What sort of city to you want to live in? That fundamental question is at the core of an ongoing debate concerning the necessity of the Wellington Street extension. On one side, opponents primarily organized through Wellington X contend that the extension will unnecessarily erode the greenspace at Douglas Fluhrer Park, negatively impact the Inner Harbour’s naturalized shoreline, and serve to promote car culture. Conversely, developers and select City officials contest that the project has been on the books for years, and that the extension plays a crucial role in Kingston’s Transportation Master Plan as a corridor between downtown Kingston and John Counter Boulevard. Of course, those summations oversimplify the arguments for and against, and suffice it to say, there’s much more at stake than saving a park or potentially shaving a few minutes off of your daily commute.
For decades, developers have longed for the opportunity to unlock the potential of the underutilized environs of the Inner Harbour. As recently as 2014, Council decided the fate of four such projects, each possessing tremendous capacity to transform the neighbourhood and brownfields throughout the King’s Town district. An overview of those projects, and a recap of their disposition is as follows:
- April 2014: Council approves BPE Development’s proposal to transform eight-acres of derelict property on Montreal Street (less than 1 km away from Douglas Fluhrer Park) into an industrial/commercial incubator complex that could employ upwards of 300 people.
- June 2014: opponents protest of the planned demolition of the The Bailey Broom factory on the corner of Cataraqui and Rideau. City Council holds off on demolition, in support of finding a buyer for the building.
- September 2014: Patry Inc. Developments’ vision for a 1,500 apartment unit complex on the 14-acre Davis Tannery site (1/2 km away from Douglas Fluhrer Park) was rejected by council and area residents.
- November 2014: ABNA Investments submits a plan to buy the outer train station on Montreal Street, and relocate it to Douglas Fluhrer Park across from a limestone building (9 North Street), which ABNA already owns.
City Council has since withdrawn a motion to cancel the extension, and agreed to conduct a “community visioning exercise” to yield a secondary plan. While that exercise isn’t set to start until this Spring and will take a long time to produce a possible alternative, it’s important to note that the secondary plan may or may not include the controversial road extension. With that in mind, this week’s poll asks:
Which side of this issue are you on, and why? Do you think that the Wellington Street corridor is needed to alleviate traffic on side streets, and otherwise to stimulate investment in and development of the Inner Harbour? Or would you prefer a reinvigorated park that includes an actual waterfront trail? Perhaps we can have both, and what the City should be considering is transforming the Wellington Street extension into a bikeway or green belt. Drop off your comments and ideas below.