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Solar panels, fire hall and hotel? Kingston’s airport plans for the future

Kingston drafts new vision for the future of its airport lands to 'complement' existing aviation uses.
Kingston drafts new vision for the future of its airport lands to 'complement' existing aviation uses. CKWS Television

As Kingston’s airport currently undergoes a $16-million runway and passenger terminal expansion, long-term plans are being made for the rest of the underused airport lands.

City councillors recently got their first look at a land use study that’s designed to “complement” existing air passenger services.

The so-called Highest and Best Land Use study, by Explorer Solutions consultants, examined how to maximize the commercial development potential of nearly half of the 275-hectare airport lands. The land development vision updates a similar study done in 2007 and focuses on six parcels of land around the terminal and runways.

Kingston drafts new vision for the future of its airport lands to ‘complement’ existing aviation uses.
Kingston drafts new vision for the future of its airport lands to ‘complement’ existing aviation uses. CKWS TV

Most of the land at Norman Rogers Airport is either vacant or used for non-aviation purposes, such as an 18-hole golf course and driving range.

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Among the study highlights;

  • construct a new, more direct airport entrance running from Front Road straight to the terminal building
  • market the airport for aerospace commercial activities
  • install solar panels along the airport’s border with Lemoine Point
  • replace Second World War-era hangars with new aircraft storage facilities, including a low-cost T-hangar design for recreational aircraft
  • dedicate some land for a future fire station along Bayridge Drive
  • expand the green buffer zone next to a subdivision on the airport’s northern boundary

Some of the land use recommendations could be undertaken within a few years, while others could take 20 years to implement.

Consultants say a key component to the success of this vision is nurturing the growth of existing aviation businesses, such as flight schools, flying clubs, charter airlines, helicopter tours and aircraft storage. Some of those businesses have been tenants of the city-owned airport for decades “employing dozens of staff and driving a significant amount of day-to-day activity at the airport,” the consultant noted.

“Future potential uses have been identified for the airport that would complement existing uses and capitalize on Kingston’s regional economic strengths and assets,” said the report.

Councillors approved the report, in principle, and directed staff to work on an action plan that can be included in current and future budgets. The study was undertaken in advance of the current airport expansion, which will extend the main north-south runway to 6,000 feet from 5,000, while adding 30 per cent passenger capacity to the terminal.

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“We know that there are about 700,000 tickets sold in our community and we capture about 10 per cent of that, so there are great market opportunities for our current carrier Air Canada and possibly others,” according to airport manager Rick Reed.

READ MORE: Kingston Airport seeks to expand Air Canada service with new upgrades

The study, however, may not be without controversy.

While consultants recommend the long-term lease with privately-run Landings Golf Course on parcel three remain in place until the current contract expires in 2033, the driving range on the sprawling front lawn, between Front Road and Len Birchall Way, known as parcel two, could eventually be replaced with a business park featuring offices and other commercial development.

Six parcels of Kingston’s airport were studied for potential future land uses.
Six parcels of Kingston’s airport were studied for potential future land uses. City of Kingston airport land use study

The future of parcel one includes demolishing old hangars and replacing them with modern aircraft storage facilities.

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In addition, the existing RCAF Club is to be relocated to the airport’s northeast corner on parcel five along Bayridge Drive to create more commercial space along the airport’s main entrance.

For the undeveloped area known as parcel four covering the southeast corner of the airport land near the corner of Front Road and Bayridge Drive, consultants recommend the development of a hotel or office building.

Parcel six along the airport’s western boundary is earmarked for future ground-mounted solar panels to complement the nearby the conservation authority’s passive uses.

The cost to upgrade the airport’s road, water, sewer and electrical infrastructure for future uses is estimated at over $12 million, according to the consultant.