The city crest of Waterloo Ontario.
Waterloo is a city in Southern Ontario, Canada. It is the smallest of the three cities in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, and is adjacent to the larger city of Kitchener.
Kitchener and Waterloo are often jointly referred to as Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W), or “the twin cities”, although they have separate city governments. There have been several attempts to amalgamate the two cities (sometimes with the city of Cambridge as well), but none have been successful.
The reported population for the city can vary depending on how temporary residents at Waterloo’s two universities are counted. At the time of the 2006 census, Waterloo had a population of 97,475.That number does not include post-secondary students who are temporary residents. The city’s total population at the end of 2006—with over 20,000 non-resident post-secondary students included—was 114,700.
The Intelligent Community Forum named Waterloo the Top Intelligent Community of 2007. Waterloo had lost to Taipei in 2006.
Waterloo was built on land that was part of a parcel of 675,000 acres (2,730 km²) assigned in 1784 to the Iroquois alliance that made up the League of Six Nations. Almost immediately—and with much controversy—the native groups began to sell some of the land. Between 1796 and 1798, 93,000 acres (380 km²) were sold through a Crown Grant to Richard Beasley, with the Six Nations Indians continuing to hold the mortgage on the lands.
The first wave of immigrants to the area were Mennonites from Pennsylvania. They bought deeds to land parcels from Beasley and began moving into the area in 1804. The following year, a group of 26 Mennonites pooled resources to purchase all of the unsold land from Beasley and discharge the mortgage held by the Six Nations Indians.
The Mennonites divided the land into smaller lots; two lots initially owned by Abraham Erb became the central core of Waterloo. Erb is often called the founder of Waterloo, as it was his sawmill (1808) and grist mill (1816) that became the focal point of the area.
In 1816, the new township was named after Waterloo, Belgium, the site of the Battle of Waterloo, which had ended the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. After that war, the area became a popular destination for German immigrants. By the 1840s, German settlers had overtaken the Mennonites as the dominant segment of the population. Many Germans settled in the small hamlet to the southeast of Waterloo. In their honour, the village was named Berlin in 1833 (renamed to Kitchener in 1916). Berlin was chosen as the site of the seat for the County of Waterloo in 1853.
Waterloo was incorporated as a village in 1857 and became the Town of Waterloo in 1876 and the City of Waterloo in 1948.
Waterloo’s city centre is located near the intersection of King and Erb streets. Since 1961, the centrepiece has been the Waterloo Town Square shopping centre, which underwent a thorough renovation in 2006. Much of the mall was torn down and has been replaced by buildings that emphasize street-facing storefronts.
Residents refer to the Waterloo city centre as “uptown” (often capitalized), while “downtown” is reserved for the Kitchener city centre.
The city centre was once along Albert Street, near the Marsland Centre and the Waterloo Public Library. The town hall, fire hall, and farmers’ market were located there. Amidst some controversy, all were demolished between 1965 and 1969.
There are five main parks in the city. RIM Park occupies 2 square kilometres (500 acres) and is home to a variety of indoor and outdoor sporting facilities, including an eighteen-hole golf course, and the heritage Martin Farm House. Waterloo Park is in Uptown Waterloo, and contains historical buildings, a bandshell, animal displays, and the Lions’ Lagoon water park in its 45 hectares (111 acres). The park is also known for its light displays during the Christmas holiday season, known as “Wonders of Winter” . Bechtel Park occupies 44 hectares (109 acres) and has many outdoor sporting facilities along with wetlands, meadows and hardwood forest. The park also includes an off-leash dog park, and adjacent city-operated cemetery. Hillside Park covers 25 hectares (62 acres) and includes two lighted ball diamonds. Lexington Park includes a ball diamond and a soccer pitch on the former site of the K-W Municipal Airport. The 3 square kilometre (725 acre) Laurel Creek Conservation Area lies in the northwest of the city.
The Grand River flows southward along the east side of the city. In the west end of the city, the Waterloo Moraine provides over 300,000 people in the region with drinking water. Much of the gently hilly Waterloo Moraine underlies existing developed areas. Ongoing urban growth, mostly in the form of low-density residential suburbs (in accordance with requests by land developers), will cover increasing amounts of the remaining undeveloped portions of the Waterloo Moraine.
Waterloo has a strong knowledge- and service-based economy with significant insurance and high-tech sectors as well as two universities. The city’s largest employers are Sun Life Financial, the University of Waterloo, Manulife Financial, Research In Motion, and Wilfrid Laurier University.
The city is also home to three well known think tanks – the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, an advanced centre for the study of theoretical physics; the Institute for Quantum Computing, based at the University of Waterloo, which carries out innovative research in computer, engineering, mathematical and physical sciences; and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, an independent, nonpartisan think tank that addresses international governance challenges.
The city is part of Canada’s Technology Triangle (CTT), a joint economic development initiative of Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge and the Region of Waterloo that markets the region internationally. Despite its name, CTT does not focus exclusively on promoting technology industries, but on all aspects of economic development.
Waterloo has a strong technology sector with hundreds of high-tech firms.The dominant technology company in the city is Research In Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, which has its headquarters in the city and owns several office buildings near the University of Waterloo’s main campus.