Miss Council last night Kingston?
Miss Council last night Kingston?
At our June 26th council meeting, City Council will be asked to approve a plan to allow for future redevelopment of the Former Prison for Women property. This is exciting news and I for one am thrilled by the new vision for a site that has sat idle for over a decade. ABNA Investment Ltd. has expressed an interest in purchasing and redeveloping the property, but this will require help from the City.
One of the big challenges to redeveloping the site is the existing heritage designations which currently cover not only the exterior of the Prison for Women building, but also a lot of the interior features that were specific to using the building for a prison. That means that in order to repurpose the building for something other than a prison, the City, in collaboration with the Heritage Kingston committee, will need to review these interior designations to provide more flexibility for redevelopment. There is also some environmental contamination on the site, so the City will need to offer some assistance in cleaning up the contamination through the Brownfields program.
This is a great opportunity to facilitate an exciting redevelopment of this property, and I will be urging my City Council colleagues to support these measures at our next council meeting. The potential for a new residential development on this site will also help to address the housing shortage we are currently facing as a community. Fortunately at this same council meeting, we will also have the chance to approve another housing development along the Williamsville corridor, shown below.
Kingston currently has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the province and as a result we’re already seeing large increases in rental housing rates and overall house prices. It’s so important that as a city we encourage more development to ensure that everyone in our community can find an affordable place to live. New housing in Williamsville and at the former Prison for Women property will be an important step in the right direction.
This week Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf and I announced a new approach to address large, unsanctioned street parties in the University District during move-in week, Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day. These events put a big strain on the City’s emergency services and health care facilities, and they also put community and student safety at risk. There have been several instances during these parties where people could have been seriously injured or even killed, and that’s why the City of Kingston, Queen’s University and Kingston Police are moving forward with a new initiative to address these safety concerns.
The University District Safety Initiative is a pilot program targeting unsafe and disruptive behaviour. People who are charged in the University District for certain offences during move-in week, Homecoming weekend and St. Patrick’s Day and any offence under the Nuisance Party Bylaw will be issued a summons to appear in court. Individuals charged will be required to appear before a Justice of the Peace in Kingston, regardless of where they live, and will not have the option to pay their tickets online or by phone. The goal is to have individuals take responsibility for their actions in person.
In addition to the court process, cases involving Queen’s students who receive tickets will be assessed as part of the university’s student conduct system, which is context and case-specific. Consequences are based on the nature of the harm done and its impact, and may include loss of privileges, community projects, conversations with community members, formal warnings, restitution and/or peer education initiatives.
To be clear, this initiative is not about targeting students, it’s about addressing high risk behaviour and conduct. We continue to welcome and embrace post-secondary students as our own, and we look forward to the energy and vitality they will bring to our community once again this fall. From the city’s perspective, this new approach will apply equally to residents and non-residents, students and non-students. Everyone in our community should have the same rights and be held to the same standards.
As we move ahead, I look forward to working in partnership with Queen’s administration, the AMS student leadership, Kingston Police and members of the community, to build a community that is welcoming, but also safe and respectful for both students and residents.
Over the last few months community and staff have been hard at work developing a new concept for the future of Belle Park. Last year City Council made the decision to close the existing golf course and look at how the space could be transformed into a mix of sporting facilities, green space and a trail system for walking and cycling. The graphic above shows one potential layout for Belle Park, with a pitch and putt, a new sports field clustered around the clubhouse, the existing driving range, and the rest of the green space set aside for natural parkland.
The biggest change for Belle Park is this shift to a naturalized park. When the golf course was in operation, only about 25% of the park was left in a naturalized state. Under the new plan, the majority of the park (approximately 65%) would be naturalized. I believe this is the best change for this park. It makes this unique urban green space accessible to everyone, and with an easy link to the new K&P trail it’s just a short walk or bike ride from the downtown.
In the coming weeks staff will review feedback from the public and make final changes before the plan moves to City Council for approval. With the vision for renewal and growth in the neighbourhoods around Belle Park, I’m sure this green space will be enjoyed by countless residents and visitors in the years to come.