In our original three-part series that focused on upper and lower Princess Street, as well as neighbouring side streets, we took a snapshot of new development and also documented long-standing vacancies. Two years later, we revisited this topic of conversation, while it has proven to be as divisive as any other contested issue in the Limestone City. In comparison to downtown Kingston circa 2009, nowadays there are far fewer vacant commercial properties, and we’re also witnessing solid tenants establishing significant operations in buildings that have been vacant for far too long. It’s all very exciting to see, however the power of certain landlords remains all too apparent, as businesses are continuously forced to shuffle around every so often to avoid crippling rent hikes.
In our final piece of the current state of downtown puzzle, we’re turning our gaze to upper Princess Street, from Division to Bath Road, which is also referred to as Williamsville’s Main Street. Along this stretch, the vacancies outnumber new development by a ratio of 2:1. With all the abandoned car dealerships, gas stations, and shopping carts, it resembles a ghost town from certain angles, however I can’t help but acknowledge the real potential here. Residents of Williamsville also see something special, as they’ve been heavily involved in a study that aims to generate a community-based vision to revitalize their Main Street. The initial draft design guideline is certainly worth a read as it will undoubtedly influence the development of downtown Kingston for years to come.
Closures and Vacancies
- Elisium, 424 Princess Street: previously Gusto’s then Legendz and most recently Elisium, this massive property has an identity crisis as it has bounced between nightclub and casual Italian dining establishment.
- Kingston Computer Planet, 477 Princess Street: I don’t know what I was more upset about, the closure of KCP, or the fact that they changed the name of their once glorious forum to Kingstonite.
- Hearing Centre, 501 Princess Street: admittedly, I was never in the market for hearing aid, but with an increasingly aging population, I find it hard to believe that this place went out of business.
- Accent Furniture, 503 Princess Street: I remember going into this place about a decade ago and taking note that their inventory was from the 70’s and overpriced. No surprise they are now closed.
- Open Text, 544 Princess Street: did you know that the largest Canadian-based software-centric company has an office in Kingston? Years ago Open Text moved from the downtown to Gardiners Road.
- 7 Eleven/Esso, Princess and Alfred: perhaps it’s telling that all but one Esso station in Kingston was bulldozed over. Here’s a prime corner lot that is bound to be something boring, like apartments.
- Laundromat, 556 Princess Street: located on the doorstep of one of my favourite local pizza parlours, this graffiti magnet is in dire need of some tender loving care, and a paying tenant.
- Budget Car Rental, 601 Princess Street: one of many vacant automotive lots in downtown Kingston.
- Sunoco, Princess and Nelson: I’m actually surprised that the cleanup here is progressing as fast as it is. No idea what will end up here, but a blank canvass is better than a vacant, rotting gas station.
- Vacant Storefront, 662 Princess Street: one of a handful of Springer-owned properties that’s been sitting vacant for far too long. In the midst of a nail salon/tanning parlour, what could work here?
- Vacant Storefront, 666 Princess Street: the second vacant Springer-owned property in this building. Not much to look at here, but something tells me it’s perfect for a tarot reader or cult.
- Vacant Storefront, 670 Princess Street: this address was once home to Khean Vinh Jewellery, who for whatever reason decided to move down Princess Street, closer to where customers might be.
- Vacant Lot, Princess and Nelson: as we noted last time around, it’s hard to believe that a Keg steakhouse used to be located here. Thankfully the garbage and abandoned shopping carts have been cleaned up.
- Hertz Rental Car, Victoria and Princess: the second abandoned car rental property on this strip.
- Toyota Dealership, Victoria and Princess: a long time ago, Toyota pulled the plug on their downtown dealership, and relocated out Bath Road near Frontenac Secondary. Another massive void to be filled.
- Greater Kingston After Hours Medical Clinic, 800 Princess Street: this vacancy might appear a bit worse than it actually is. I believe there are other tenants still doing business on the upper floors.
- Vacant Storefront, 844b Princess Street: situated between a bank and the HIV/AIDS Regional Service, here’s another vacant Springer property. No sign of what used to be here.
- Vacant Storefront, 837–845 Princess Street: in comparison to some of the other vacant properties along the strip, you don’t have to drastically stretch your imagination to see something working here.
- Vacant Storefront, 853 Princess Street: steps away from Star Diner and other businesses who seem to be making a go of it, this is the last vacancy along Princess Street before the Bath Road intersection.
Additions, Relocations and Coming Soon
- Kame, 156 Division Street: the latest restaurant addition to this part of Kingston is, of course, a sushi place. I’m not complaining either. More sushi restos mean that I get a good seat at my faves.
- Niji, 168 Division Street: the last time we took a stroll and recorded the state of this part of town, Niji sushi was about to open up in the old Jumbo Video. They’ve survived, and spurred more sushi.
- Khean Vinh Jewellery, 473 Princess Street: sometime over the last few months, this jeweller relocated from 670 Princess Street, and is now a bit closer to the action, but is it close enough?
- 5-6-7-8 Dance Studio, 579 Princess Street: reaching way back, well over a decade ago, this used to be a sporting goods store. After sitting vacant for years, it’s now an active dance studio. Nice.
- Cataraqui Archeological Research Foundation, 611 Princess Street: a non-profit organization dedicated to the recognition, investigation, and preservation of archaeological resources.
- Health for Life, 635-637 Princess Street: this medical centre provides services to people over 40 who want to stay active. This gorgeous building looks to be a good fit for this professional service.
- Digigraphics, 688 Princess Street: formerly a paint store, then home to Inside Out a retailer of “fine furniture”. It’s now home to Digigraphics who relocated their Concession street office.
- 420 Kingston, 728 Princess Street: last but not least, with neighbours including a comic book store and pawn shop, here we’ve got seeds, glassware and vaporizers.