The Northdale neighbourhood has experienced significant demographic change as a result of its location between two internationally acclaimed universities that attract over 40,000 students each year. Over the last 25 years, long-term permanent residents in this neighbourhood have declined in number, being replaced with students and student rental accommodation. Historically, these rentals have been in the form of converted low-rise, detached houses.
In 2011, the Northdale land use and community improvement plan was initiated in response to interest by the public, residents and stakeholders to develop a clear vision and plan for Northdale and the need to address issues related to the evolving neighbourhood demographic and associated development pressures for student rental housing, the conversion of existing dwellings, and higher density housing forms, which all have implications on the character and livability of the neighbourhood. From this study, the follow vision for Northdale materialized:
"By 2029, Northdale is revitalized and re-urbanized into a diverse, vibrant and sustainable neighbourhood, integrated with educational, residential, commercial, cultural, heritage and recreational functions and improved open space, pedestrian, cycling and transit networks."
- Northdale land use and community improvement plan study final report (2012)
In 2012, the city had the honour to receive an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. The program, which is IBM's single largest philanthropic initiative, assigns a team of six top IBM experts to a winning city to study a key issue identified by the city's leadership team. IBM helped Waterloo reposition the image of Northdale to attract the kind of investment that builds on the vision that is the foundation of the planning, something that was outside of the scope of the Northdale land use and community improvement plan, but which is important to its success.
Northdale continues to evolve and in 2015, a Northdale streetscape design and reconstruction master plan was initiated to develop design concepts and strategies for public spaces and reconstruction of city streets. Detailed engineering design and road reconstruction considerations were outside the scope of the original Northdale land use and community improvement plan. A streetscape master plan and reconstruction project to understand the engineering requirements will advance the Northdale vision.