Kingston to solicit proposals for downtown conference centre

Block 4 will be repurposed into a multi-use development including a conference centre. Photo via the City of Kingston.

On Tuesday night, Kingston City Council approved a report and recommendation to move forward with seeking out proposals for the building of a downtown mixed-use development that will include a conference centre and a hotel, as well as residential and commercial space. 

The motion passed by a vote of 10-3. 

The city will look to sell the land for a nominal fee of $1 to a developer and have them repurpose the plot of land known as Block 4 across from the newly renamed Slush Puppie Place

The report recommended that the following “proponents” be “invited to proceed to” the request for proposal (RFP) process:

  • Taggart Group of Companies and CaraCo
  • Claridge Homes Group of Companies
  • IN8 64 Barrack (IN8 Developments Incorporated, The Springer Group of Companies, and Westdale Properties)
  • Homestead Land Holdings Limited
  • Jay Patry Enterprises and Trinity Development Inc.
  • Fitzrovia and Seeker Labs

In addition to the $1 sale, the City is incentivizing the purchase for developers with measures including a City contribution of approximately $40,000 per public parking stall, property tax exemption for the conference centre through a Community Improvement Plan, eligibility for the City’s brownfields program, and a contribution of up to $110,000 per year for five years from the Municipal Accommodation Tax.

Council also approved a $50,000 honorarium for all completed proposals, regardless of whether they’re chosen, with City staff saying it is standard practice to do so.

Loyalist-Cataraqui District Councillor Paul Chaves, one of the votes in dissent, objected to the inclusion of honorariums for proposals, saying the development opportunity should be incentive enough.

“I do believe $11.9 million is enough incentive to get good applications and projects for the benefit of our residents, and would consider this the cost of doing business for any proponents,” he said. 

The report recommended the city to require a number of different elements as part of any submission, including 169 public parking spaces and a future partnership with St. Lawrence College that could involve experiential learning opportunities at the hotel. The possibility of requiring a minimum number of residential units, including affordable housing units, was also discussed as a must for any proposal. 

Tourism Kingston, a partner in the project, vouched for the call for proposals on at the Council meeting held Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. 

In a delegation from Tourism Kingston to council, Ted Robinson, Business Event Specialist with Tourism Kingston, said there are missed economic opportunities locally, as Tourism Kingston and/or the City are often unable to bid on events due to a lack of appropriate facilities. In recent months, there have been nine events the City couldn’t bid on that would have resulted in $6.5 million spent directly in the community, he said. 

Overall, 40 per cent of tourism spending in Canada is business travel, and the development will largely target that market, the delegates said in their presentation.

The City is also spending $85,000 on a consulting firm to manage proposals. 

In passing the motion to approve the recommendations, the City moves on to the next step, and City staff will now initiate the RFPs. 

Trillium Councillor Jimmy Hassan said a project like this is a needed investment into the City’s future.

“This is kind of an investment, it’s an investment for the future,” Hassan said.

“All the crises the city is facing at this point, we need money to deal with that.”

Members of the public can view the full agenda from the meeting on the City of Kingston’s City Council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in full on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

Owen Fullerton is a Kingston-based reporter with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI). The LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

One thought on “Kingston to solicit proposals for downtown conference centre

  • Does Kingston “need” another downtown hotel? Can Kingston afford another “property tax exempt” property? Will the city actually enforce the allotted “residential” units to be affordable housing? Can the city afford $85,000.00 on a consulting firm to “manage” proposals? Could the Slush Puppy Palace not be repurposed to be the new conference centre? I do not know how much The Slush Puppy Palace costs the taxpayers every year in a deficit, but I am sure if that information ever became public knowledge, it would be enlightening!

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