Heard in the Harbour on World Listening Day

wind

feet crunching on gravel

sandals slapping the sidewalk

muffled sound of sneakers on pavement

boots tapping

traffic

clunk of manhole cover underfoot

Food Basics doors opening and closing

grocery store music

shopping carts

refrigeration units

fluorescent lights

conversations

cash registers

sprockets clicking on a bike

masts creaking

pulleys clanging on boats

rustling leaves

window AC units

songbirds chirping

dogs panting

dry grass crunching underfoot

voices carrying from boats on the river

pump at water treatment plant

ball game

party

the Moody Blues

city bus’ hydraulic brakes

children playing

bicycle bell

cars on asphalt

car engine revving

the sound of a water bottle being opened

coughing

flags flapping in the wind

breathing

ducks quacking, geese honking

the very faint hum of the causeway, for just a moment

laughter

whispers

train whistle

— Anne Lougheed & Justine Scala, July 18 2016

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Fluhrer Park a Community Asset: Letter to Editor

Metroland Media (Heritage/EMC)
July 2, 2016
Dear Editor,

Last Wednesday (June 22nd), a happy 500-plus crowd made it clear Doug Fluhrer Park is a community asset and deserves to be treated as such.

Part of the Visioning for North King’s Town became a huge family affair.   Most of the 500-plus walked there safely with children and no one had to cross a road to enter the park.  Once there, small children ran freely with no danger from passing cars and the loudest noise was the entertainment.  No vehicle noise and no exhaust fumes.

Doug Fluhrer Park is a valuable, neglected section of Kingston’s waterfront.   It is, and should continue to be, a safely accessible community park.   Many who have never been there believe it to be dangerous and full of discarded needles.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  No needles have been found in the annual (Volunteer) park cleanups over the last several years and children play there freely all the time.

The Visioning Exercise has already produced the suggestion of a green link between North King’s Town parks and green areas.  Excellent.   In addition, we suggest simplifying the (expensive and complex) 2014 Doug Fluhrer Park Master Plan to open green space that would allow walking, games, free-running children, gatherings like June 22 – and wildlife.

Upgrade the surface of the old railbed to allow for grass, wildflowers and space for turtles (a far greater population than initially suspected!).   Provide more trees and a few fixed barbeques.   Consider a roofed, open-sided structure that would permit shaded picnics and/or outdoor entertainment – as on Weds June 22nd.   Leave the station building where it is, restore it there and upgrade the immediate area.   And tidy up the Doug Fluhrer Park current car park area and turn-around loop.

Doug Fluhrer Park is a community asset, please let’s treat it as such.

Mike Cole-Hamilton

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

Hoping for Dialog on North King’s Town

On 24 May, the City of Kingston Planning Department and the consultant the City has engaged, Dialog, hosted a public consultation about visions for the Old Industrial Area and the Inner Harbour. It was a solid turnout, perhaps 60 people. Dialog’s principal, Antonio Gomez-Palacio, has a good record asserting the importance of public transit and meaningful public engagement; he started the firm Dialog with Jennifer Keesmat, now the Toronto chief planner, who is known for her outspoken support for mid-rise development and a walkable city. So on the face of it they look like a promising choice for this consultation. However, there were a few mis-steps, one being that after we sat quietly through a pretty long slideshow, Gomez-Palacio said something to the effect of “we are eager for your feedback, and this ends the meeting.” It didn’t, quite, because it turned out lots of people did stay and had quite a lot of chance to talk with consultants and staff around large maps and other posters — but in the light of past experiences Kingston residents have had with non-consultative consultations, the statement was a bit jarring.

People were invited to put sticky notes on maps, and they did, like this:

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They were also invited to put red or green dots on posters which had images of features one might imagine for the “North King’s Town” area — features such as community gardens, hotels, schools, and so on. Much one-on-one or small cluster discussion took place between residents and between residents and staff or consultants. I met some people I had not met before and enjoyed talking with them.

The problem was, it wasn’t and isn’t yet clear how those post-it-sized ideas will be documented, digested, and compared. A sticky-note by its nature makes every idea sound simplistic and dogmatic. The dot-sized stickers are worse: some of us didn’t realize that the red dots were supposed to mean “no” and the green dots “yes” and merrily just used the colour of dot at the top of the pile. This format is quite infantilizing, more or less asking us to stick up our hand when our favourite ice cream is called. In the consultation summary posted online, ideas were simply listed, with no sense of which were most often or most forcefully articulated, or how they related to one another. For example, the summary reports that there were “a range of comments about the Wellington Street Extension.” And yet, to my ears at least, that range may have consisted of 2 people in favour, and 30 against. And in fact, we were not encouraged to discuss the topic (sound familiar?) — despite the fact that City staff were instructed to do this planning process specifically to consult on the WSE.

Is this “inclusive” sort of reporting, making sure to nod to outliers, actually accurate? Is it productive? If we have to choose between ideas, we should surely do it by some combination of considering which ideas are held by the most people, and which ideas are best supported by evidence. And that evidence must be gathered according to current best practices, not old-school traffic management assumptions. Will Dialog and its consultant partners help Kingston up its game in terms of quality and transparent evidence? Will it include facts about how much Kingston has to reduce greenhouse gases to meet national targets? Will it help Kingston improve the ways it fosters productive and democratic participation by residents?

Such questions are why it is so important for people to come to the next meeting on this secondary plan, Monday June 20, THIS Monday that is, at 630 at the Portuguese Cultural Centre (the old bus station) at 959 Division Street. We were told that at this meeting Dialog will present some beginning ideas for the visioning arising from what they have heard so far.

There is also opportunity for public input on Wednesday night at Fluhrer Park and on Saturday in Skeleton Park, but we are told that consultants will not be present at these events. If you actually want to hear from and talk with those who will be formulating the outcome of this process, come on Monday! We might have expected one of the consultation meetings to take place in the Inner Harbour/Swamp Ward area — Mulberry School? St. Pat’s? Calvary Church? — but that is not planned. So, come on Monday!

Remember: this process could have a huge effect on the downtown core of Kingston and the places we live, work, and play. That effect could be good, or it could be bad. Let’s dialog with Dialog so they can come up with the kinds of change and preservation that are best for those who live here.

Did I remember to say come on Monday :)?

— Laura Murray

 

Screenprinting Parties Coming Soon!

Join Wellington X and Barb Danielewski on Thursday June 9 and Thurs June 16 for a screenprinting party! No experience necessary. Barb will be on hand to show us the ropes! We will be printing t-shirts and pennants with groovy sayings and images to sell at the Skeleton Park Arts Festival and on other occasions.

This event is free, however, and if you come help us out you can walk away with your own t-shirt and banner. We do encourage people to bring their own t-shirt and/or piece of fabric if they have ones they want to use, but if not, we will have a good selection on hand.

On that note, we are looking for t-shirts and fabric to add to our collection. If you would like to donate, you can drop them off at Minotaur (78 Princess St.)

Both Thursdays we will meet from 6-9pm at 75 Queen St (ramp entrance).
You can RSVP on facebook here.

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?

Weighing in on Official Plan Draft 3

Here are the remarks Anne Lougheed made on May 18 at the (last?) Public Meeting about the Official Plan. We really appreciate Anne’s dogged and eloquent attention to the many drafts in this protracted process.

Thanks to the committee and Planning Staff for another opportunity to engage in the process of updating our Official Plan.
As we in WellingtonX wrote to you after the second draft, we appreciate the addition of section 4.6.35.1-“The feasibility of the Wellington Street Extension, listed in Section 4.6.35(e) and (g), will be examined through a future Secondary Planning process. The approximate boundaries for the Secondary Planning Area are identified on Schedule 13.”
We still have concerns about section 3.18.17.b (8 Cataraqui St.) which in draft 3 is on page 248, and it states that “the site design incorporates appropriate streetscaping treatment along the proposed Wellington Street extension. This treatment is to include hard and soft landscaping elements, in keeping with the importance of the Wellington Street extension being a major pedestrian and vehicular access to downtown.”
In the comment and response matrix, both myself (#92, page 54) and Mike Cole-Hamilton (#48, page 35) asked for a change to this wording. We were referred to issue 3 in section 2 of the matrix, which indicates that this section of the OP will be amended, if warranted, after the secondary plan is completed.
However, we’re still hoping for an adjustment that would reflect the uncertainty around the WSE. Maybe the last bit could be changed, the bit about the “importance” of the road. Perhaps remove the last phrase- “in keeping with the importance of the Wellington Street extension being a major pedestrian and vehicular access to downtown.”
At the very least, a cross-reference to the new Section 4.6.35.1, which acknowledges that the WSE will be examined as part of a secondary planning process, should be added here.
In Section 4.6.35: road “extensions” are now called “improvements”, and I don’t think that this change is appropriate. The WSE is included here, which in the minds of many in the community, and on council, is no “improvement”: as well, many of these projects involve the widening of roads or intersections, which may improve these spaces for vehicles but may also make them more difficult and dangerous for pedestrians. Please consider an alternative to the word “improvements”: perhaps renovations, alterations, changes, or possibly just “projects.”
Thank you very much.

Canvassing: Fall Results and Spring Prospects

Now that spring is (almost) here, isn’t it the perfect time for canvassing?

In the fall of 2015, ten Wellington X volunteers went out in pairs to knock on doors in the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial Area to talk to people about what they thought about the Wellington Street Extension (WSE).  We knocked on 406 doors in total, and spoke to 141 people over all. It was an insight-producing and even heart-warming experience. Then winter came. We’re going to start up canvassing again soon, so we thought this would be a good moment to share our interim results.

First, the numbers: of the 141 people we spoke to, 105 said that they were against the WSE; 8 said they were for it; 25 said they were undecided; and 3 were indifferent.

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We were very encouraged by these results.

But the exercise produced far more than polling numbers. We were struck by how willing and even eager people were to talk with us. Through conversations ranging from a few moments to over half an hour long, we heard all kinds of things, including:

  • a desire to maintain and protect green space
  • a concern that the WSE would reduce safety in the park for kids who play there, especially those who live in the Rideau Street townhouses, whose back yard is essentially the park
  • a concern that the WSE would cost a lot of money and that its need hasn’t been proven
  • a desire for the city to create separated bike lanes to ensure cyclists’ safety
  • a concern for turtles and other wildlife
  • a concern that Fluhrer Park will no longer exist with a road, because of how narrow the park is.

We also heard about other issues going on in people’s lives. In the Old Industrial area, one woman was keen to share her thoughts on the federal election, because no candidate had canvassed her neighbourhood (we listened to her ideas once we had finished with WSE issues). Another told stories of difficult city rules that made it hard to start a small business. We also heard broader concerns about climate change and the need to reduce our dependency on cars. People who grew up in the Swamp Ward told stories about how it has changed over the years. One woman lived in a house that has been in her family since the 1940s. One young man talked about playing in what is now Fluhrer Park, back when it was what he described as a sewer. All in all people really seemed to want to engage in discussion about where we live.

So this is an invitation. If you have 2-3 hours to spare on a week night or weekend afternoon, please contact us at wellington.x.kingston@gmail.com to find out more about how our canvassing efforts work, and to get paired with another volunteer.

It might seem scary at first to knock on strangers’ doors; however, it is a lot easier than it may seem before you start. Besides, it’s important: a community that takes time to connect and interact can build trust and a stronger mutual understanding. Yes, we are opposed to the WSE. We are also committed to understanding what we individually and collectively want rather than letting outsiders decide for us. And that understanding happens best one conversation at a time.

— Sayyida Jaffer

Spring Wildlife Tour

On Sunday April 10th, 30 people braved the unseasonably cold, spring morning for the Spring Wildlife Tour of the Inner Harbour, co-hosted by the Kingston Field Naturalists and Wellington X.

Our tour guides, Lesley Rudy and Gaye Beckwith, took us on a lovely walk along the water in Douglas Fluhrer Park, and then along the trail to Belle Island. Various Kingston Field Naturalists, including Paul McKenzie, Janis Grant and Mike, were kind enough to bring and share their telescopes and binoculars. Thank you!

Along the route, we also stopped at the narrowest point in Douglas Fluhrer Park to note that if the Wellington Street Extension were to be built, that with a 26 metre right-of-way there would be no park left. We also talked about the City of Kingston’s upcoming Community Visioning Exercise that will feed into the Secondary Plan Process, and the importance of community participation in upcoming city meetings, so that we can not only strongly articulate our opposition to the WSE, but also affirm our support for public waterfront access, public green space, sustainable transportation and so much more.

On our walk, we saw and heard 31 different species of birds, including red-winged black birds, golden-crowned kinglets, goldfinches, chickadees, cardinals and woodpeckers. We also saw the handiwork of some beavers.

2016-04-10 spring tour beavers

Gaye also told us about ebird.org, a website where you can document the species you see in different locations around the world. I was curious, so I logged in and saw that in Douglas Fluhrer Park 78 species of birds have been reported being seen. And in Belle Park 87 species have been seen. It’s pretty amazing that we can see this level of biodiversity in our neighbourhood. Gaye and others reported the 31 species we saw that morning. The list is below.

If you would like to do some bird watching, Kingston Field Naturalists are hosting bird walks every Wednesday in May at Lemoine Point (south entrance near the airport) at 6:30 am and 6:30 pm. Please bring your own binoculars. For more info about this, please contact Gaye: beckwithb(at)sympatico(dot)ca or 613-376-3716.

– Sayyida Jaffer

2016-04-10 spring tour group

31 species total (reported on April 10th). Note that an x is indicated when the number of that species was not able to be verified (i.e., too many in a group, etc).

  • 10 Canada Goose
  • 1 Gadwall
  • 6 Mallard
  • 200 Greater Scaup
  • 12 Bufflehead
  • 1 Common Loon
  • 35 Double-crested Cormorant
  • 2 Great Blue Heron
  • X Ring-billed Gull
  • 6 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
  • 2 Mourning Dove
  • 1 Downy Woodpecker
  • 1 Hairy Woodpecker
  • 2 Northern Flicker
  • 1 Pileated Woodpecker
  • 1 Blue Jay
  • X American Crow
  • 2 Black-capped Chickadee
  • 3 White-breasted Nuthatch
  • 3 Brown Creeper
  • 5 Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • 9 American Robin
  • X European Starling
  • 1 American Tree Sparrow
  • 1 Dark-eyed Junco
  • X Song Sparrow
  • 4 Northern Cardinal
  • X Red-winged Blackbird
  • X Common Grackle
  • 5 American Goldfinch
  • 2 House Sparrow

Visions for the Outer Station Area

Carl Bray’s graduate students in Planning at Queen’s presented three proposals yesterday for what the area around the Outer Station could look like. Invited guests were Paul Schliesmann from the Whig Standard, Greg Newman and Chris Wicke from the City of Kingston Planning Department, developer Ben Pilon who was unable to attend, and Anne Lougheed and myself from Wellington X (Sayyida and I had presented to the class in January). One group of students was charged with being “green,” a second with planning for minimal intervention, and a third with including the WSE. The event was really interesting as a way of framing issues that will come up in Secondary Planning consultations that will include this area of the city. Thanks very much to Carl and the students for their work!

Here’s an aerial view so you can orient yourself (Counter Street is at the north, Harvey at the west, and Montreal to the east):

outer station area

The “green” group proposed a big swath of park and trail along the old railway lines, some affordable “growhome” row housing and raised community gardens on the old Frontenac Tile site, a Community Enterprise Centre, and a bus stop cafe on Montreal near a public art space. They suggested keeping the train station as a “curated ruin” rather than restoring or moving it (actually, all three groups kept the train station in place). Industrial uses to the west of Harvey and south of Hickson were left unchanged.

The next group put in quite an intensive grid of small streets in the area north of Hickson and east of Harvey Streets to “make connections.” They proposed a school and a library in the Frontenac Tile area, and a mix of walkup apartments, townhouses, and so on. They suggested an existing Steel fabricator could become a training facility associated with St. Lawrence College.

The last group suggested the largest changes to the area, including the WSE. This group imagined the WSE at its northern end as a “destination”: a commercial/residential corridor rather than just a thoroughfare. The goal of the road (two lanes each direction at peak hours) would be to “calm Montreal Street down” and to separate the industrial part of the area from the mixed-use part. This plan had the least parkland, erasing the curve of the old train track, though the greenspace there was hooked in nicely up to Counter Street by the existing apartment buildings.

Needless to say, the WSE-centred plan seemed the most problematic to us. In the question period, I said that the commercial-residential WSE was a lose-lose proposition: it would both channel traffic through residential neighbourhoods further south (not to mention Fluhrer Park), and steal business from downtown or prevent the commercial rebirth of Montreal Street. Or maybe neither the shoppers, tenants, businesses, or traffic would materialize, and then it would become an empty liability. The planners in the audience seemed to share my skepticism. One pointed out that the fact that the WSE doesn’t go through to the 401 would make it less desirable for commercial tenants than Montreal or Division Streets.

Another area of skepticism that emerged during discussion was about the combination of brownfields and residential development. It was suggested that single family homes require the maximal level of soil remediation, so are likely to generate insufficient revenue per square foot of land to be feasible. Would higher buildings be more financially viable and/or appropriate? Perhaps higher buildings could help fund cleanup in parkland? Otherwise, how could the City on its own afford to do that parkland remediation? One of the rationales of the WSE is that it would “unlock development.” But it seems there are a lot of reasons why this isn’t prime industrial park or residential land; the WSE seems unlikely to  be a magic bullet. It might be a draw for a big box store or some storage lockers, but… please tell me that’s not worth it!

As one student said near the end, this area of Kingston is both close to downtown and close to the 401: it should be more valuable than it is. But maybe this dilemma invites us to think of what value (and values) we are seeking. The value seems to me to lie in the space this area provides for trades and light industry near downtown, and also in its unofficial greenspace that feels somehow far away from urban life while in fact being very close. It’s pretty exhilarating to be up there, as this photo of our bike tour last summer shows. Hopefully the Secondary Planning process will help us see this part of town as more than a void to be filled, and will generate some ideas that are within the realm of financial viability too. DSCN4002

— Laura Murray