Kingston City Council has authorized City staff to move ahead with recreating the Love Kingston Marketplace (LKM) this summer. At their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, Council approved downtown parking, patio bylaw and traffic exceptions to make room for outdoor dining and shopping starting in May.
Downtown Kingston business owners said the level of consultation, as well as the plans themselves, are much improved over last year.
“We had significant concerns about the rollout of the initiative last summer, but it appears the City and the BIA have taken the criticisms to heart and are doing things differently this time around,” said Ron Shore, owner of Stone City Ales on Princess Street.
“We were consulted and had the opportunity to provide ideas and feedback. We now know what to expect this coming spring and can plan accordingly for this summer.”
Joanne Angelis, who owns House of Angelis on Brock Street, agrees.
“They brought in a third party, her name was Wanda Williams. She spoke to all of the people who would be affected by this. She was great. She understands our perspective very well,” Angelis said. “She really listened, and she asked all the right questions.”
“The way they did it this year was great. You really felt you were being heard this year. Last year you could talk, but nobody was listening,” she added.
A closer look: Love Kingston Marketplace 2021
The City first launched the LKM in the summer of 2020, in collaboration with the Downtown Kingston BIA, Tourism Kingston and Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health.
The vision was to create an outdoor pedestrian streetscape with expanded patios, and safer patronage of downtown businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it involved blocking off portions of two main downtown streets, Brock and Princess, as well as eliminating a large area of downtown parking.
Angelis and many of her neighbouring vendors on Brock and Princess Streets were outspoken against the setup, saying that it created huge logistical challenges for deliveries and made parking next to their stores impossible. After receiving feedback from downtown business owners, the City revised plans.
LKM 2021 will still increase the footprint for patios by temporarily converting paid parking spaces between May and October, and extending the use of sidewalks.
However, Princess Street will only be closed for four Saturdays over the summer. Sydenham Street will be closed Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Market Street will be closed full-time from April 1 to December 31. Ontario will also be closed partially on four weekends from June to September — on Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday midday.
The concrete barriers the City will be using to divert street traffic will also be shorter and narrower this year.
Any accessible parking spaces that are temporarily unavailable due to road closures or expanded patios will reportedly be relocated to a nearby accessible location. Existing accessible spaces will not be converted to 10-minute pick-up or delivery spaces. The City will require expanded patios to be accessible and provide a ramp into each on-street parking area that is converted.
“We look forward to having our second patio again,” Shore said, “and hope that local residents continue to prioritize supporting local businesses where they can.”
“This is a step in the right direction,” Angelis said. “It’s the way it should have been, always. We’ll have these fun little pockets on pedestrian streets, I think it will be great.”
“We weren’t ever opposed to doing something like this,” she added. “We just wanted it to be done right.”
City’s summary of 2020 feedback
CAO Lanie Hurdle presented a report to Council at their Tuesday night meeting, sharing data from 2020.
The LKM 2020 expenses covered by the City totaled $320,000. These costs did not include $65,000 in lost revenue from patio licensing fees, which were waived, or $161,000 in lost parking revenue.
According to Hurdle’s report, the only funding being provided directly from the City to the LKM 2021 project includes $42,500 from Cultural Services.
In addition to the approximately 40 permanent patios that already existed downtown, Hurdle said an additional 61 permits were issued during the 2020 season for expanded temporary patio and retail spaces.
“Verbal and written feedback indicate that the expanded patios were very well received by both the patio operators and the public at large,” she noted. “Many commented that the additional patio spaces made downtown more vibrant and, in some cases, contributed to business survival during the 2020 year.”
“Given the feedback received during the 2020 season, the LKM 2021 team has worked to improve the amount of space provided by this years’ expanded patios, as well as the appearance and visual appeal,” she said.
The Downtown Kingston BIA will be responsible for working with business owners throughout the upcoming expanded patio process. This will reportedly include comprehensive consultation and on-going communication with businesses.
“This is the way a City should run,” Angelis said. “You have your DBIA for a reason. You have Tourism Kingston for a reason. They understand how the downtown works, what their merchants’ needs are. They understand what’s going on. The people in City hall are not on the frontlines.”
“We’ve all had a tough year,” she added. “It’s still tough and we need to work together.”
“We’ll all need a strong summer to help recover from this past year,” Shore said. “We appreciate the help from the City, as we all need the help to keep a vibrant and walkable downtown core.”