The City of Kingston is looking into permanently closing Ontario Street in front of City Hall, along with Market Street beside it.
The City has already confirmed that both streets will be closed for particular events this summer in relation to summer programming, which is currently in the works. These changes would aim to help make Kingston public areas safer, along with becoming more welcoming, according to the City, the Downtown Kingston BIA, and Tourism Kingston.
The City explains that, “permanently closing Market Street and Ontario Street was a suggestion included in the overall Downtown Improvement Plan that was presented to Council at the beginning of the month. The idea was a product of numerous Community Focus Group meetings over the fall and winter, as indicated in the Council report. At this preliminary stage, the permanent closure of Market Street and Ontario Street is just that — a proposed idea within a larger plan.”
Mayor Bryan Paterson, who took to his YouTube channel to discuss the concept, says the potential closure would, “create new park space for pedestrians and an expanded location for festivals and other community events.”
Confederation Park, located immediately across Ontario Street from City Hall, is one of the biggest attractions of Kingston for not only tourists, but for locals as well, and these plans will provide more space for pedestrians. Paterson feels it can “help both individuals and businesses in recovery from the pandemic.”
Megan Knott, Executive Director of Tourism Kingston, explains that the concept for the closures is also a continuation of the work set out in 2018 as part of the Tourism Master Plan, which directs Tourism Kingston to work with the City of Kingston on “creating a more walkable and defined tourism zone.”
“Every successful tourism city has what is known as a walkable tourism core or hub — less or no vehicle traffic and more expanded space for residents and tourists alike,” says Knott.
For her part, Marijo Cuerrier, Executive Director of the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA), echoes Knott’s sentiments.
“Downtown Kingston is as successful as it is because it is a walkable area for visitors and the 50,000 residents that live within walking distance,” Cuerrier says, noting that the environmental assessment and traffic flow assessment for the project are still outstanding, and that more assessments may need to be carried out.
“The more enjoyable and safe we can make the downtown, the better the overall experience. But that has to be backed up by data, which we will be looking for,” she said.
So, what do you think, Kingston? Would you enjoy a pedestrian-only area on Ontario Street and Market Street? Think it would induce traffic issues?
Have your say in our poll below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!