Imagining the Future of North King’s Town

On the evening of June 20th, with a tornado warning in effect, about 60 people braved the storm to participate in the second public consultation about visions for the Old Industrial Area and the Inner Harbour, hosted by the City of Kingston Planning Department and Dialog, the consultant firm the City has engaged. About 1/3 of attendees had participated in the first public consultation held on May 24th. The session began with an open house format where we reviewed panels that included Dialog’s preliminary study area vision, principles and emerging themes statements, developed by Dialog after the first public consultation. That was followed by a presentation by Dialog’s principal, Antonio Gómez-Palacio, in which he expanded on the ideas and process used to develop this initial vision and showed maps of the study area with possibilities illustrated. We were then invited to provide feedback and discuss further options in five groups facilitated by the consultants at tables with large maps and markers.

At my table, we started with a round robin where each person was asked to say what “resonated most in their thoughts” when they listened to the vision and principles statements. The first statement by the first person (not from Wellington X) was “We don’t want the Wellington Street Extension!” Nearly all at our table immediately agreed. That was later echoed in the group summaries, in which three of the four other spokespersons stated that their table was unanimous in being against the WSE. At only one table did anybody speak out in favour of the extension. The message from attendees about no roads in the park was very clear.

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As always, I’m heartened by the people who attend these meetings and impressed by what they have to say. Smart people with good ideas. Here are a few key points that emerged from my table and from the summaries from the other tables:

  • Create a green space corridor (extend a walking/bike path) that connects the existing green spaces, instead of building the WSE. This would link up several of the existing parks, would provide enhanced waterfront access, increase ecosystem services, and would overall mesh with Kingston’s sustainability goals. Peterborough is an excellent example of a city that has green paths linking up neighbourhoods and more open ‘natural’ spaces.
  • Maintain the more wild areas of the waterfront and the Old Industrial Area. Be cautious about the green corridor idea and what that could turn into. New trails are likely to be very wide (for accessibility, etc.), most likely asphalt, and with severely cut back vegetation alongside, e.g., plans for the K&P trail. New trails would be good as active transportation routes, connections between neighbourhoods and public access to waterfront. We need to balance that with the need to leave as much of the waterfront as wild as possible (including leaving some of the wilder parts without formal trails for humans), and not ‘parkify’ all of the green spaces in the OIA.
  • Revitalize the Outer Station at its current location. The Outer Station (also called the Grand Trunk Train station) should not be moved into the Inner Harbour, not only because there should be no private building in a public park, but because the station could be a focus for the area where it is now. Imagine a brewery with a bistro. Young home buyers could be attracted to this area with lower housing prices, a hub around the Outer Station with food centres and small businesses, transit and bike paths to downtown and to parks nearby, both existing waterfront and new inland parks. Brownfield sites in this area are a problem, but the brownfield sites further south are also a problem. These sites need to be rehabilitated, as is specified in Kingston’s Official Plan.
  • Plan for a second “Innovation Hub” around the Outer Station, instead of only one large hub further south. The two smaller hubs could attract different kinds of businesses. Connect these hubs with active transportation routes: biking, walking, transit. Downplay the car. This ties in to the idea proposed by Dialog to create neighbourhood areas in which people can both live and work. Also, people are increasingly choosing life styles that are not car-dependent, especially young people, partly for life-style reasons and partly to save money.
  • Do not build roads in green spaces or near waterfront. Green spaces and waterfront within cities are a rare resource. Many cities are trying to reclaim their waterfront and add green spaces, including tearing out roads that were previously built. We should keep all of the quiet green spaces we have and add more where possible, not lose them to development. Businesses, as well as citizens, will benefit in the long run.

We did have some concerns with this meeting. Participants at one table were told that studies show an increased need for roads in the north section of the study area, so they asked what studies that was based on and were told that there were many studies (but not which ones) and that following the visioning work traffic studies will be conducted. It would make more sense to have the traffic studies performed in conjunction with the visioning. And all studies on which planning judgments are based should be shared with the public.

A second concern was the lack of note-taking by city staff or the consultants. An attendee was designated as note-taker during the discussions, but not while the spokesperson for each group tied ideas together and summarized. And no one was systematically recording what was said. Thus many of the comments and ideas were lost. (If we had thought of it, WellingtonX should have done an audio recording of all this!)

Overall, though, this was a well-organized, productive public consultation, and we would like to thank Dialog and the City of Kingston. We hope that during future consultations comments from attendees will be systematically recorded and that those comments and all studies used for planning will be shared with the public. We also hope to see many of the excellent ideas provided by the public incorporated into the vision for the Old Industrial Area and the Inner Harbour.

There are two further opportunities for public input this week:  tonight at Fluhrer Park and on Saturday in Skeleton Park. Tonight is a free bbq and concert in Fluhrer Park, 5:30 to 7:30 pm. This Saturday, June 25th, there will be an information booth at the Skeleton Park Music Festival in McBurney Park, 10 am to 6 pm. Come to one or both to say what you want for your city!

— Mary McCollam

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Keep Parkland, Don’t Swap It

While the proposal to move the Outer Station into the Inner Harbour may not lie at the core of Wellington X’s fight, it is closely related. Just as putting a road through the park deprives people and animals of free and quiet and ample use of the park, moving this building there to house private tenants would do the same. Also, Hank Doornekamp of ABNA investments is on record as supporting the Wellington Street Extension, so it would seem that moving the station to the park is part of a bigger plan he has to connect his various properties (9 North Street, the Woollen Mill, and as he hopes, the Outer Station) with a road. In my opinion, relocating the station poses a threat to the waterfront and to the idea of public space and, therefore, is not acceptable.

On Monday May 16th I attended the City Open House for the proposed ABNA land swap at the Central Library Wilson Room. It was not clear at the outset that this meeting was just an open house, meaning no time was scheduled for the public to ask questions and hear responses as a group. Many of us did want a meeting so we asked for one and staff responded by creating one in the moment.

I initially went to express that I thought the discussion about a land swap in order to move the Outer Station to the park should be rolled into the North King’s Town Secondary Plan. After listening to the other attendees speak, I now think that the discussion should not be happening at all.

One attendee asked if this process itself was not premature in that ABNA does not yet have permission to move the Outer Station to the park. Why were we talking about this issue now, he asked. When staff replied that the heritage questions would be addressed later, he asked, how can we talk about a land swap without specifically discussing what the swap is for? I think we can’t and should not.

Below, I have attempted to summarize the various questions and ideas that came up during the meeting, for your information. I hope that City Staff will answer these questions in any next steps for this process.

Special thanks to Commissioner Hurdle and other staff for being responsive to residents by adapting the open house to a meeting, and to Councillor Schell and Councillor Hutchison for attending the meeting and staying until the end to hear the public questions and comments.

– Sayyida Jaffer

Questions from members of the public about a potential land swap in Fluhrer Park

  • Is it likely that ABNA will receive permission to move the Outer Station given the federal laws and rules that apply – e.g. the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board? Is it likely that the federal government will agree to separate out one of the three buildings that together have a heritage designation and that functioned together at the site?
  • Why have staff recommended this project? Shouldn’t the first step be for ABNA to buy the Outer Station property? Isn’t this proposal premature? Would Council be “putting a thumb on the scales” by agreeing to the land transfer before the station is ABNA’s property? Could ABNA use this in negotiations with the federal government to show community support when that is not necessarily the case?
  • Why would the city agree to any exchange of land when it already holds an easement on the ABNA land and can re-build the waterfront trail on it without any permission or land swap with ABNA? How is a land trade here – when the city already has everything it needs – in the best interests of the city?
  • What justifies reducing the size of Doug Fluhrer Park and allowing a private development in a public park?
  • When would land pass from city ownership to private ownership? Would the property owner have to pay property taxes? Is this property a brownfield? Would clean-up be required? Would property taxes be waived for ten years as has happened with Block D?
  • What effect would having an office building at the edge of Doug Fluhrer Park have on the surrounding buildings and uses? Would this lead to gentrification in the area?
  • If the city is considering reducing the number of parking spaces for the Park to make room for this project, could the city, instead, turn some of the parking spaces into a green space to extend the Park?
  • Shouldn’t the city wait until after the North King’s Town Secondary Plan process before deciding anything? Could the Outer Station be a jewel in the redevelopment of the north end? Is it right to take away this opportunity from the north end? Is it right to have this discussion now when the community has been invited to participate in the community visioning exercise as part of the Secondary Plan process? Has the city asked the company hired to conduct the first stage of the Secondary Plan about the possible role of the Outer Station in the revitalization of this area of Kingston?
  • Since ABNA owns other vacant land in the area, why does the company need to acquire city parkland for this project?
  • What is the actual size of the Outer Station and of the parcel that ABNA wants from the city? How much land around the ABNA building will be for parking and building-related uses? Will there be enough bicycle parking which is a good way to get to a building in the park? (Noted that the city Q and A sheet combined metric and imperial measurements, with inaccurate information, and that the drawings were not to scale.)
  • How would putting a building in Doug Fluhrer Park respect the heritage of the Park which was the site of the K&P roundhouse and had many industrial train-related uses and which would not have been an appropriate place for the Grand Trunk passenger station?
  • What impact would the building have on the park and park users?
  • Would the building include lighting and a public washroom?
  • Have any studies been done to show that the Outer Station can be successfully moved? How long will it last in its current location?
  • How does this proposal interact with the Official Plan? Would the old or new Official Plan apply?
  • What would stop ABNA from adding more storeys to the building as part of the project plan?
  • What impact would the building have on wildlife?