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Condo-lences or Condo-nable?

condos, Kingston, Anna Lane, North BlockJust over a year ago, it was announced that the massive hole at the corner of Bagot and Princess would become Anna Lane, a condo development that makes it easier to come up with an initial down payment. The building’s design sort of fits with the surrounding neighbourhood, which includes boxy buildings such as Staples and the LaSalle Mews, limestone and red brick row houses as well as St Pauls. Three blocks up Queen, another condo development was recently unveiled, while this project would envelop Queen Street United Church and many of the adjacent homes. A few blocks in the other direction of Anna Lane is the massive North Block build, while details regarding this district are still being hammered out. Although high and medium rise condos are not a new phenomenon in Kingston, these new north-of-Princess residential complexes signal what the future has in store for our downtown core. Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:

Additional downtown condos could negatively impact:

  • Landscape: loss of historic buildings, skyline (48%, 39 Votes)
  • Transportation: less parking, more traffic etc... (26%, 21 Votes)
  • Misc Congestion: restaurants, retail, sidewalks etc... (15%, 12 Votes)
  • All of the above. (11%, 9 Votes)
  • Essential Services: schools, hospitals, police. (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 82

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For as long as I can remember, downtown Kingston has had a small handful of condominiums located at the foot of Clarence and Johnson respectively.  Following the settlement of the decade-long Block D debacle, two new condos and a hotel positioned themselves along the waterfront, effectively stealing the view from the rest of us. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for increasing Kingston’s population density in and around the downtown, however I’m not a fan of Kingston replicating cities such as Toronto and Vancouver who’ve forever lost their waterfronts. So in that respect, perhaps Anna Lane, the Queen Street United condo and North Block are passable as they don’t encroach the waterfront.  It will be exciting to see how our downtown grows and reacts to these condos, however we need to ensure that the new buildings do not detract from what makes downtown Kingston a great place to live, work and play.  Contributions and amenities such as parking, green space, commercial zoning, fair taxation and respect for the surroundings are all key ingredients to ensuring that these new addresses become integral parts of a thriving downtown scene.

Are you a fan of condominiums in downtown Kingston, or do you fear that they might take something away from our historic and scenic city?  Do you think that the proposed plans to increase population density are a good thing, or are you of the opinion that condos promote gentrification?  Lastly, would give up the lawn and white picket fence to live in a condo?  Please drop off your comments below.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

33 thoughts on “Condo-lences or Condo-nable?

  • May 7, 2012 at 11:25 am
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    The poll above should include a "none of the above" option. I appreciate you used the word "could" in the question but there are many who feel more condo's downtown will not have a negative impact at all. Density is a good thing and it will help ensure the long term sustainability of downtown Kingston.

    • May 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm
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      I agree with John on this one … I would have liked to have seen a more balanced question .. "How would additional downtown condos impact the City?" Or a two part question reflecting the pros and cons. Personally I believe that increasing the population density downtown would be wonderful for businesses and make the downtown experience even more exciting. And while I am a firm believer in preserving our architectural heritage I do no believe that every new building should somehow mimic the past…. a mix of traditional and innovative contemporary architecture would not be a bad thing…

      • May 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm
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        Fair enough. The poll question wasn't designed to put a negative spin on condos, but I can see your point.

        Your points regarding the architecture of new buildings got me thinking about what standards exist regarding design (ie exterior). Are there any checks and balances with the City or Heritage Committee to ensure we don't end up with something too modern, or out of place?

        • May 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm
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          The City has design standards. However provincial law makes them difficult to enforce. On the flip side, a development the totally contravenes City policies is less likely to be approved. I REALLY think you should change your poll wording to be more neutral. The more you stigmatize urban intensification, the more you legitimize the beliefs of bigots, conservatives, and reactionaries who want no change to their cities whatsoever.

          • May 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm
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            I get that the wording of this week's poll question leans towards the negative/false perception of condos, but we're not about to change the poll question mid-week. We may elect to revisit this topic via a future poll. What would you suggest we ask?

            For the record, I'm certainly not anti-condo. My in-laws live in a condo in another city, so I've got a chance to experience what it's like to live (albeit briefly) in one. The appeal of not having to cut grass, shovel snow, deal with garbage and recycling are really great for those who either don't have time, or aren't physically able. Amenities like common rooms, pools, fitness centres, parking, shared gardens and so are great, but they're also costly and not standard across the board. At this stage in life, I can enjoy our yard, our garden and don't mind shovelling snow once in a while. My biggest concern with the condo projects mentioned above is that they could take away from the quaint atmosphere downtown Kingston is known for. I'm not trying to pull the NIMBY card, but (as I alluded to in the post) I think these projects need to respect and compliment what downtown Kingston has going on.

          • May 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm
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            but Harvey, you do sound like you're pulling the NIMBY card. I heard very similar comments from people in Barriefield a couple of years ago in regards to the affordable housing project that was proposed there. Sadly that project never happened. The truth is that there is a desperate need for affordable housing in the city, including the downtown core, and we need to increase housing density in the downtown area. I'm not saying Anna Lane is affordable housing (it's not), but one could imagine truly affordable housing projects in the downtown area.

          • May 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm
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            I think you've mistaken my concern over how our downtown is developed with NYMBYism. That's understandable, but incorrect. As I've stated in numerous occassions above, I'm all for developing our downtown, condos etc… however there are certain things that need to be respected. I've gone on at length about these things in other threads, so please jump into those conversations and contribute.

    • May 9, 2012 at 10:04 am
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      I'm with John here, and others who have commented. The poll question was poorly chosen, and should have been worded so as to encourage discussion of the pros and cons of downtown condos. We need higher density in the downtown area, and we also need cheaper housing in that area. Having said that, I would like to see truly affordable housing in the downtown area. Yes, Anna Lane will be cheaper than other condos, but they are not "affordable".

      • May 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm
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        Get that the poll question was not worded properly, positively or at least to people's liking. Very happy to see that it has started to generate some great conversation surrounding the issue.

        I would tend to agree that the Anna Lane properties are not affordable. Sure the mortgage options are a huge benefit for those who need a little help, but they still require owners to come up with a significant down payment and pay ongoing condo fees on top of mortgage payments, utilities, internet, groceries etc…

  • May 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm
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    Condos are needed to keep downtown healthy, simple as that. Box store expansions on Gardiners Rd and Division St are slowly dragging business away from downtown. The third crossing will make it fast and easy to travel from the east end of town to the west without having to pass through downtown. The increasing cost of goods will continue to draw shoppers to places like Walmart and Target rather than small, locally owned stores. If we want to keep downtown vibrant we need more high-density developments (provided they are done properly), this includes residential and commercial.

  • May 7, 2012 at 1:02 pm
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    Anna Lane is a disaster in the making. Plopped beside one of this city's oldest churches, it will tower above St.Pauls by a few stories and block out the sun. And the exterior…wow not good. Couldn't they have gone with something a bit more brick and limestone, similar to what the Queen St. United project looks like.

    I think more condos downtown are a good thing, especially those that are away from the waterfront. It will likely take time for businesses to grow to cater to these places, but all in all they'll help grow the tax base without expanding the city limits.

    • May 7, 2012 at 3:43 pm
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      i certainly dont lnow for sure but i would guess that Anna Lane opted to use cheaper building materials (rather than limestone) in order to keep the condos affordable. The condos going in up the road are high end so it will be easier for the builder to recoup expenses. For a fairly inexpensive condo option the Anna Lane design could have been much worse

  • May 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm
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    Yes, building higher-density residential downtown is good for so many reasons – social, cultural, economic, physical. The City of Kingston, and any municipality interested in maintaining a vibrant and healthy core, needs to encourage these developments. It will keep our downtown alive.

    Anna Lane is a condo, but it differs insofar as it is the first development by Options for Homes, a non-profit developer. That means we can build and sell for less, delivering a level of affordability not found with for-profit developers. Options for Homes is the only non-for profit housing developer in Kingston. Our mandate is to build mixed income communities as cost effectively as possible and encourage home ownership. Not only should we be building condos downtown, but they should be cost effective.

  • May 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm
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    To address some concerns, the architects of Anna Lane have incorporated our Heritage planner's opinion to best maintain its location next to St,. Paul's. The result is the main bulk of the building has been designed as close to Bagot Street as possible, respecting built-to-planes and set-backs – in order to preserve the view of St. Paul's. You'll notice the outdoor garden along the entire west-side of the site separates the mid-rise building from St. Paul's. And the more recent renderings detail better the Kingston limestone exterior for the first 2 storeys. Have a look for yourself of the 3D tour that appears at http://www.annalane.ca.

  • May 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm
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    In response to .A.’s comment about building materials for Anna Lane, I can say that as a purchaser, that is not a concern to us. The purchase price is made cheaper by spending less money on things like amenity space (like a pool which is available at Artillery Park), a model unit (your purchase is based off of a floor plan), securing cheaper land, and trying to reduce marketing costs. All of these factors, not cheaper building materials, mean that the purchase price can be reduced (in addition to special financing for lower income families if requested). We are satisfied with the exterior of the building and it’s limestone construction for the first few floors, but I recognize that it may not be everyone’s “cup of tea” and that new development always has certain benefits and disadvantages.

  • May 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm
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    Anna Lane is a wonderful opportunity to provide affordable housing in the downtown area. Not everyone can afford the $200,000 to $300,000 needed to buy a condos on the waterfront. Astheically, it can't help but be an improvement over the water- filled hole and ground polluting service startion that occupied the space previously.

    • May 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm
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      Anna Lane certainly offers a unique approach to home ownership. Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are no comparable projects in Kingston as far as I am aware. On paper, one would think that many people would jump at the opportunity to front only 5% of the purchase price. However the billboard at the future home of Anna Lane, and others throughout the city tell a different story: only 40% sold. That seems rather low considering how long the waiting list supposedly was, and how long they've been trying to sell units. What gives? Any idea why the whole building isn't already sold? Were people wary of the dispute over the project that was recently settled, or is the 5% down deal not as sweet as it seems on paper?

      • May 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm
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        As an Anna Lane buyer, the deal is certainly on the up-and-up, and we have only put 5% down. I think some of the delay in selling out is perhaps because all the upper floor units are sold- ones that are guaranteed to have great views. Some of the middle units probably do less for the imagination- I'm sure they will sell out, but there may be some that need to see it to buy it. I think 50%+ sold (which is where sales are at right now) on floor plans alone is pretty good.
        From experience, some of the public seems to have misunderstood the "affordable" model to mean subsidized housing, and have turned their noses up at the project. While Kingston does need more subsidized housing, which I fully support, that is not actually what this project is. That, coupled with what seems like a bit of a false start with the former sales team, may be a bit of a cloud on the project for some.
        Obviously I am a biased voice- but I really do think it is a project worth investing in, and I'm optimistic that others will continue to feel the same, and we'll see building begin this fall.

        • May 9, 2012 at 9:59 pm
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          I think it's a stretch to say that the upper units are guarateed to have a better view. In the short term that may be true, but in the long term, not so much. When North Block ramps up, a lot of people in Anna Lane might regret they paid more for a view that has vanished. Perhaps (hopefully not) the folks at North Block will be trumped when someone builds across the street on the water's edge.

          Certainly appreciate a buyer's perspective of Anna Lane. Keep us in the loop on how this progresses.

          • May 10, 2012 at 7:39 am
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            You'll notice I didn't say units would have a "water" view (and that the project has never been marketed on that aspect). What I meant was that upper units, both east and west facing, will have city views (we actually bought high up on the west side to enjoy lots of sunshine and a view of the neighbourhood), while some of the lower units may have views of the church or surrounding businesses. And while that probably won't matter once the units are built and people can see them in person, I can see why the middle floors would take a bit longer to sell from a floor plan.
            Happy to keep the Kingstonist folks in the loop with Anna Lane progress and dispel a few myths- hopefully there will be lots of positive news in the future.

  • May 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm
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    The biggest drawback of the Block D condos for me is that they turn Ontario street into a wind tunnel. It is -brutal- walking along Ontario in the winter on a windy day, you get pushed near horizontal.

  • May 9, 2012 at 8:21 pm
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    How is the Anna Lane condo development doing anyways? Last I heard, they’re having a tough time with sales.

  • May 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm
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    I think the architecture and placement of the building is very reasonable. The bulk of the structure is set back from both Bagot St and St Paul's. Far more tasteful and considerate than any of the structures in Block D.

  • May 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm
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    I agree with the first poster, who noted the negative bias of the article in general. To have a poll about "what negative impact will there be", excludes any and all input from those who feel that downtown condos are a good idea. The general trend for the past decade or so is to have any downtown city center see an explosion of high priced luxury units, thus excluding the middle class from the active center. Paris, London, and Manhattan have gone this way — if you live in the downtown core you are either extremely wealthy or you are on some form of public assistance. This is a reversal of the trend where money left for the suburbs. A balanced development of our downtown core will revitalize the area, bring more business opportunities to fill up those vacant store fronts currently downtown, and will allow more people to partake of a car-free existance. There are so many benefits to revitalizing the city centre with affordable housing that I'm left wondering exactly why this article has such a bias towards the negative. I'm actually kind of disappointed with this.

    • May 11, 2012 at 7:45 am
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      Trying to find the silver lining with this week's poll is not overly difficult from our perspective as it's gone on to generate a tremendous number of insightful comments such as yours kimmy. Perhaps we need more "troll polls" to encourage reader backlash.

      In all seriousness, the car-free aspect is one that a lot of people haven't really addressed in the comments. Interesting to note that the transportation fears are currently second place in the overall fears folks have with respect to more condos. Unfounded or at least unproven as they may be, perhaps more condos will generate more funding and additional growth of Kingston Transit, bike lanes, and car-free days. Would love to see all of these things become more prevalent in Kingston. Condos may not be the sole catalyst for encouraging these things along, but they'll play a key role in shaping future transportation requirements.

      • May 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm
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        yes, parking is a huge issue. It costs something like $50,000 for each underground parking spot. We need to move away from cars as you say Harvey. Another option is car-sharing, where people in a development would share cars, and this would require only a few parking spots. It would also of course save a lot of money for people.

        • May 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm
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          Last time I checked – those who are buying will know better than me – but Anna Lane is asking $25-$30K per parking spot. About half as much as what you've stated. Nevertheless it's expensive, and in some cases more than the cost of a new automobile. Car sharing is certainly something I would like to see happen in Kingston. I wrote this back in January of 2010: you can read it here.

  • May 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm
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    hehe… isn't it funny Harvey that collectively you have received -39 votes on this article but probably created the most feedback on any article?

    As the old saying goes; 'Any publicity is good publicity'.

    I would have to agree with everyone else though. This was a surprisingly biased article and I would support any and all measures to intensify the development of Downtown Kingston.

    • May 14, 2012 at 10:01 am
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      You're not the first to say that this article is biased, and after re-reading, I'm still not convinced that it really is. The poll on the other hand is certainly slanted towards the negative, but as you've said that has certainly attracted attention. The concerns I touched on regarding condo development are somewhat shared by other commenters. Further, while this week's poll didn't set any records regarding votes, it netted a decent number of votes. In the end, I'm happy that this generated discussion about downtown development and brought in a variety of differnt viewpoints.

  • May 14, 2012 at 7:37 pm
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    For balance, your next poll question should be:

    Additional downtown condos could positively impact:

    Landscape: loss of empty storefronts, surface parking lots, skyline
    Transportation: less drivers, more pedestrians, streetcars? etc…
    Misc bustle and excitement: restaurants, retail, sidewalks etc…
    All of the above.
    Essential Services: schools (no need to close any), hospitals (less travel to get to one), police (thanks for moving your HQ…jk).

    Let's see how many "all of the above" you get with that one?

  • May 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm
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    This may be a little late, but I was talking about this with a co-worker just this weekendr. This co-worker did go to a presentation and after everything was all said and done, him and his wife felt that for what you get the prices are too high. Maintenance fees are anywhere from 150-350 per month (based on their quoted .36 / sq foot. That seems to be high considering it is a no-frills type condo. As a previous poster noted, the pre sales does seem slow. Not withstanding this, I would be very cautious with putting any money into something that currently is a hole in the ground. I strongly believe that the real estate market will have a correction coming sooner than most of us would like to think. Take a look at the bidding wars in Vancouver and Toronto ( emphasis on Toronto) They are already going down in Vancouver

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