Proposed uptown development to help promote STEAM

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WATERLOO — A hockey model is being used to redevelop the former post office in uptown Waterloo, but there won’t be a sheet of ice.

Hip Developments is proposing a revolutionary arena for youth involved in science, technology, engineering, arts and design and math (STEAM) to hone their skills at a young age.

Hip Developments president Scott Higgins, who coaches his son’s hockey team, drew the parallel between the way Canada treats hockey and what needs to happen to develop thoughtful leaders of the next generation.

“If you’re the mayor of a small town, you build an arena before you build a hospital,” said Higgins. “We’re a small country, but we continually produce great hockey players. And it’s because of the system we have. That’s the key.”

The plan for 70 King St. N., at the corner of King Street North and Bridgeport Road, is a 300-unit condo development, as well as five storeys and 40,000 square feet of space for youth STEAM programming, dubbed the Arena of Creativity.

Higgins said he noticed a disconnect between the development of youth in the STEAM fields and the prowess of the three major post-secondary institutions in Waterloo Region — the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College — to develop that talent.

“Right now, our model is ‘come to the University of Waterloo and we hope you stay,’ ” said Higgins.

With Grade 8 students already choosing their stream in high school, Higgins said it’s important to get them exposed to the STEAM stream at a young age and, like hockey, identify those who have the potential for greatness.

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With his own children, ages three and seven, Higgins noticed a lack of continuity when it comes to programming for youth in STEAM.

“We have to go all over the place. We have to go to math camp here, this camp over here,” said Higgins. When he contrasted that with hockey, where there is programming, mentorship and opportunities for development at nearly every step, he saw the opportunity.

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