This weekend I have the great privilege of cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of the Rideau Heights Community Centre. This is an amazing new facility that marks another key step forward in the rejuvenation of the Rideau Heights neighbourhood. It’s been exciting to see the momentum of change and renewal in this area of the city over the last few years, with the construction of the new Kingston Community Health Centre facility, the state-of-the-art St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, and the city’s biggest skate park in Shannon Park.
Now we have a brand new community centre in the heart of Rideau Heights, and what’s even more important than the building is the programs and services that will be offered to kids, families and seniors in the surrounding neighbourhood. The Boys and Girls Club, the Seniors’ Centre, and Loving Spoonful will be offering a variety of different programs in the community centre, in addition to the new library, a gymnasium and other community space.
The rejuvenation of the Rideau Heights neighbourhood continues to be a high priority, and work has already begun on the next phase of redevelopment around Headway Park. As shown in the concept drawing above, we’re looking at putting in a new street, a new playground and a shift to more mixed income housing in the area. Finally, with the construction of the Third Crossing moving ahead, there will be more opportunities to revitalize the Montreal Street corridor and unlock further development potential in the north end of the city. I’m so glad to see real progress and revitalization in Rideau Heights and look forward to continuing to move this initiative forward together.
This week construction officially begins on the expansion of Kingston’s airport. With the final design complete, work is now proceeding on both the extension of the existing runway and the renovation and expansion of the terminal building. When I ran for mayor back in 2014, the expansion of the airport was an important part of my platform and I’m very glad to see this project moving ahead. This expansion is a critical first step towards improving air transportation to and from Kingston.
As the work begins on the physical infrastructure of the airport, the city is also working to develop a market study that will give us the information we need when discussing air service improvements with Air Canada and other potential airline carriers. Several years ago a study found that more than 90% of air travelers in this region drive to other airports like Toronto or Ottawa rather than flying out of Kingston. That suggests an enormous opportunity for airlines to do business in Kingston if airlines make the right improvements to their service. There are also great opportunities for related industries in Kingston because of the pressures faced by Toronto’s Pearson airport, which won’t be able to handle the future growth in Southern Ontario air traffic on its own. This means a future where regional airports like Kingston can play an important role, which will bring new economic development opportunities.
If Kingston is going to be a globally connected city we need to make sure it’s easy for tourists, business travelers and residents to get to and from Kingston, whether by air, train or car. There is lots of work ahead to make that happen, but by the time the airport expansion is completed later this year, we will have taken a big step toward this goal.
Our motto in Kingston is that we are the city ‘where history and innovation thrive.’ One of the best examples of history and innovation thriving is when an old, deteriorating heritage building is given a complete facelift and transformed into residential, commercial or community space. In the same spirit as the Woolen Mill, the Tett Centre and Portsmouth Town Hall, the next exciting transformation slated for Kingston is the old Imperial Oil building at the base of North Street on the edge of Doug Fluhrer Park.
At this week’s City Council meeting, Council formally approved the necessary heritage permits to allow ABNA investments to proceed with the much needed repairs and rehabilitation of the old limestone warehouse. While the 9 North Street building is an important remnant of the city’s industrial past, it’s also literally falling apart after sitting empty since the 1960s. The plan is to completely renovate and restore the building so that it will house a number of one and two bedroom apartments, adding a much needed boost to the city’s housing supply and located a short walk from downtown.
This is an exciting time of renewal for Kingston’s Inner Harbour with the new K&P trail, planning underway for a new and improved Belle Park, and a proposal under consideration to redevelop the Davis Tannery site. There’s no doubt that a state-of-the-art residential development situated in a beautifully restored heritage building will be another tremendous addition to this area of the city.
Every year one of the privileges I have as mayor is to recognize outstanding citizens and volunteers in Kingston. The Mayor’s Award for Youth Volunteerism recognizes young people who are working to make a difference in the lives of others, and the First Capital Distinguished Citizen/Honourable Achievement Award recognizes individuals that have made significant lifetime contributions to our community.
This is the second year that the awards for youth volunteerism will also include scholarships. The scholarships are meant to help these outstanding young people further their education and develop their ideas to make Kingston a stronger and more caring community. This scholarship program has been made possible by the United Way youth fund that was created thanks to the incredibly successful Kingston Penitentiary tours.
The scholarship program for Youth Awards for Volunteerism have the following monetary value for each category:
- Grades 5-8 – $750 *to be used toward a school project of their choice or design
- Grades 9-12 – $1,500
- Post-secondary youth (up to age 24) – $2,000
I’m calling on all Kingstonians to nominate a youth volunteer that you know is making a positive impact in the lives of others, or a Kingstonian that has made a lifetime contribution to our community. The deadline for nominations is April 27th. For more information and nomination forms please visit https://www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/kingston-awards/civic-awards
I look forward to recognizing this year’s award winners in a special ceremony on the front steps of City Hall as part of Kingston’s celebrations of Canada Day on July 1.
At our City Council meeting this week, Council approved a plan to make it easier for Kingstonians to vote in the municipal election in October. It’s important that all eligible voters in the community make their voice heard at the ballot box, and to that end here are some of the improvements you can expect in this year’s municipal election:
- Free transit service to and from the polls: on either Advanced Voting Day (Saturday, October 13th) or Voting Day (Monday, October 22nd), you can ride transit for free to get to the polling station, simply by showing your voter information notice. The City Clerk’s office is working to ensure that as many polling stations as possible are located on or near transit routes.
- Vote anywhere in your district: generally electoral districts in the city have 2-3 polling stations, and in previous elections you would be assigned to a particular polling station. However, in this election you can choose to go to whichever polling station in your district is most convenient for you. The City Clerk is also looking at the potential for real-time notifications on wait times, so that you can quickly find out which polling station in your district has the shortest line and head to that location.
- Extended period for internet voting: the 2014 municipal election was the first time that Kingstonians could cast their vote online, and that option has been expanded for this year’s election. You will be able to vote online starting from 10:00am on October 13th right through until 8:00pm on Voting Day, October 22nd.
- Check online to see if you’re on the voter’s list: city staff are also looking into the potential of online voter services where you will be able to check online to make sure that your name is on the voter’s list.
An election is one of the most important ways that citizens engage with their city and help craft the future of their community. With enhancements like these, I believe that Kingston can lead the way in encouraging high voter turnout and making sure that everyone in our community has their say in this year’s election.
Part of being a leading 21st century city means being able to quickly adapt to the changes that technology can bring to our community. A perfect example of this sort of change is the emergence of Airbnb and similar services and how they have greatly expanded short-term rental accommodation options in Kingston. In fact, there are now well over 500 Airbnb listings in the city, which is more than double the number that were available just one year earlier. In 2017, there were nearly 30,000 individuals that booked stays in Kingston through Airbnb and similar services.
There’s no question that the enormous growth in tourism in Kingston over the last few years has been a big driver of the expansion of Airbnb listings, with the vast majority of listings concentrated in neighbourhoods within walking distance of the downtown and most of Kingston’s premier tourist sites. With the number of visitors to Kingston increasing every year, it’s definitely important to have lots of different accommodation options available. However, while most hotels and motels are located in commercial districts of the city, Airbnb properties tend to be within residential neighbourhoods, and that means the city needs to have the right framework in place to ensure to both visitors and neighbours of Airbnb properties have positive experiences.
That’s why the city is working to develop a licensing system for short-term tourist and vacation rentals. City staff will be looking to develop guidelines on details like licensing fees, the number of rooms that can be rented within a single property, and the maximum length of stay permitted. To help make sure the city gets all of these details right, you can provide your input and ideas directly to city staff by completing this survey https://getinvolved.cityofkingston.ca/short-term-accommodations before March 26. There’s no doubt that with the right framework, we can ensure all tourists and visitors who come to Kingston will have a great experience no matter where they stay, which will help establish our city as one of the premier tourist destinations in the country!