Kingston City Council supports feasibility study for Providence Commons

The existing Providence Manor site at 275 Sydenham Street in the City’s downtown core could soon be the new home for a community hub named “Providence Commons,” once Providence Manor moves to its new location at 1200 Princess Street. Kingstonist file photo.

On Tuesday night, Sept. 20, 2022, Kingston City Council voted to support a feasibility study for the proposed Providence Commons community hub, to be built at the existing Providence Manor site on Sydenham Street in downtown Kingston. Ultimately, Council members voted unanimously to allocate $50,000 from its Affordable Housing Capital Subsidiary budget to support additional studies for the project.

During last night’s meeting, councillors heard from representatives of Providence Village Inc. (PVI), which hopes to redevelop the Sydenham Street location into a “community hub,” with a focus on affordable housing options, such as market-rental housing. With Providence Manor, a 243-bed long-term care facility operated by Providence Care, set to move to the new Providence Village site at 1200 Princess Street, the Sisters of Providence created PVI, which intends to partner with local organizations to fully realize their vision for Providence Commons.

A map highlights the location of the existing Providence Manor on Sydenham Street. Image via Providence Village.

Laurie French, President and CEO of PVI, said the organization hopes the Sydenham Street location will allow them to “further the vision” of Providence Village within the city’s downtown core. “In 2019, the Sisters leadership team created a vision, mission, and guiding statements for the idea of adaptive reuse of the property… The sisters would like to see addressed [the] gaps in housing and community need in the downtown Kingston area,” she said. 

According to French, PVI has completed some preliminary studies, all of which “confirmed there is value in further studying the development models and potential partners for this site. We have spent a lot of time speaking with interested parties.”

“There is a narrow window of time before the new long-term care home opens to confirm [the] feasibility of the opportunity that would extend Providence Village to the Providence Commons property in a unique way,” French continued.

Councillors also heard from Greg Tilson, an area resident and member of the King’s Town Affordable Housing Working Group, who spoke in favour of additional studies for the Providence Commons project. “We’re in support of Providence Village’s proposal, and the opportunities it presents to repurpose Providence Manor on Sydenham Street. With help from the City… we think there is great potential to create a viable hub of affordable housing and community service.”

In terms of the potential for additional affordable housing units at the site, Tilson noted there is significant demand for such options: “Kingston’s need for rent-geared-to-income housing is pressing and desperate.”

While PVI has completed initial studies, the staff report presented to Council ahead of last night’s meeting indicated that further feasibility inquiries are needed, with additional funds requested from the City to “advance the project and allow for access to additional upper-level government pre-development funding.”

According to Tilson, his group anticipates an in-depth public consultation process to accompany the additional studies.

”We envision a participatory process, engaging many interested parties, including people living with less, at the earliest stages. Such a socially inclusive process could engage neighbours, prospective residents,… City officials, interested community groups, consultants, and developers,” he explained. ”This will require a coalition of organizations and people who recognize the urgency of the housing crisis and are committed to [doing] something about it.”

With $50,000 from the City, PVI aims to have, within the next year, a better understanding of the different affordable housing options which could be made available at the site, as well as projected timelines. According to a press release issued by PVI following Council’s decision, “the next phase of feasibility planning will include a substantial amount of planning, design, and analysis to ensure the project is technically feasible and financially viable.”

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