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Homestead application for 5 Lower Union Street under review by City

Homestead Land Holding Ltd. has submitted an application to the City of Kingston to amend The City’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Law for the property known as 5 Lower Union Street, and a public meeting about the application will occur later this summer.

The property located at 5 Lower Union Street in Kingston, Ont. Graphic submitted by IBI group on behalf of Homestead Holdings.

The property, which is located at the terminus of Lower Union Street where it meets Lake Ontario, was purchased by Homestead in 2019 and is currently designated an ‘Environmental Protection Area’ and ‘Residential’ in the Official Plan. It is currently zoned the Harbour ‘HR’ Zone in Zoning By-Law Number 96-259.

James Bar, Acting Manager of Development Approvals for the City of Kingston explains that the City has now issued a Public Notice of a Complete Application which simply means, “We’ve received all of the required documentation to start review of their proposed land use changes.” 

No decision has yet been made by the City, says Bar, “The applicant has submitted justification and studies to support their decision [to apply for the changes] and that underlying information is currently under review by city staff.”

What is being proposed for the site?

Homestead made a virtual open house presentation to the public on May 25, 2021, explaining their proposal for the site.  

During the presentation made by Mark Touw of IBI Group, he explained that the site is currently a vacant brownfield site with a gravel area which formerly accommodated parking and forms part of the south wall of the dry dock owned by the Marine Museum.

According to Touw, Homestead is proposing the construction of a residential building consisting of a one-storey parking podium with a 12-storey tower, plus a mechanical/amenity penthouse. It would include 68 living units and 88 parking spaces on an 850 sq.m. floor plate. There would also be outdoor and indoor common amenity spaces and private balconies.

Also included in the proposal is the opportunity for a deep water dock for Great Lakes cruise ships and an extension of the Waterfront Trail, both accessible to the public. 

The proposal before The City asks for amendments to the Official Plan to refine the ‘Environmental Protection’ designation; expand the ‘Residential’ designation; adjust the ‘Riparian Habitat’ mapping, and; permit development in the erosion hazard subject to mitigation measures (i.e. sea wall restoration).

Homestead is also requesting Zoning By-law Amendments to amend the existing Harbour (HR) Zone to permit the proposed development and establish a limited number of site-specific performance provisions.

Rendering of the proposed residential building on the property to be located at 5 Lower Union St. Kingston, Ont.
Rendering submitted by IBI group on behalf of Homestead Holdings.

Historical significance of the site

The dry dock was recognized in 1978 as a National Historic Site of Canada. The significance of shipbuilding on the Great Lakes led the federal government to construct this dry dock in 1890.

The site was constructed on the shoreline in the late 1800s via filling and a shore wall. It functioned as a shipyard with limestone dry dock and associated buildings between 1890 and  the 1960s.  

Mississauga Point, as the location was once referred to, was the site of major shipyards when Kingston was one of the important ports and ship building centres on the Great Lakes for over 150 years. The significance of the shipping industry led the federal government to construct this dry dock in 1890. According to the Cataraqui Archeological Research Foundation, Mississauga Point was actually the site of “interest in pre-contact archaeological materials” — in 1840, a Native burial site was discovered at the location during the process of excavation by the Marine Railway Company.

Initially operated by the Department of Public Works as a repair facility for lake vessels, it was enlarged and leased in 1910 to the Kingston Shipbuilding Company; the first of a series of private companies, which operated the shipyards until 1968. During the World War II, naval vessels, notably corvettes, were built in this shipyard.

After the historical recognition, the federally owned site fell into disrepair after use as an active dry dock ceased.

In 2016, the government declared the property surplus and sold it in two parcels to a private entity: 55 Ontario Street (the dry dock and Marine Museum) and 5 Lower Union Street (the parcel under proposed review).

In 2017, the previous owner submitted Development Applications for 20-storey residential building and redevelopment of the Pumphouse and dry dock. 

Those applications were withdrawn and 5 Lower Union Street was sold to Homestead in 2019.

Concept and issues

Conceptual Landscape Plan of the proposed project to be built at the property located at 5 Lower Union Street in Kingston, Ont. Image submitted by IBI group on behalf of Homestead Holdings.

Homestead’s stated objectives are to, “Enhance cultural heritage value of the site through context-sensitive development; preserve the opportunity for the development of a future deepwater dock for Great Lakes cruise ships; and provide public access to the water, including completing key linkages identified in the Waterfront Master Plan.”

In order to redevelop the site as proposed, Homestead faces the costs associated with remediating any site contamination leftover from its use as a shipbuilding yard. 

Also, underground parking at the site is unfeasible due to high water table and nature of the pier, thus, the need for an above ground parking garage.

The site is surrounded by water and physically constrained by the irregular termination of Lower Union, which limits access for vehicular circulation. Widening the site may be necessary, and there will also be costs associated with the restoration of the sea wall.

The design and development expected to evolve through the course of the approvals process.

Studies Completed and Submitted to the City

Homestead has submitted the following studies completed in support of the proposal: Planning Report, Urban Design Study, Servicing/SWM Report, Traffic, Noise, Wind, Environmental Impact, Heritage, Natural Hazard, Archaeological, and an Environmental Site Assessment.

In their open house presentation, Homestead’s stated goals were to intensify an underutilized waterfront site in close proximity to downtown; remediate and revitalize a contaminated former industrial site; preserve and enhance the cultural heritage value of the site through context-sensitive development; preserve the opportunity for the development of a future deepwater dock for Great Lakes cruise ships; and provide public access to the water, including completing key linkages identified in Waterfront Master Plan.

The proposal, if successful, would also be subject to Site Plan Control approval in accordance with the City’s Site Plan Control By-Law. 

Public consultation to come

While many residents in Kingston are completely unaware of the proposal, or the public meeting that has already occurred, according to Bar, the requirements for posting notice for a public meeting under the Planning Act, include a mail out to neighbours within 120 metres of the site, as well as on-site signage, “And we do place an ad in the Kingston Whig-Standard.”

He continued, noting that another public meeting will take place, saying, “We’re aiming for that public meeting this summer, 2021. And the public meeting does not include a recommendation from staff, this is just the first public meeting where the applicant will present their proposal to the Planning Committee, and the public will have the first chance for official correspondence and feedback on the project.”

Additional information relating to the proposed amendments can be viewed by accessing the Development and Services Hub (DASH)

Inquiries may be made by telephoning Genise Grant, Intermediate Planner, 613- 546-4291, ext. 3185 or emailing [email protected]

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2 thoughts on “Homestead application for 5 Lower Union Street under review by City

  • June 8, 2021 at 1:05 pm
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    Increasing density of housing in the downtown core helps address the shortage of accommodation for people being experienced in Kingston similar to many other municipalities. It is also much more efficient from a mobility point of view when we don’t just build more sprawl. Many people who would live here wouldn’t even need a car since public transit is good here and it’s walking distance to most services. I would, however, want there to be a component of affordable accommodation and/or rent geared to income units included in this proposal. Not just high priced condos that only a few can truly afford.

  • June 8, 2021 at 5:32 pm
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    I question the need for a City Official Plan or By-laws when exemptions are generally always granted to the developer, regardless of the wishes of near-by residents – or maintaining the quality of our city life. Another high rise to block the view of Lake Ontario and the cooling summer breezes – all for the wealthy!

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