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Former Prison for Women site development plans apply for city approval

Union Park Kingston development drawing. Image via Siderius Developments.

A new planned community, Union Park Kingston, has applied for City Council approval to develop 40 Sir John A Macdonald Boulevard, the former location of the Prison for Women.

According to a release from Siderius Developments Ltd., dated Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2021, the $143 million development will feature seniors housing, residential condominiums, and a hotel, and the proposal is being uploaded to the City of Kingston’s Development and Services (DASH) Hub.

The proposed development has the potential to establish a cornerstone of the Portsmouth Village community, providing much-needed housing, jobs, and neighbourhood commercial and retail services that would enable seniors to age in place and creates live-work-play-age opportunities, the developers said. The overall vision for Union Park, according to the release, is to create a carefully designed, compact community with a healthy mix of uses, pedestrian-friendly public spaces, and context-sensitive buildings.

Applications to amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-law, along with a Draft Plan of Subdivision have been submitted to the City of Kingston. These multiple applications require approval by City Council, which will include public engagement. Submission of these applications is only one of the first steps of many to be taken and, the developers said, Union Park looks forward to connecting with the community throughout the process.

The 8.1-acre property is located at 40 Sir John A Macdonald Boulevard. The property is bordered by Union Street to the north, Sir John A MacDonald Boulevard to the east, King Street to the south and Portsmouth Village and the Harbour to the west. It will neighbour Queen’s University’s Duncan McArthur Hall and the Correctional Service of Canada Museum. The site was formerly home to the Prison for Women, which opened in 1934 and closed in 2000.

Union Park is situated on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee and the Huron-Wendat. These lands are today also home to a diverse community of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. This acknowledgment is a sign of recognition of and respect for Indigenous people living in this area.

About the Project

“Union Park Kingston will reimagine this site’s potential by creating a vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood for the benefit of all existing neighbours in Portsmouth, Kingstonians in general, and the hundreds of people that will live and work at Union Park,” said Nate Doornekamp with Siderius Developments. “The former Prison for Women is a significant historic building that is functionally obsolete which has sat on contaminated lands for twenty-one years. We respect the history of this site and intend to develop it in a sensitive and responsible manner. The opportunity exists now to transform this property into a showcase that will enhance and add to our community for many years to come.”

According to the release, Union Park Kingston will rejuvenate a historic and prominent property in Portsmouth Village close to Kingston’s downtown, Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, major roadways, and the Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College, and hospital campuses to name a few landmarks. The developers said this proposal will strike the right balance between providing much-needed community services while also respecting the history of the site and area.

“Our plan leaves three-quarters of the land as open space including public parks, pathways, extensive yards, streets, and sidewalks for public enjoyment, including the most coveted portion of the site with the best views of the water,” added Doornekamp. “We believe that this plan is appropriate for the neighbourhood in terms of scale and proposed mixed uses and will be a positive addition to Portsmouth Village. This proposal would provide the village with much-needed housing, small retail and commercial services, parkland, and other benefits.”

Project Amenities

Across the three planned phases, the development will include:

  • a seniors housing continuum of care community,
  • residential condominium units,
  • a hotel,
  • a park and connecting pathway between Union Street and King Street,
  • a healing garden,
  • ground floor commercial space,
  • a public art wall, and, in the last phase,
  • a future mixed-use apartment building.

“Our proposed retirement community offers seniors more than just a place to live – it offers them a place where they can enjoy life,” said Steve Strong, Chief Operating Officer for Signature Retirement Living. “We want our residents to feel right at home whether they are renting one of our fully independent apartments with a variety of age in place features or living in our full-service retirement residence with an all-inclusive lifestyle that has been tailored to meet their needs. Our mission is to provide an enviable level of service in a positive, vibrant, and caring environment as beautiful as it is welcoming.” 

Strong added, “We have enjoyed our experience building and managing our retirement residence in Kingston’s west end. It has been well received by the community, and we are excited by this opportunity to address the housing and care needs of seniors in downtown Kingston.”

Union Park Kingston development drawing. Image via Siderius Developments.

Redevelopment Process and Considerations

The City’s review and approval process is anticipated to take a year. During that time, Siderius will continue to engage with neighbouring residents, landowners, and businesses; heritage-minded groups in the Kingston area; the Prison for Women Memorial Collective; and other community groups.

“As the property’s current stewards, we continue to listen to those with a lived experience in the Prison for Women to create a healing garden with their assistance and involvement,” added Doornekamp.

The Union Park Kingston team acknowledges this property has heritage attributes that must be fully considered as part of the development process. To that end, Siderius has retained two well-respected heritage consultants – John Stewart of Commonwealth Historic Resource Management and Barry Padolsky of Barry Padolsky and Associates – to craft a heritage strategy for the property and heritage impact statements for each building, according to the release.

“This is a unique and special property, and all involved in the Union Park Kingston project are interested in respecting and protecting the heritage and history of the property,” said John Stewart. “We are working with Siderius and the City of Kingston to ensure plans meet with the City’s heritage goals, the requirements of Ontario’s Heritage Act and Parks Canada heritage requirements.”

A website, unionparkkingston.ca, and email newsletter have been launched to provide information on Siderius’ plans and opportunities to provide community feedback.

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