Report says Kingston waterfront high-rise ‘falls short’ of good planning
An independent review of a controversial 20-storey waterfront building project next to downtown Kingston’s historic dry dock property is recommending wholesale changes to the tower’s design.
“The proposed development falls short in meeting many urban design and heritage policies of the province, the City of Kingston, and general good practice,” according to a peer review by Dillon Consulting.
But it remains unclear whether the residential tower development will ever proceed.
The city opposes the high-rise. The owner is appealing the city’s delay in dealing with it, and recently indicated he’d be willing to sell the contaminated waterfront parcel.
Kingston-based developer Jay Patry purchased the 1.7 hectare property for about $3 million in early 2016 after it was declared surplus by the federal government. The site includes a 19th century dry dock and Pump House building at 55 Ontario Street, both designated as a national historic site, plus the adjacent wharf at 5 Lower Union Street.
In 2017, Patry unveiled plans to put a high-rise next to the heritage dry dock and construct what would be the tallest building on the city’s waterfront: a 20-storey, 292-unit residential tower on the Lower Union Street wharf with an adjacent five-storey parking podium.
In addition, the developer proposed an adaptive reuse of the Pump House building, formerly home to the Marine Museum, to accommodate a mix of residential and commercial units. The historic limestone dry dock itself, where Sir John A. Macdonald laid the cornerstone in 1890, would remain largely as is, according to information submitted to the city.
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Patry is seeking Official Plan and zoning bylaw changes to allow the high-rise development.
However, the plans drew immediate criticism from heritage groups and neighbours in the downtown’s latest battle over height versus heritage.
The City of Kingston commissioned Dillon Consulting and Robertson Martin Architects to conduct a third party review of the urban design and heritage impact studies that were done to support the private development proposal. It’s common for the city to seek an independent assessment of contentious projects to help planners and politicians make informed decisions.
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The peer review did not offer glowing remarks about the proposal. It concluded the proposed building is too tall, will have “significant negative impacts” on the city skyline and Old Sydenham District, disrupt Navy Memorial Park and lacks enough setback for a public waterfront pathway.
“The height, massing and overall design aesthetic for the proposed 20-storey building significantly impacts the site’s overall context and relationship to the waterfront and requires a full redesign.”
Among the peer review’s key recommendations:
- Reduce the residential building size by 7 to 12 storeys
- Reduce the number of car parking spaces to reduce the car podium’s height
- Wrap the parking podium around the tower base to create a more aesthetic appearance
- Redesign the tower to provide setbacks to reduce the building’s massing
- Ensure a 10-metre public waterfront walkway is provided around the entire building
- Remove an emergency access route from Navy Memorial Park, and create the access off Lower Union Street
The Dillon report says significant design changes are needed to the developer’s own heritage impact statement (HIS) report in order to reduce the project’s visual impact on the surrounding area.
“Overall, we feel that the HIS report falls short in recognizing how the proposed interventions impact the site’s nationally and locally significant industrial heritage.”
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The dry dock property is considered a brownfield, scarred from its industrial past, and would require an extensive site cleanup.
The Dillon report is contained in an information report to council April 16, which also provides an update on the developer’s appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) based on the city’s apparent failure to make a decision on the high-rise application.
Staff say the appeal was filed over a year ago, although no pre-hearings or LPAT hearings have been scheduled.
Councillors were briefed on the application during a closed door meeting April 2, where they instructed planners to oppose the development if the LPAT hearing goes ahead and to suspend further talks with the developer.
With an appeal showdown looming, the site is also up for sale.
A ‘for sale’ sign has been posted on the property since earlier this year, but no price was listed by the seller’s agent, Cushman & Wakefield.
“We had two unsolicited offers on the land in the last little while, so we’re looking at all of our options,” Patry told Global News in an interview in February.
He said there was a “two-thirds chance” he will sell the vacant property.
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