The City of Kingston has responded swiftly to negative feedback on the Love Kingston Marketplace, says their Chief Administrative Officer, Lanie Hurdle.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the City of Kingston announced significant changes to the newly opened pedestrian streetscape, including reopening Princess and Brock Streets to two lanes of traffic, and reinstating parking in some areas.
“We got feedback, we’re acting on it,” Hurdle said in an interview with Kingstonist. “To be frank, this has been implemented for four or five days now and we’re already taking action.”
Business owners and the public at large have raised concerns over the plans, citing issues such as transport deliveries on the restricted roadways, storefront accessibility, parking and the generally industrial aesthetic of the cement blocks and metal fences now lining downtown streets.
Hurdle said the City and Tourism Kingston requested a meeting with the Downtown Kingston BIA executive on Monday, June 29, to discuss the feedback they’d received.
“The City has never done anything like this before,” she said. “Like every initiative, often you have to adjust to certain things. We’ve received feedback with the implementation. Now … we have a better feel for things, and we’re going to be making some adjustments.”
Some business owners have reported that the BIA, Tourism Kingston and the City failed to adequately consult them in the first place, prior to implementation.
Hurdle said she believes the number of applications she has received from business owners, seeking to use the new outdoor space, indicates their broad support.
“You have half a dozen [businesses calling for parking.] I have 74 applications from businesses that want either retail space or patio space outside,” she said.
Hurdle said the new design will still allow people to be in an outdoor environment, so they feel safer shopping.
“The intent of this was never to provide the maximum parking possible, otherwise we probably would have just built a parking lot,” she said. “The intent has always been about creating more outdoor space so that the public and businesses can feel safer.”
Susan Cooke, owner of Cooke’s Fine Foods on Brock Street had suggested that downtown businesses would be better supported by the reimplementation of free downtown parking. The City waived parking fees as COVID-19 accommodation measure on March 18, and began phasing them in again at the beginning of June.
Hurdle said the City loses approximately $700,000 in parking revenue per month when fees are waived, and an additional $150,000 per month in lost fines. Extending the waiver on parking fees would require other measures to recover those losses, she said.
“Things are always feasible as long as there’s money coming from somewhere else. But when you can’t increase fees, you can’t increase tax, you can’t increase anything but somehow you need to be able to continue to provide the service, it becomes pretty difficult,” she said. “Things are always possible but we need to somehow pay for them.”
She also said that with the loss of parking enforcement, the City receives complaints about people parking for days at a time in high-demand spots. “A lot of these issues do arise when you don’t have enforcement,” she said.
The City anticipates spending $320,000 on the Love Kingston Marketplace initiative. According to Kate Lillicrap, Project Manager for the City of Kingston, $190,000 comes from pre-existing departmental City funds. “Beyond this amount,” she said “the City has received pre-approval for the use of up to $130,000 from the MAT Reserve Fund which is collected when visitors rent a hotel or motel room in the city. Partners such as the Downtown BIA and Tourism Kingston have also made contributions to Love Kingston Marketplace.”
The work to adjust fencing on Princess St begins on Friday, July 3, with adjustments to Brock Street and removal of the fencing segments to begin the following week, the City said.
Parking lay-by lanes where there are no businesses using the spaces will function as pick-up and drop-off spaces for customers, delivery spaces for businesses, or accessible parking areas. Market St. will remain fully closed and the current lane shift on Clarence St, between King and Wellington, will remain.
Hurdle said the City of Kingston, Tourism Kingston and Downtown Kingston BIA Executive had all agreed on the changes.
“We discussed a lot of different options in terms of changes. What the executive of the DBIA board supported were the changes that we’re going to be implementing,” she said.
“We are always happy to work with business owners and that’s why we are making adjustments and changes from the original plan,” Hurdle said.