Kingston receives three grants from My Main Street program

Three grants have been awarded to organizations in Kingston from the My Main Street program. The funds and various supports will encourage the recovery and revitalization of main streets and local businesses.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), announced a $23.25-million investment to the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) and the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) to establish My Main Street — a two-year program to support the recovery and revitalization of main streets and local businesses in southern Ontario through two program streams.

The Kingston Economic Development Corporation (Kingston EcDev) received two My Main Street Local Business Accelerator grants; one for Williamsville/Inner Harbour, and the other for Downtown Kingston.

Kingstonist file photo of Princess Street Promenade.

According to a release from Kingston EcDev, EDCO is delivering the My Main Street Local Business Accelerator program stream, which supports the revitalization of 65 main street communities, and is providing non-repayable contributions for more than 650 local businesses across southern Ontario. The program focuses on creating and maintaining vibrant and inclusive local main streets while providing residents, new entrepreneurs, and existing businesses with economic opportunities in main street communities.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the challenges that main street businesses are facing as a result of the pandemic, and we are taking action to help mitigate the strain,” said the Honourable Helena Jaczek, Minister Responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “Programs like My Main Street offer critical funding and services for local businesses as they find ways to adapt and create new and inclusive economic opportunities that will help them rebuild and restore vibrancy to their main streets.”

Both the Williamsville/Inner Harbour and Downtown Kingston main street communities in Kingston will be supported with a dedicated Main Street Ambassador, customized market research, data analysis, and non-repayable funding contributions for new and existing small businesses. The Downtown Kingston! BIA has partnered with Kingston EcDev in the My Main Street project for Downtown Kingston.

“I’m very pleased that Williamsville has been chosen to be part of the My Main Street program. There has been a tremendous amount of development activity in this area of the city over the past few years, and a number of new commercial and residential units have been created. The research and one-on-one discussions that are part of this program will provide businesses with a plan on how best to move forward over the next few years. My Main Street could not have come at a better time,” said Councillor Jim Neill of Kingston’s Williamsville District.

Looking east along Princess Street in the Williamsville area in January 2022. Photo by Cris Vilela.

“This program is rolling out across the province,” added Rob Tamblyn, Business Development Manager for Kingston EcDev. “The work being done will help to revitalize businesses in each area, by providing them with better, targeted data that will help to better attract customers, and improve overall operations. We are in the recruitment process now and hope to have Ambassadors hired during the first week of February. The plan, after training is complete and restrictions are lifted, is to begin visiting businesses mid to late February. The project will take 12 months to complete.”

Tamblyn said that the My Main Street supports will provide more clarity on how best to move forward as we head out of the many challenges created by the pandemic.

“I think for businesses in the Inner Harbour and Downtown – they are facing some unique challenges that the pandemic has made even more problematic,” he stated. “For Williamsville, they have seen a huge amount of development occur over the last two or three years in terms of new residential and commercial units. These are three vitally important neighbourhoods in Kingston, and this project will give them the tools they will need to create new economic development opportunities, and help ease some of the strain caused by two years of the pandemic.”

“I am very happy to see the Kingston Economic Development Corporation leading the My Main Street program for Kingston,” added Donna Gillespie, CEO of Kingston Economic Development Corporation. “It will have a significant, positive impact allowing us to further support local businesses access resources and funding. We look forward to working more closely with the small businesses in the three neighbourhoods that are participating, and we expect the benefits to have a very broad reach. My Main Street is a great opportunity to help these neighbourhoods remain vibrant and grow.”

The third local grant was received by Tourism Kingston, for its Kingston coal dock revitalization project, and falls under the My Main Street Community Activator program.

According to Tourism Kingston, the project reimagines a derelict space on Kingston’s waterfront as a welcoming public space for both residents and visitors. Tourism Kingston commissioned local artist Aaron Forsyth to create a waterfront wall mural at the site, and also added a ‘K NGSTON’ sign (with a space in the sign for the visitor to become the “I” in “KINGSTON.”) The two components – the mural and the Kingston sign – connect this neighbourhood space with the downtown, which also has a ‘K NGSTON’ sign and a waterway mural by the same artist. 

Photo by SkyStream.

This project is the planned foundation for a number of activations and collaborative projects designed to support and enhance this neighbourhood and the community as a whole, according to Tourism Kingston. The My Main Street Community Activator program supports local community placemaking projects, including events, activities, and public site enhancements, designed to draw visitors and increase local vibrancy.

As part of its 2019-2022 strategic plan, Kingston City Council identified facilitating a deep-water dock as one of its priorities. Tourism Kingston’s Integrated Destination Strategy, a multi-year road map to enhance the city’s appeal as a visitor destination, also recognizes Kingston’s potential in the Great Lakes, recommending the city be positioned as a key cruise tourism hub. A deep-water access point is necessary to make Kingston an attractive port and to fully leverage the potential of this industry, according to Tourism Kingston.

“Kingston’s location where Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River meet and situated between Toronto and Montreal in the Thousand Islands, makes the city an ideal stop for a Great Lakes cruise. With a safe and welcoming dock capable of hosting larger ships, we know Kingston will attract new cruises and visitors and become a desirable addition to cruise itineraries,” said Megan Knott, Executive Director, Tourism Kingston.

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