The Battle for Barriefield

Barriefield Village, historic, Kingston, OntarioBarriefield Village was founded in the early 1800’s on the eastern bank of the Cataraqui River, while it’s settlement was closely tied to the increased activity at the nearby Kingston Naval Dockyard, and later, the construction of Fort Henry. Since then, the quaint neighbourhood has retained much of it’s original charm, thanks in part to the establishment of the Heritage Conservation District, and the tireless efforts of village inhabitants.  A tour around Barriefield will yield postcard-worthy views of cottages-like, historic homes, St. Mark’s Anglican Church, and Kingston’s waterfront.  However, a recent proposal to construct affordable, social housing nearby has the potential to put unnecessary strain on the historic village, and alter it’s majestic chemistry.

If the deal goes through, the federal government would reportedly transfer surplus land, located on the northwest corner of the intersection at highway 15 and 2, to the City of Kingston for $1.  The rock bottom sale price is based on the condition that the land be developed as low-income housing, which is arguably something the Limestone City needs more of.  Further, the apparent scheme for development would see the creation of housing for as many as 100 families, who would be spread across multiple family dwellings.

Ultimately, Barriefield residents are concerned that the socially-oriented development will detract from the overall historical worth of the Village, and although they aren’t saying it, this would in turn curtail property value.  Some may interpret their opposition as elitist or label it as classic NIMBYism, while the latter may not be too far from the truth.  On the surface, most proponents of low income housing are all for it until it creeps up on their doorstep, or hits their pocket book.  And so, the folks residing in Barriefield Village might not be so different from the rest of us.  That said, if the fairytale, heritage neighbourhood is immune to social housing projects, where does that leave the rest of us?

From the Queen’s Village Ghetto to Rideau Heights and North of Princess (NOP) in general, Kingston has it’s fair share of misunderstood, and less desirable neighbourhoods.  That said, in a perfect world none of these seedy districts would exist, but we can’t all live in mansions, or Barriefield for that matter.  If you’ll humour an agricultural analogy, can’t dandelions and thistles grow next to tulips and tomatoes?  Wouldn’t such an arrangement near Barriefield Village result in a more sustainable, and long-term solution to social housing in Kingston, rather than expanding the size of an already troubled neighbourhood?  Although I expect that this proposal will end up going nowhere, the final decision should give some indication as to how the City of Kingston intends on building sustainable communities in the future; with or without Barriefield.

Thanks to jdww for the photo of life in the Village.

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  1. Matt October 21, 2009
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