In a unanimous vote, Kingston City Council voted in support of a recommendation from the Heritage Committee that will see a new A&W location opening up in the Market Square district.
At their meeting held Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2019, members of Kingston City Council made it obvious they felt both City Staff and the Heritage Committee had taken care of all the debate and negotiating work necessary to ensure the proposed new A&W in the historic downtown core would comply with the existing heritage designations of the area. Almost surprisingly (for those who’ve followed City Hall happenings for any length of time, anyway), the recommendation brought forth only some slight trepidation or aspects for debate around the horseshoe. Only three members of Council spoke to the recommendation, and, despite a few words of warning and a couple of questions for City Staff, all three indicated their support for the recommendation.
The recommendation from the Heritage Committee was for Council to approve an application under the Ontario Heritage Act for alterations to the property at 328 King Street East – a TD former bank that was constructed in 1911. The alterations included installing two external illuminated 3d logo wall signs on the north and east sides of the building, as well as the installation of fixed fabric awnings over the ground floor window openings, and the installation of three flag signs in the existing flag pole brackets on the building. The alterations also include modifying a window opening on the north elevation of to allow for the installation of an accessible entrance.
Councillor Peter Stroud was first to speak to the recommendation, reminding his fellow councillors that he had chaired the Heritage Committee for the past four year. He spoke to the parallel between the proposed fast food restaurant and a similar development that occurred in 2011 – a parallel that is both figurative and literal, given that the two addresses in question are across the street from one another.
“We have some historical context for this particular application, a very similar parallel across the street at Jack Astors, and that actually predates my time on the committee, but apparently there was discussion at the committee back in the day when Jack Astors was coming to Market Square, and people were saying it wasn’t compatible with the heritage nature of market square, and so on and so forth,” said Stroud, noting that there had been some discussion at the time as to whether or not “the very presence of a burger joint at Market Square” was heritage-compatible.
“And to that I would say, well, don’t you think they ate burgers back in the 1800s?” Stroud mused, prompting some laughter in Council Chambers.
“Seriously! Maybe not A&W burgers but…”
Stroud went on to say that the issues with this kind of heritage compliance have to do with branding, and whether or not the corporation in question is willing to negotiate – a process that requires give and take, he expressed.
“So you gotta say ‘what is the win-win here, is for the applicant to be able to have this tenant and make some changes that will clearly identify [the property] as the A&W burger chain, without taking away from the heritage aspect of the market square,” he said.
“I think that is possible, with the recommendation that’s before us, but it’s important that staff be very… assertive, with respecting what’s in the heritage plan itself when dealing with the proponent, because, you know, these large corporate entities will be very assertive on their own agendas, so we need to be just as assertive in return to make sure that they respect the heritage quality of this very important first capital’s nerve centre.”
Paige Agnew, director of planning, building and licensing for the City of Kingston, assured Stroud that City Staff would be working with the corporation to ensure the recommendation’s requirements from the City would be adhered to.
“Certainly as part of the process that’s led us to the staff recommendation that’s on the floor tonight, we’ve worked pretty extensively with the team from A&W, and it has been a process of iteration and change from the beginning,” Agnew said.
“Compared to what some of their original offerings were with respect to the exterior treatments of the building, certainly they’ve been very responsive to all of the direction from Staff in terms of changing colour, changing material, looking at the type of branding while still trying to be consistent with the corporate branding, so I’m pretty confident that the team has been very receptive and will continue to be so, and certainly Staff will be there to implement all of the elements of the recommendation should Council decide to support it.”
Stroud was followed by Councillor Jim Neill, who currently sits on the Heritage Committee, and therefore has first-hand knowledge of all that’s gone on with regards to the proposed changes at 328 King Street East.
“The proposal as it now stands, I think, is an improvement, definitely an improvement over the original,” said Neill, noting that he was in Toronto just a few weeks ago and saw an A&W location that “was a very tastefully done,” and “that isn’t jarring, that fits in well with the building.”
“So I think that this won’t be a problem, I will give a heads up that the branding and colour and all of that has been modified for what we control, which is the outside of the building. The issue might be that on the inside of the glass windows, we have no way of addressing that aspect of it, as I understand it,” Neill continued. His concern was later confirmed by City Staff – the City has no jurisdiction to control what happens inside the building.
“So I think this is a healthy compromise, and I look forward to not seeing something bright and gaudy on the inside of the glass.”
Lastly, Councillor Simon Chapelle spoke to the recommendation, nothing that he would have much preferred an A&W Teen Burger than the burger he’d had with Councillor Gary Oosterhof prior to the Council meeting.
“A&W is a Canadian icon, and I think it’s great that we have a family-valued restaurant moving to the downtown core, especially across the street from our great market square with the ice skating opportunities,” Chapelle said.
“I’m actually very excited about having an A&W in the downtown core.”
With that, Mayor Bryan Paterson called the vote, and the recommendation passed unanimously, laying the first brick in the proverbial foundation of a new A&W location overlooking Market Square.
To access the entire recommendation and report from the Heritage Committee, click here.