The Downtown Bullies

downtown Kingston, high rise apartmentsWhy did I draw this? Because, like so many, I feel the unique attraction of Kingston will be lost once the first truly high-rise buildings go up. We have mid-rises already.

Kingston unique? Yes, for a start, our waterfront setting is something rare. Then consider the old city itself. Kingston is blessed with a Human Scale downtown where almost everything is walkable and the buildings do not loom. I used to walk to work up Bay Street, I know what looming feels like!

Not only Human Scale but, despite some mid/late 20th Century blots, a city full of varied and beautiful architecture in limestone and brick. The planned 20-storey buildings for Lower Queen Street and the Capitol proposal on Princess will open the way to others, until our old buildings cower amongst the roots of the towers.

Dwarfed, shaded from the sun, bullied into submission and blocked from view they will fade away until Kingston becomes just another North American city.

Bullied because developers are shouldering in, selling apartments not yet approved for construction. Pushing the assumption that the bait of tax dollars will over-ride careful planning. Making careful use of timelines for introducing proposals. Assuming intensification can only be done vertically.

Friends of ours looked at several Canadian cities for retirement – and chose Kingston. They saw it as beautiful and unusual, in that it has the feeling of a small town with the amenities of a much larger city. I suspect many of us feel the same, let’s not spoil it.

The City of Kingston Planning Committee will discuss the proposal by Homestead Land Holdings Ltd. to build two 20-storey towers on Queen Street tomorrow, Thursday, February 18th, at 6:30pm at City Hall. Members of the public are permitted to speak at this meeting and everyone is encouraged to attend and make their views known. If you are unable to be there, letters can be sent to Alex Adams [email protected].

Mike Cole-Hamilton

Mike and Jane Cole-Hamilton came to Canada in 1975, the best move they ever made. They were drawn to Kingston by camping holidays at Landon Bay, family picnics at Jones Falls and two children at Queen’s. From 1998 until recently, they lived in the house they designed and built near Whitefish Lake, they are now in downtown Kingston. Learn more about Mike...

9 thoughts on “The Downtown Bullies

  • I share these sentiments. My husband and I moved our family here in 2009 and one of the things we loved about this city was its unique look and feel, and its small town feel with big city amenities. Win-win. I'd hate to see all this go.

    20-storey buildings next to much smaller ones is not good planning. They will stick out like a sore thumb and the area will look ridiculous. I'm all for development, but not this type of short-sighted planning. Once these buildings go up, there's no turning back. The damage will be done.

    • Also, we used to live in Montreal, and having spent our entire lives there until we moved here, I know all about those looming, sun-blocking, horizon-reducing buildings! I've seen a lot of them go up in my lifetime in neighbourhoods where they didn't belong. Not a pretty sight.

  • This is a difficult issue, but it's silly to say we have only mid-rises now. Have you counted the number stories in the Harbourfront condo or the Locomotive Works apartments? I don't know what separates a mid-rise from a high rise, but I doubt it's 2 or 3 floors.
    The fact is, we already have a high rise close to downtown and, while we might wish it had never been build, it's hard to see how building a similar building an equal distance east (but not on the waterfront) is going to "ruin" the downtown.

  • You must have your eyes closed when you’re walking downtown. Otherwise, you could not miss seeing the 20 empty storefronts it that never stay occupied. Downtown Kingston is in danger of extinction without people lining here. Where are they? Living in the west end and shopping at the mall. Expansion to the east will bring more retail there soon. There is a long line of people, particularly retirees, who want to live downtown in a high rise. Kingston has one of the lowest vacancy rates in all of Canada. Wake up and recognize that we desperately need housing downtown and that means density.

  • Once again, density and compact city design are not the same as high rise. Conflating urban density and high rise is rent-seeking speculative development rhetoric, not fact. We certainly need more people downtown and high density development would be good. These proposals however are poorly designed (hardly 'designed' at all) and out of place, and are being put forward as if they represent the right way in a black and white choice between development and stagnation. That's a false choice, and there should be a proper participatory planning process for the future of downtown, which looks at a range of choices and comes up with more innovative solutions that meet a greater range of needs.

  • I agree with you. We should be demanding better from our developers. Build, yes, density, yes, but let's not ruin our downtown with ugly 20 story buildings. The horror that is Princess Towers should be evidence enough to say thanks but no thanks.

  • There's a strong trend towards scaling down housing into condos and apartments as boomers age and retire, and people want to live (and should be encouraged to) downtown. Small scale low rise housing sounds wonderful in theory, but tell me where the space is for that? We're not living in a time capsule. There is no reason why the historic fabric and new housing cannot exist side by side. I say open the door to high rises and get people living (and spending) downtown.

  • I think there is room for high rises in Kingston. Perhaps in the barriefield area..once the new bridge connects us. Perhaps in the highlands that once were wrecking yards and racetracks north of the 401. Even north off Sydenham road near anchor concrete… Not in the city core.

  • Suburbia in Kingston out on the west side is U-G-L-Y. Shopping out there is just depressing. Bringing more people down is a great idea. If it's high rises…so be it!

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