If you’ve driven along John Counter Boulevard during the past year or so, specifically the stretch nearest the Via station, you’ve likely noticed the impressive signage on the north side of the road marking the new housing development at Purdy’s Mills. While the untamed land might not look like much from the road, this 165 acre parcel is bordered by the Cataraqui Cemetary and Rideau Trail to the west, as well as the Little Cataraqui Creek and KP Trail to the north. Suffice it to say, the land surrounding Purdy’s Mills is historically and environmentally sensitive, while any sort of development in the vicinity is likely to cause a stir. Nevertheless, the right type of development here could positively benefit urban intensification efforts inside the city limits, as well as address the city’s shortfall of affordable housing.
Recently, a 3-dimensional model depicting an updated layout of Purdy’s Mills surfaced via a video by Mark Thompson Brandt (MTB) Architects. The model, complete with a confusing view from behind the thick forest at Sir John A’s gravesite, imagines what the land could resemble if it incorporated subdivisions as well as three affordable housing apartment towers. MTB Architects shed some additional light on the project and their involvement as follows:
The proposal calls for mixed residential, with the west area of the site (main focus of this review) including high-density residential apartment towers. The provision of affordable housing is a concern in the City of Kingston, as there is a shortage available…Affordable housing proposed to be inserted adjacent to a National Historic Site and soon-to-be designated cemetery under Ontario Heritage Act, for private developer submission Cultural Heritage Impact Statement (CHIS).
While the high-density residential towers still have to pass through a few levels of bureaucracy prior to becoming a reality, according to Barr Homes, the primary phase of the subdivision will include just over 50 homes, each with a starting price tag of $350K. The various home plans for the initial development at Purdy’s Mills pay homage to some of Queen’s University’s greatest minds, benefactors and buildings, including: Ban Righ, Botteral, Carruthers, Earl, Etherington, Fleming, Grant, Richardson, Stirling, Summerhille, Victoria and Watson. Strangely enough, Barr Homes’ website does not contain any details pertaining to the second residential subdivision that is illustrated in MTB Architect’s model. What is more concerning is that it doesn’t hint at the possibility of a trio of affordable housing towers that could eventually call Purdy’s Mills home. Maybe they’re giving potential buyers visiting the model homes a head’s up?
Taking a step back, it’s hard to imagine new homeowners in Purdy’s Mills, who are paying premium prices to live in this neighbourhood, not playing the NIMBY card regarding one, let alone three, affordable housing towers in their backyard. Further, while the project does not specifically encroach upon the Cataraqui Cemetary or Little Cataraqui Creek, staunch heritage crusaders and environmental protectors are bound to voice their concern if the project actually receives any real traction. This din of discontent is bound to be met with an equal amount of loud noise from social justice organizations who will cite the ever-growing need for affordable social housing in Kingston, as well as the city’s tremendously low vacancy rate.
Just what are the implications of building, or not, high-density residential towers at Purdy’s Mills? Public opinion and support is likely to play a key role in getting this project off the ground, but is there enough will in the local community to see this through?