasn’t seen any ghosts yet!

 

Kitchener – Homer Watson House and Gallery

 

This house was once home to the famous painter, Homer Watson and his dear sister Pheobe, who was also an artist. She is a friendly ghost, and the story most often told is that she likes to appear when students are working on their art. She has also been known to appear in the upstairs part of the house where many staff have seen her. Staff have reported not being able to find something  or stuck in an area of research and the answer appears out of nowhere. Lights also go on after dark, especially in the upstairs room that was Phoebe’s. Beyond Pheobe’s presence, Homer Watson and his friend William Lyon Mackenzie King use to hold séances. There have multiple sighting of a man, who when approached, has said he is there to help people through to the other side, making spiritual experts believe that the house and gardens are a portal to the realm of ghosts. 

 

Cambridge – Galt Collegiate institute

 

Galt is a beautiful and historic town, with many ghost sightings. One of the most notable is the Galt Collegiate Institute. William Tassie, the school’s headmaster from 1853-1881 has a reported presence in the school. The smell of tobacco from a pipe is often experienced as he was known to wander the halls while alive, always with a pipe in his mouth. After hours the voices of young men can be heard, thought to be the long dead former students that may be died during the First World War. 

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How did Waterloo Region become a tech hub (hint: it wasn’t because of Blackberry)

There’s a few factors that created the perfect storm and it started long before Blackberry. With one of the highest rates of startups, there is a deep history of innovation and desire to create.

 

University of Waterloo

 

Many say it started in 1953 when the University of Waterloo was created. Gerry Hagey and Ira Needles wanted to create a university that gave students real work experience, now known as the co-op program. This led to building relationships between the school and businesses. UW also has tons of programs that nurture startups and lets students retain ownership of their ideas, such as Velocity.

 

Angel Investors

 

Angel investors financially support startups at the early stages, often in exchange for a portion of ownership. Waterloo Region seems to have many investors interested in the startups here, at all levels. There is also funding available through various levels of government, private groups and not for profit agencies. 

 

Community Buy-in

 

Waterloo Region is proud of being labelled the Silicon Valley of the North, and wants to keep on growing. There are many champions that continue to network, build and create jobs to ensure the tech hub flourishes. Communitech is a driving factor in this and can be found in the core of Downtown Kitchener.

 

Blackberry hasn’t been the only big name to come out of Waterloo. As you explore you may want to check out Kik, Shopify, Google, D2L and many more!

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What’s the deal with Beechwood’s Neighborhood Associations?

Beechwood is located in Waterloo and enjoys a home association model where there is an outdoor pool and tennis courts for roughly every 200 homes. Every association is different. Some require an opt-in membership, where you pay annually to be part of it. Some associations have built their membership into the property tax fee with the City of Waterloo, so you never even have to think about it!

 

People may think that home associations are only for people with kids, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. While kids do enjoy that aspect of the neighborhood, there are often special programs and events for seniors, young professionals, students and newcomers. Find a home association that has what you’re interested in. There are often ways to get involved too, either as a paid lifeguard or tennis instructor, or as a volunteer for the Board of Directors. Home associations in Waterloo provide a unique sense of community and lifestyle. The Waterloo associations are:

 

  • Beechwood/Bridlegate Homeowners' Association
  • Beechwood North Association
  • Beechwood Park Homeowners' Association
  • Beechwood South Association
  • Beechwood II Homes Association
  • Beechwood West I Homes Association
  • Beechwood West II Homes Association
  • Craigleith Homeowners' Association
  • Laurelwood Neighbourhood Association
  • Upper Beechwood Phase 1 Association
  • Upper Beechwood Phase II Association

 

Home associations aren’t only in Beechwood. Almost every neighborhood has a home association with a website or Facebook page to find out more information. 

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Al Shousterman
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December 13, 2017
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