Developer eyes Williamsville for another large-scale student apartment

Podium Developments concept design for a 10 storey building on Princess Street.
Podium Developments concept design for a 10 storey building on Princess Street. City of Kingston planning dept report on Podium Development

Kingston’s midtown landscape is poised for another large-scale, student-style apartment building.

After years of refinements by the developer, city planning staff are recommending approval of a 10-storey mixed commercial and residential building, not far from the Kingston Memorial Centre. It would be one of the largest apartment buildings in the city, spanning an entire block along the north side of Princess Street between Albert and Frontenac streets.

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The staff recommendation to support the developer’s application will go to the planning committee for discussion June 7. It will then be forwarded to the full council at a future date.

While planners support the application, some area residents have been unimpressed with the building, namely the height and scale, traffic and parking impacts, intrusion of privacy on adjacent single-family homes and shadowing of area properties.

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“Height of the development will be an eyesore on the surrounding properties. It is an imposing structure out of character with the neighborhood,” said one letter co-signed by Colin Finn and six others.

“It is distressing that a few years after the Williamsville Special Policy Areas sections were added to the city’s Official Plan, after extensive community consultation and Council’s support, to find a development application that totally disregards them,” added former councillor Vicki Schmolka.

The Podium Developments building concept design.
The Podium Developments building concept design. City of Kingston planning report

Podium Developments is behind the project, which is expected to attract Queen’s University students as tenants. The developer is seeking a raft of Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments to allow the development to proceed, including; increasing the allowable building height to 30 from 20 metres, removing the need for a stepped-back building, and reducing the number of required parking and bicycle spaces.

Podium assembled seven parcels of commercial and residential land from 575 to 611 Princess Street and 510 Frontenac Street to accommodate the building’s large footprint.

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The sprawling apartment complex will contain a total of 565 bedrooms, from bachelor to three-bedroom units, plus about 1,000 square metres of ground floor retail space.

“The proposal includes a total of 359 residential units, including 214 bachelor, 19 one-bedroom, 58 two-bedroom, 56 three-bedroom and 12 four-bedroom dwelling units,” according to a planning report.

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In addition, there will be two levels of underground parking and surface parking spaces behind the building for 218 vehicles. The developer says fewer parking spaces will be offset by the walkability factor and the building’s location on a main transit route.

The developer made a series of modifications to its original 2016 proposal in order to get planning staff’s approval.

“Modifications have been made to the building’s massing to reduce the scale of the structure and provide better transition from the building into the residential neighbourhood to the north,” the staff report noted.

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Among the key changes:

  • the building is reduced to 10 from 11 storeys,
  • the higher floors are stepped back from the street to reduce the visual impact,
  • there are fewer on-site parking spaces, and no longer plans for off-site tenant parking,
  • the loading space is relocated to the back of the building.

In addition, Podium will give the city a triangular-shaped urban parkette at the intersection of Princess and Frontenac Streets, plus $229,000 in cash to “contribute toward the green street treatment of Frontenac Street and Albert Street” in what’s being called a community benefit.

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Podium says the apartments will be geared towards students, as noted in its urban design study: “The proposed development is situated within one kilometre of the Queens University campus which equated to an approximate walk of 15 minutes, therefore it is anticipated that there will be a high percentage of students residing in the building.”

City planners say the project is a good fit for the midtown’s Princess Street corridor, known as Williamsville.

“The proposed development will enhance the streetwall and pedestrian experience along Princess Street and contribute to the long-term viability of redeveloping the Williamsville Corridor.”

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