January 2016 Newsletter

Vision for the Downtown

Dear Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour,
Happy New Year to you all.  Truly wishing you a wonderful and fulfilling 2016.
This month’s items include:
1) Concerns re downtown developments
2) Alternate ideas for enlivening the downtown.
3) Secondary Plan for Kings’s Town North
4) Recent publicity concerning the Wellington Street Extension
5) Open Letter concerning the Third Crossing
6) Mixed feelings re the K&P Trail
7) Coalition of Kingston Communities update
8) Barriefield: Two Centuries of Village Life
9) Toonies for Turtles
10) Recent Climate Change Initiative
11) Sesquecential Grant success

In this update I make no apology for advocating for Kingston to retain the historic architectural character of its downtown as formulated in the city’s Official Plan.  We need a consistent vision for our downtown that retains Kingston’s human scale and the architectural heritage character of the downtown.

1) A few downtown development concerns continue from 2015 that will have a profound and overreaching effects on the character of the downtown and Kingston’s Inner Harbour.
i) First is the proposal to build a 20 story building at the old Capitol Theatre site is in complete contravention of the Official Plan and the city’s by-laws.  David Tran (david_tran@mac.com) to learn more.
ii) Second is Homestead’s plan to build a couple of 20 story towers near the KROCK Centre.  This would also dramatically alter the downtown.  Alex Adams (aadams@cityofkingston.ca)to be on the mailing list for updates. We are wondering if the city’s sewage infrastructure can actually handle this.  The Big Dig on Princess St.  didn’t address existing and potential problems on Queen and Place d’Armes.  Also, there are no commercial ground floors on Wellington or Queen in this development – effectively  eliminating opportunities for creating lively dynamic interesting walkable streetscapes .

iii)The city has promised to pay Homestead $18,000,000 to build a new downtown parking garage as part of this development.  FYI: This is a cost to the tax payer of $65,000 per parking space. FYI: Providing parking is expensive.
iv) The Blockbuster Video site is waiting in the wings with wishes to build yet another high rise on Queen.  Thirty three storeys is a number being bandied around.
v) The above developments would sow the seeds for further 20-30 story high rise developments along the downtown waterfront and beside City Hall.  Is this really what we want in Kingston’s downtown?
 
If you have time and are interested, a most wonderful report was completed for the city in 2007 entitled DOWNTOWN AND HARBOUR AREA ARCHITECTURAL GUIDELINES STUDY outlining how our downtown should be.  It was completed by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects and contains an excellent Architectural Character chapter by Kingston’s own Carl Bray.
https://www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/strategies-studies-plans/urban-design-guidelines/downtown-and-harbour-area-architectural-guidelines
In our opinion, the city spends hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on reports like this to act as policy guidelines.  It then makes sense for the mayor and council to follow their own policy guidelines – not make ad hoc alterations to the Official Plan (spot zoning) that favour developers at the expense of citizens. Yes, we want developments but developments that are compatible with our unique historic downtown.  Let’s not  kill the goose that laid the golden egg.  As the above report states:
” The successful future of the Downtown and Harbour area cannot, after all, be taken for granted... Visit other Ontario communities such as Belleville, Brantford or London.  In each of these cities it is all too easy to see the tragic urban results of inattention to downtown commercial vitality, and indifference to its legacy policy”.

High rises are exciting when they have great designs and when they are appropriately placed.  In my opinion the Kingston Centre area, for example, offers a terrific opportunity for well designed dramatic high rises with incredible views all the way down the ramp that is Princess St. to the water. The Tannery site could also have a dramatic high rise suggestive of the old tannery chimney.  These would be appropriate high rise locations that would not interfere with the human scale quality of Kingston’s unique downtown.  If the plan for downtown Kingston is to attract more residents, the City ought to encourage housing of many kinds: town houses, row housing, low-level condo and apartments that fit into the area. Both Frontenac Village and Anna Lane are good examples.   Great modern architectural design is important.  Kingston was a centre of great design in the 19th century.  We could do the same today rather than simply accept boring uninspired mediocrity.
 
Paul Schliesmann has written an excellent piece on thefront page of the Jan 2 Whig – http://www.thewhig.com/2016/01/01/downtown-kingston-how-high-is-too-high
He quotes David Trousdale, Homestead’s manager of acquisitions and corporate development, as saying the buildings will bring “life and vibrancy to the area”.  But with blank walls at street level, how is this possible?  Similarly he says that the buildings are designed “to fit the style of the surrounding heritage architecture“.  Is this for real?  Ed Smith states that the Homestead developments are set back from historic Princess and Brock streets and would take nothing away from the appeal of downtown Kingston for citizens and visitors alike.  What a limited view of historic Kingston this is.  The Downtown BIA should be more inclusive and consider including the exciting businesses on  Queen and Wellington north of Princess, for example, as part of what they consider the downtown.  For most, the downtown and harbour areas extend south past Johnson along the harbour including the museums, north past Place d’Armes and west including Brock Princess and Queen all the way to Division.  Actually, I think it should also include the shoreline north as far as the Woolen Mill to include Kingston’s  fascinating industrial past.

What do you think?  Letters to mayor, council and staff can have an effect.  Be sure to copy the clerk John Bolognone  (jbolognone@cityofkingston.ca) with a request that your letter be included as official correspondence.  Or phone. Councilors’ e-mails and phone numbers are on the city’s webpage if you click on City Hall and then Council.

2) Other ways to enliven the Downtown and Harbour Areas to bring in more tourists and downtown residents could include:
i) creating interesting uses for the downtown’s many intriguing and unique alleyways following  David Dossett’s lead.
ii) creating a couple of year-round pedestrian blocks – Princess St. between Wellington and King and Sydenham St. between Princess and Queen.  Building on the success of the Princess St. Promenade!
iii) promoting recreational trails in and around Kingston following Lennox and Addington’s great example. http://www.lennox-addington.on.ca/things-to-do/county-trails.html
iv) promoting Kingston to millennials – again following Lennox and Addington’s truly excellent website –WorkAnywhere.ca.
v) free transit – especially for all children.  Right now with the requirement of coin payment only, a family has to be weighed down with coins to ride the bus together.  Drivers typically waive the fees when correct change isn’t there and a lot of income is being lost anyway.
vi) creating “cycle priority routes” on quiet back streets such as Earl and Mack that have a slower speed limit and where young families and seniors in particular can feel safer negotiating street traffic.
vii) filling empty storefronts by renting cheaply to non-profits until appropriate commercial tenants are found – following the UK’s example.
Other suggestions welcome.  Please e-mail them and I will be happy to include them in the Feb. update.

3) The Secondary Plan for King’s Town North (formerly called the Old Industrial and Inner Harbour areas). Due to the considerable protest concerning the Wellington St. Extension, predominantly by wellingtonx, the city has sent out an RFP for a Secondary Plan.  We have been told that outreach will offer opportunities for citizens and developers to voice concerns.  More anon in future updates….

4) Recent publicity concerning the Wellington St. Extension:
http://www.kingstonregion.com/opinion-story/6196099-a-vision-for-kingston-s-future
Thanks so much to all of you who completed the poll.  Results stand at 53% opposed to the road.
There were also a flurry of letters to the editor – now available at www.wellingtonx.wordpress.com

5) FYI: An Open Letter, both sensible and visionary, concerning the Third Crossing was written by local resident Jeff Mann.  It was sent to the city’s Engineering department as well as some members of Council and interested others.  See the full text at the end of this update.

6) Mixed feelings concerning the K&P Trail  The fact that any cycling, walking and running trail is being constructed from the Trans Canada Trail to the downtown  in time for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017 is wonderful.  However a bit of a tragedy of errors has occurred.  Confusion as to the path alignment was caused initially by the report which stated that the existing pathway would be upgraded but then showed an image of a 3 metre path through the park. Many people believed the words rather than the image.   Then, when legitimate concerns were raised by people who care about the turtles, the thought was a 3 ft wide asphalt path with gravel on either side for the turtles.  However, the 3 ft description turned out to be a mistake.  It was actually a 3 metre wide pathway that Council voted on.  So now we are committed to a 3 metre wide asphalt path around the Woolen Mill and through the park with up to a metre of gravel on either side to accommodate the turtles and give them a safer place to lay their eggs.  This will be hugely invasive.  If the WSE does happen  there will hardly be any park left.  Truly worrying.

7) Coalition of Kingston Communities  At present, 15 city-wide  community groups are represented in this coalition seeking greater openness and transparency from the city on a variety of issues.  A subcommittee is being formed to create an organizational structure.  For more information contact Christine Sypnowich – christine.sypnowich@queensu.ca.

8)  As a favour to our sister organization across the river we are happy to help promote sale of their recent book Barriefield: Two Centuries of Village Life (Quarry Press). The book is available for $35 (exact change or cheque) in Barriefield from Barb Carr and David Craig at 262 Main Street (barbecarr@hotmail.com;  613-544-4081) or from Christine Sypnowich and David Bakhurst at 249 Main Street (christine.sypnowich@queensu.ca;  613-542-2549).   The Barriefield Antiques Shop (242 James Street) is kindly selling the book on behalf of the Barriefield Village Association.  They’re open Saturdays and Sundays, 9 am-5 pm, and Fridays, 11 am-4 pm. Also contact Novel  Idea, 156 Princess St. 613-546-9799

9) Toonies for Turtles  As stated in earlier updates, this will be our major event of the upcoming summer.  We will be attempting a turtle tally in Doug Fluhrer Park as well as a method for covering eggs once they are laid.  More anon….

10) Recent Climate Change Initiative  Local citizen  David Knowles is interested in doing something concrete in the city of Kingston to deal with climate change.  We feel it is reasonable to headline this initiative as the Inner Harbour is impacted by carbon-producing car-culture initiatives such as the Wellington St. Extension.  Perhaps the houses in the Inner Harbour might be a good place to start this initiative that is in agreement with the goals of Sustainable Kingston.
THE CARBON ACTION TASK FORCE in KINGSTON
Starting in January David Knowles wants to create a task force of committed volunteers to learn the math (it’s not hard) and fan out across the city to inform home owners how to measure and reduce their carbon footprints. The mission is to remove 250,000 tonnes co2e from Kingston city wide Green House Gas Emissions within a twelve month period by taking action “every single day”.
According to Canada Post, there are 36,079 homes in Kingston – if each one could be encouraged to, or be shown how to measure and reduce emissions by 5 tonnes that would equal 180,395 – a very respectable goal. The highest household emissions are from cars, trucks and heating – emissions from hydro have dropped considerably since the McGuinty government closed the coal fired power plants and introduced the Green Energy Act.
Emissions fall into three categories, or scopes:
Scope 1 comprises all direct sources of emissions – heating, deliveries to the home and transportation. Scope 2 includes purchased electricity.
Scope 3 comprises all other indirect emissions such as employee commute, business travel & deliveries — Full Disclosure:  David also has an environmental marketing business where he teaches business owners how to conserve and encourage cycle commuting. The importance of walkable neighbourhoods is also high on his agenda.
Carbon Action Task Force, Carbonleader Certification Program
E: carbonleadercertified@gmail.com W: carbonleader.wordpress.com
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/Carbonleader-Certification-Program-443402639182329/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/primaryimpact
Our kids have a right to inherit a livable earth!

11) Sesquicentennial Grant – Great News!  The Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour/Swamp Ward and Inner Harbour History Project’s application to the City of Kingston Heritage Fund for creation of a book about the local history and culture of our area was granted at Council’s December 15, 2015 meeting.
Well done Laura Murray!

Cheers – and Happy New Year once again,
Mary Farrar, President, Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour, www.friendsofinnerharbour.com

 

p.s. OPEN LETTER CONCERNING THE “THIRD CROSSING” by Jeff Mann
(I am a fairly recent immigrant to Kingston. I lived in Maine for many years and worked on Transportation issues in the state for four years as the Land Use/Environmental representative to the state sponsored Regional Transportation Advisory Committee 5. I also served on the Maine Waste Management Authority’s advisory council.)

Building a third bridge whose primary purpose is to increase highway capacity and relieve congestion simply will not work. A more effective approach, which could include a “third crossing”, would ideally encourage less driving, increase transportation flexibility, and take into account larger issues such as development and access.
Pragmatically, if the government (city, provincial, federal) wants to protect its investment of infrastructure dollars that would be used for this project, care must be taken to limit future demand for increased road capacity. At the very least, this investment should not contribute to the demand for increased road capacity. In essence we should regard road capacity as a resource, like the capacity of a landfill, that should be conserved.
Using current traffic demand methods to protect the infrastructure investment could include limiting curb cuts and traffic lights essentially making a highway. Unless car related development (CRD) is limited at both ends of the highway, congestion will occur and capacity on the highway will decline. Addressing  CRD at ingress and egress is as essential to the “third crossing” as  steel and concrete. Limiting CRD may not be popular with some of the public or with developers, however any concessions to CRD will doom the effectiveness of the project. How and at what distance from the “highway” CRD occurs is complicated. The funders of this project need to be clear, the project is not to increase capacity or development, but to ameliorate congestion. Developing a  bridge, or bypass, is complicated and is not an easy fix for traffic problems.
Taking a more forward looking approach and addressing Kingston’s aspirations to “sustainability” should include other options including the concepts of public transport, bicycling and walking. A crossing design that fits these goals more closely would be flexible and would be designed to encourage less driving. A scenario:
The crossing (personally, I wouldn’t rule out a passenger ferry) is as “light” and as flexible as possible perhaps only a one-lane bridge that adapts to changing transportation needs. At first, it would carry traffic into the city in the morning and out at night. Priority is given to buses. Other than at rush hour, the bridge is for buses, biking and walking only. If a second deck for walking/biking underneath the road surface could be built that would be a benefit. As the city develops demand for public transit, the bridge could be altered to a non-car bridge–bus, light rail, biking and walking only. The walking/biking modes would be served by bus stops at each end of the bridge with development, including commercial development, based on these modes. Pedestrian or transit based development should be encouraged near the crossing.
To create a crossing is not a simple process. Short sightedness will only lead to inefficiency. To properly develop a car based solution is just as complex as a non-car based solution so why not develop the non-car based solution as outlined in the scenario.