For over a decade, the Wellington Street Extension has been one of the City of Kingston’s most contentious projects, and one that current Mayor, Bryan Paterson, championed when he ran in the 2014 election.
But sometimes “you have to be willing to change your mind,” Paterson said.
“I believe, as mayor, that there are times when you need to stand firm for something you believe is best for the community, but you also have to listen, and you have to keep an open mind,” Paterson said.
“And this one situation where it’s been an evolution for me.”
Near the end of August of this year, Paterson posted a blog on his campaign website entitled ‘Revitalizing the Inner Habour and Old Industrial Area.’ In the video attached to the blog entry, and the entry itself, Paterson explains that he no longer believes that the Wellington Street Extension needs to involve putting a road through Doug Fluhrer Park – the aspect of the Wellington Street Extension that garnered the most public objection.
“So, when I first ran for mayor four years ago, I ran explicitly on the Wellington Street Extension because I believed that we needed it to be able to unlock new development in that area of the community, and in order to be able to enable more traffic to get to and from downtown,” Paterson said.
“But I also heard from many people in the community about their concerns, and the vast majority of those concerns were about putting the road through the park and losing that waterfront greenspace.”
Paterson said that, following the election, he began thinking about the concerns expressed by Kingston residents, and now, after nearly four full years, he’s decided that a road does not need to run through Doug Fluhrer Park.
But does that mean Paterson wants to drop the project all together?
“I think that the best way to describe my compromise position is to say ‘yes, we will definitely not put a road through Doug Fluhrer Park, however, we do need a new road network, but that could look different,” Paterson said, noting that his change of mind was a “process” involving a lot of discussion with City Staff and that a lot of technical work still needs to be done to develop an alternative plan.
“One alternative that I’ve heard a lot about is connecting Russell Street… so that you still create a grid and so that people can get to and from places in the inner harbour, and that will help to unlock redevelopment,” he continued.
“I do still believe that we need the northern section of the Wellington Street Extension that goes to the industrial area, simply because there are properties there that right now have no road access at all. So if you want to create new businesses, new space for small businesses to thrive, you’re going to need that road access.”
Paterson expressed that he would never call that extension Wellington Street, because it wouldn’t actually connect to the base of Wellington Street, as that would involve going though Doug Fluhrer Park.
“So we can put in other roads, they will not be called Wellington Street, we’ll do what we need to do to revitalize the area, but we will protect Doug Fluhrer Park,” he said, adding that a lot of the details of doing so still need to be ironed out, and that Staff are going to bring forth that information in the coming months.
“So rather than creating this giant battle that would continue to go on, why not come to that workable compromise? We can come up with a workable solution and then move forward, so then there’s no uncertainty so that everybody in the community understands what the future will look like, and then we can get on with the business of revitalizing the inner harbour and the old industrial area.”
Original plans for Doug Fluhrer Park (2014) available here.
Paterson’s original blog post and video can be found here.