Where Are We? Kingston!

Visit Kingston Photo 2

After a long, cold, snowy winter, spring is finally in the air, and that means it’s time to gear up for another spectacular tourist season here in Kingston! Check out this great new video showcasing why our city has become one of the top tourist destinations in the province.

A Proposal to Redevelop the Davis Tannery

Tannery Lands Visual

To see more of the proposed development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vww7NJWgHnc

When it comes to reimagining what the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial areas of the city could look like, one of the most important parcels of land to talk about is the Davis Tannery site. This large waterfront property has sat dormant for decades ever since the tannery was demolished. It is perhaps Kingston’s most known brownfield site, contaminated by many years of industrial production.

There is finally a plan on the table to clean and redevelop the site. A proposal has come forward from Patry Inc. Developments to remediate the site and build 1500 residential units on the property. I won’t discuss the details of the proposal at this point because a project of this scale involves a lot of discussion between city staff, community members and the developer to come up with the best possible plan. However, I think if we can get these details right, there is a tremendous opportunity for waterfront green space and significant residential development within walking distance of downtown.

Of course, whenever we talk about redeveloping sites like the Davis Tannery, the elephant in the room is the proposed Wellington Street extension. My view has always been that we need a road network in the Inner Harbour area that will allow for the redevelopment of sites like the Davis Tannery. However, I also understand the importance of preserving existing waterfront green space in Doug Fluhrer Park. Right now city staff are exploring alternative options to the Wellington Street extension, and my hope is that we can find a road network solution that preserves existing green space, but also facilitates a redevelopment of the Davis Tannery that will provide even more waterfront green space for residents and visitors to enjoy.

For Kingstonians interested in learning more about the redevelopment proposal for the Davis Tannery, there will be a presentation and an opportunity for public comment at Planning Committee next Thursday, March 8 at 6:30pm in Council Chambers in City Hall. There are a lot of important community discussions ahead, but there’s no question that it makes environmental and economic sense to clean up and redevelop the Davis Tannery.

We’re Building the Third Crossing! So, what happens next?

TC We're Building It

This week we received official confirmation that the federal government is committing $60 million for the Third Crossing! Together with the $60 million secured from the province and the $60 million the city approved, all of the funding is in place for this much needed bridge across the Cataraqui River. After 50 years of debate and discussion about the Third Crossing, now the work begins to build it!

So what happens next? First, the city will issue an RFP for the final design and construction of the Third Crossing. It will likely take around 6 months to select the right project management team, and it’s very important that we select the team with the best technical and financial expertise to ensure that the bridge is built on time and on budget. Once that team is in place, the final design work begins, which would then set the stage for a groundbreaking in mid-2019 and completion of the bridge in early 2022.

This is an incredibly significant moment for Kingston, as we now embark on the largest infrastructure project in our city’s history. I want to thank both MP Gerretsen and MPP Kiwala, each of whom have worked tirelessly to help secure the federal and provincial funds required for this project. I would also especially like to thank city staff for all of their work putting together the case for the Third Crossing and their work bringing the federal and provincial governments to the table.

I encourage all Kingstonians to stay engaged with this project in the months to come, especially as we work through the final design elements for the project and start to consider name options for the bridge. You can check out https://www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/projects-construction/third-crossing for the latest information throughout the course of the project. I am really looking forward to a new crossing that will connect people across our city and to a new bridge we can all be proud of.

Gearing up for the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge, Now with Twice the Number of Internships!

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The inaugural Mayor’s Innovation Challenge is just a couple weeks away, and it’s really exciting to see momentum grow as we approach the final competition. For those who haven’t heard about it yet, the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge is a pitch competition in partnership with Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College and Royal Military College, to see which team of post-secondary students in Kingston can come up with the best, most creative and cost-effective solution to one of three challenges the city is currently facing. As a city we’re looking for the best idea to enhance creative public spaces in underutilized areas of Kingston, to strengthen active transportation networks, or make the city more youth friendly, and all ideas must be possible to implement within a budget of $10 000.

Now, thanks to an unprecedented partnership with the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, there will be TWO prizes to offer! One team of students will be awarded paid internships with the City of Kingston to implement their proposed solution this coming summer, while a second team will be awarded a paid internship through the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI), a leading entrepreneurship program geared to helping students turn ideas into successful new businesses.

This innovation challenge has attracted a lot of attention to date, and it’s been exciting to see the level of interest across all three post-secondary institutions, as many students have come out to workshops to learn how to put forward a great proposal. It’s also been great to see so much interest across the community, including a $10,000 sponsorship from Bell Canada.

Just a reminder to all interested post-secondary students in Kingston that proposals are due next Tuesday, February 20. We will then review all of the submissions and the finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to myself, a representative from Bell and senior city staff on Friday, March 2. I’m looking forward to seeing some great ideas, and harnessing the creative power of young people in our community!

Should Kingston Switch to Ranked Ballot Voting?

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This week City Council approved the final wording of the question for the upcoming referendum on ranked ballot voting. When voters head to the polls for the municipal election this October, after casting their votes for Mayor, District Councillor and School Trustee, they will be asked the following question:

Are you in favour of using Ranked Ballot Voting to elect the Mayor and District Councillors in the City of Kingston? Yes or No

If the majority of voters say yes to this question, the work will then begin to establish ranked ballot voting for the following municipal election in 2022.

Electoral reform has been a big topic of discussion across the country over the last couple of years, but now the debate will be focused here in Kingston, as we weigh the pros and cons of ranked ballot voting as an alternative to the current first past the post system. In the lead up to the referendum this fall, it will be important for all Kingstonians to first make sure that they understand how a ranked ballot system would work. Here is a short video describing the process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cGE3jpyCos

So is ranked ballot voting better than what we have now? I can certainly see both the advantages and disadvantages to ranked ballots. You could argue that ranked balloting is fairer because it considers not only a voter’s 1st choice, but also how they feel about other candidates on the ballot. On the other hand, ranked balloting is more complex, and also more expensive to implement. I look forward to hearing more from those on either side of the debate and whatever the outcome, I believe that Kingston has made the right choice in letting the voters decide which voting system is best.

Digital Smart Kiosks Coming Soon to Kingston

Bell photo

This coming spring the city will begin work on an exciting new pilot project that will introduce a number of ‘digital smart kiosks’ around Kingston. These kiosks will have large touch screens that can provide a broad range of wayfinding, educational and tourism information. The kiosks themselves will also be able to offer free Wi-Fi within a certain range, emergency calling features, and even charging stations for your phone!

The kiosk project itself is just one part of a new partnership between the City and Bell Canada to come up with new ways for cities to use new technology in ways that can provide better services to residents and visitors. There are many ways that new smart technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be used to make cities run more efficiently, and this new partnership with Bell is about making Kingston into a laboratory to develop and test run these new ideas.

In my view this partnership is exactly the sort of initiative that will put Kingston on the leading edge of innovation in the 21st century. Imagine the potential as our city becomes a hub for developing new city level technologies that will allow us to manage energy use more efficiently, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide more information to residents and visitors in more convenient ways. The fact that Bell has chosen to partner with Kingston is itself a great signal that our city is becoming known as a leader in technology and innovation, and I look forward to welcoming other technology companies to Kingston as we set the standard for what a smart city can be!

Getting Downtown Development Right: Putting a Greater Emphasis on Design

Kingston Waterfront

One of the important questions facing our community is how to best develop the city’s core in a way that will make our downtown more walkable, livable and vibrant. Last week we invited Brent Toderian, an internationally respected expert in urban planning and design, to give a presentation with a question and answer period here at City Hall. Memorial Hall was packed as Mr. Toderian discussed best practices around intensification. If the ultimate goal is to accommodate more people living, working and enjoying the downtown, what sort of development is best?

Mr. Toderian touched on a number of interesting and exciting ideas, but one point that stood out was his comment that until now the discussion concerning downtown development has focused almost exclusively on building height, and not enough on overall design. In other words, we should be having a broader conversation. We can look at taller buildings but those buildings should be beautiful and they should be designed in ways that build a vibrant streetscape. Attractive architecture, ground floor commercial space, and inviting public spaces for pedestrians are just a few of the design aspects easily overlooked when the only thing we debate is building height.

Toderian Slide

On this point, I want to commend the City’s planning staff, who have already been working to move the conversation about building design to the forefront. The City’s Official Plan currently requires an urban design study if you want to build a tall building in the downtown. This puts us in a perfect position to really make design a priority; to emphasize the right design features for beautiful buildings and ensure a vibrant streetscape!

Mr. Toderian has challenged us all to reexamine our thinking and to embrace a more fulsome dialogue around future patterns for development. With the lowest rental vacancy rate in the province, there’s no question that we need to build more housing to meet the growing demand. If we want to avoid urban sprawl, we will need to embrace the right kind of intensification and infill developments, not only in the downtown but across the city. I believe we have an opportunity to work together as a community to ensure our city is built in a way that will inspire generations to come!