Design Guidelines for Tall and Mid-Rise Buildings in Kingston

One of my top priorities as mayor is to ensure we get more housing built in our community. The goal is not only to provide more housing, but to also ensure that new buildings are attractive and create vibrant streetscapes that contribute to the vitality of our community. That’s why this year we will be developing design standards, for both mid-rise and tall buildings in Kingston.

The idea of design guidelines came to the forefront last year in the midst of the debate over whether we should allow tall buildings in the downtown. It became clear that the conversation needs to be about more than just height. We also need to focus on the design of these buildings. We need to talk about architectural quality, and design features that would bring streetscapes to life and contribute to a more walkable city. A best practice spreading through communities is to ensure “no blank walls”. In other words, new buildings should always have space on the ground floor that draws in and encourages pedestrian traffic. In fact, one of the most important features of the proposed north block development at the base of Queen Street was ground floor commercial space and an art gallery. This will add vibrancy to Queen Street in the same way that we see on Princess Street.

These design standards will focus on many other important building features. For example, we might want to ensure that tall buildings have slimmer towers that are built on top of podiums. That way we preserve a more human scale of buildings along the street. We also need to think about the costs of construction, to make sure that design standards make sense economically. Higher architectural quality is also more expensive, so there will be a balance to strike to ensure great looking buildings while preserving affordability. We also recognize that design standards that work in and around our historic downtown core might need to be different from design standards in suburban areas of the city.

The plan is to have these design standards approved and in place by the end of this year, which will then set the table for an even more important discussion next year; where in the city should we and should we not allow mid-rise and tall buildings? My goal at the end of this process is to achieve clarity, for the community and for builders, to ensure our city is positioned for a whole range of new housing options in the future.