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Kingston ferry terminal to Wolfe Island slated for demolition in Fall 2023

The Kingston Ferry Terminal, designed by Lily Inglis in 1989, is scheduled for demolition to make way for a larger ferry and additional lanes. Photo by Stefan Strangman.

A recent announcement has slated the Kingston Ferry Terminal demolition and construction to be completed by 2023. The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) has planned for a new passenger terminal to be built closer to the water, and a small administrative office and ferry staff parking lot near the existing terminal building.

The original ferry building was designed in 1989 by architect Lily Inglis, whose well-known designs include buildings in Kingston such as the Kingston Public Library, Chez Piggy restaurant, and the Kingston Brew Pub. In an historical irony, Inglis was a champion of preserving historical and architecturally significant buildings in Kingston, and was influential in passing The City of Kingston Act 1970, which helped preserve buildings of “historic or architectural value or interest.”

The MTO had originally anticipated construction would be completed in 2024, however as the design stage was complete and contracts were tendered, the timeline was updated. Construction began in earnest on the project in late 2020, and the last remaining downtown gas station was demolished in Janunary 2020 along with the Tim Hortons at 285 Ontario Street to make way for the expansion. In an emailed statement, the MTO said that plans for the changes to the ferry were made available to the public for input last year.

”The environmental process included the preparation of a Design and Construction Report (DCR), which was made available for public review and comment in early 2020,” said Simi Ikotun, Assistant Issues Management Coordinator for the MTO.

“The public, as well as the former owners were aware of the MTO’s plan for the property as part of the public consultation on the EA and negotiations to acquire the property required to complete all the necessary dock improvements, which will improve access and the operation of the ferry service. The ministry followed normal property purchasing practices to acquire the property.”

While the MTO had made efforts to gain opinions and input from the community, opinions on the development remain split, with many residents of both Kingston and Wolfe Island who remain unhappy with the demolition of the ferry building.

“One must question this additional travel capacity to an island with a population of 1,400, and [that] the provision of three lanes extending from the Tragically Hip Way is what appears to necessitate the demolition of one of the city’s architectural gems… we must register our strong objections to the demolition of this building,” said Shirley Bailey, President of the Frontenac Heritage Foundation in a 2018 letter to a Project Manager at the Ministry of Transportation.

This sentiment is echoed by Wolfe Island resident Kimberly Thomas, who says opinion on the demolition is split amongst Wolfe Island residents.

”People who go to the Kingston side often feel positively about the ferry expansion, while those who stay on the island are less in favour, ” said Thomas. “I don’t think it needs to be demolished. I think that it’s just a poor planning and, quite frankly, if they adjusted the traffic lights properly and had a more open-minded view of how they wanted to put the lanes coming out and into the ferry, it could certainly be done with the building, which could then be perfect for many uses. Perhaps a tourist center. Perhaps an art gallery, a community center. There could be many uses for the office building. It’s a beautiful building.”

Wolfe Island Mayor Dennis Doyle said that, while the population of Wolfe Island isn’t large, the island itself represents a main artery for farming and international travel to the United States.

“It’s an international link. The ferry runs from the end of April to sometime in November across Hones Ferry at Point Alexandria and brings a lot of international travel and goods to the area and to the city of Kingston… so it’s not just the 1,400 people,” said Doyle. “There’s a lot of farming goes on on Wolf Island, as well, which is important for the economy and the people in Ontario. So there’s an awful lot of reasons other than that capacity for the 1,400 people living here.”

Timelines for the construction will continue to be updated for the duration of the project. During construction of the new ferry system, www.wolfeislanddocks.ca can be accessed for additional information and to submit inquiries.

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