At the Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 City Council meeting, Council passed a motion, directing staff to advance discussions with the property owner of 55 Ontario and 5 Lower Union Street for the purpose of a potential partnership that could include public access to the waterfront, a deep water dock and programs with the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes. This discussion is in addition to the ongoing discussions with the owner of 1 Queen Street for the potential for the dock to be located there. Here, we’ll take a look at where the file stands currently and what could be next.
Tourism Kingston has been marketing the city as a cruise ship port, using Crawford Wharf when possible. In 2017, 36 calls to port were made by three ships, carrying 2,478 passengers. Five ships visited Kingston in 2018 a total of 46 times, bringing 3,544 passengers. It is expected that these same five ships will return in 2019, with 49 calls to port expected and 4,794 anticipated passengers. Currently, only small ships (typically 50-100 passengers) can dock at Crawford Wharf. Larger ships anchor off shore and use a smaller ship to shuttle guests to the pier.
The City of Kingston has been working toward a deep water dock for some time now. In Council’s 2015-2018 Strategic Plan, priority #5 was to “advance a vibrant waterfront” and included projects to finalize a Waterfront Master Plan for the city, as well as initial exploration for a potential deep water dock. Kingston’s Waterfront Master Plan, approved by Council on March 22, 2016, noted specifically that “opportunities for docking of larger ships / deeper water should be investigated” in the area of the master plan that stretches from West Street to the Wolfe Island Ferry terminal.
On November 7, 2017, municipal staff had reported back to Council that they had identified and completed technical analysis of four sites: 1 Queen Street, the Crawford Wharf, 55 Ontario Street/5 Lower Union Street and the Coal Dock on Lakewatch Lane. Based on the technical research completed along with consultations with the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, the site at 1 Queen Street was selected as the preferred site. Council unanimously gave staff the direction to begin discussions of the potential dock with the site owner, the Ministry of Transportation, and other potential partners in detail.
An interim report came to Council on July 10, 2018, detailing the dredging that would be required, the potential of contaminated soil, the potential for partnership with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) for water work during the Wolfe Island Ferry project, and the potential to acquire the waterlot adjacent to 1 Queen Street from the federal government. Council, again unanimously, approved research and purchase of the waterlot, potential shared work contracts with the MTO, and a budget of $500,000 for dredging work.
Staff provided a further informational update on July 9, 2019, with additional information from its ongoing site assessment and discussions. Dredging, rehabilitation work to allow for larger ships, development and construction of pathways, lighting, buildings and additional features to create a dock facility were estimated at $4.5 million. Further, the site owner is seeking to develop the site, which has existing approvals for a hotel. While site development wouldn’t prohibit a dock, the development could be disruptive to visitors.
The 2019-2022 Strategic Plan reaffirmed Council’s goal of a deep water dock, with “facilitate a deep water dock for cruise ships” being listed as the fifth key item under the “strengthen economic development opportunities” heading. It also sets a target to have the dock open for the 2022 cruise ship season.
Recently, the site at 55 Ontario Street/5 Lower Union Street was sold, and the new owner approached the city with the potential of a partnership which could include could include a public waterfront project and a deep water dock. The owner noted that the Marine Museum would be returning to its former space and the having public project, the dock, and the museum in close proximity would support increased tourism. On Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, Council unanimously gave staff direction to discuss the site in detail with the owner, as they did for the site at 1 Queen Street in 2017, this time looking at the public waterfront access and museum partnership in the discussions.
The Two Sites
Currently, we are looking at the potential of a deep water dock at 2 sites in Kingston: 1 Queen Street and 55 Ontario Street/5 Lower Union Street .
1 Queen Street
Walk to Visitor’s Centre: 4-7 minutes.
Current Status: Privately owned, in use as a private parking lot.
Owner Planned Use: Development for the site by the owner is planned; the site has existing zoning approvals for a hotel.
Cruise Ship Size Potential: Small-Medium
Development Stage: Engineering assessment was completed in 2019.
Potential Partnerships: Ministry of Transportation for dredging.
Estimated Cost: $4,500,000.00.
Additional Note: City would acquire the waterlot adjacent to this site from the federal government.
55 Ontario Street/5 Lower Union Street
Walk to Visitor’s Centre: 7-10 minutes.
Current Status: Privately owned. 55 Ontario Street is the former home of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes and, along with the dry dock, is a Natrional Historic Site of Canada. 5 Lower Union Street is fenced off and vacant.
Owner Planned Use: The Marine Museum is expected to return to its site at 55 Ontario Street. No plans for 5 Lower Union Street have been made public.
Cruise Ship Size Potential: Small-Large
Development Stage: Initial discussions started August 2019.
Potential Partnerships: Site owner has indicated desire to partner for public waterfront access.
Estimated Cost: To be determined.
Staff has been given direction to report back “when more information” is available on either of the proposed sites, though Council’s strategic plan expects a report to move forward with development in 2020. It remains anticipated that a deep water dock, if approved, would target opening for the 2020 cruise ship season.
Born and raised in Kingston, Tommy Vallier bleeds limestone. An avid council watcher since 2004, he first began reporting on municipal affairs in 2011, helping to modernize meetings and make them more accessible through social media and live video. When he isn’t focused on City Hall, he’s an avid gamer, theatre supporter, and Disney fan.