Capitol condo project returns to Kingston city hall for crucial vote

The controversial Capitol condominium project in downtown Kingston is back in front of city politicians.

IN8 Developments, the Toronto-based company behind the project at 223 Princess St., is pitching its downsized proposal as a “pretty good compromise” and it has the support of city planners.

They recommended approval of the rezoning application at the planning committee Sept. 17 and say the application meets the city’s goals for urban intensification, higher vacancy rate and less auto-oriented movement to reduce carbon emissions.

The revised Capitol condo project is 12 stories tall compared to the 16-floor project that was rejected by a planning appeal tribunal in 2018. IN8 Developments

The developer says the revised condo is 12 floors with 169 units and is about half the size of the original proposal.

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There is also added commercial space on the Queen Street side and all vehicle parking would be located on-site in an underground level and two floors above ground with two doors for access and departure on Queen Street.

“We have made a number of substantial changes to the project, although it still does meet the goal of bringing more people to downtown Kingston,” IN8 president Darryl Firsten said in a recent interview with Global News.

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He added the project will “hopefully have an amicable approval here and just get this thing built.”

IN8’s initial attempt at a rezoning application for a 16-floor, 212-unit building was rejected by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) in 2018 as too tall for the neighbourhood with its mix of low-rise homes, businesses and heritage properties.

Read more: Condo opponents vow to fight on

The hearing was viewed as a victory for several citizens who had challenged the 16-storey application at the LPAT.

The developer later filed an appeal of the LPAT decision, which remains stalled in divisional court during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Read more: Developer appeals Capitol condo rejection

Firsten told Global News that he’s willing to drop the appeal if the revised condo application is approved by city council and is not the subject of any future appeals.

“We will drop the other appeal in the event the current zoning bylaw we are seeking is enacted into law.”

Firsten says what’s important is that the long-vacant property be redeveloped to get more people living downtown, which he says his high-rise development will do.

“We like the 16-storey building but we’re very happy to build the 12-storey building if it means we can build it right now.”

But his offer may do little to sway long-time critics of the high-rise project, who say the city must follow its own Official Plan and zoning rules, which limit development on the site to about eight floors.

Read more: Kingston struggles with low vacancy rate

Despite the ongoing public battles, Firsten says he remains committed to redeveloping the site of the former Capitol movie theatre, which stretches from Princess Street to Queen Street.

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The condo would be situated closer to the Queen Street side of the property, adjacent to the Global Kingston news station.

The developer says the revised condo project has added commercial space and taken away one of three garage doors along Queen Street. IN8 Developments

He is proposing to demolish the movie theatre but retain and restore the heritage-style façade on Princess Street.

Firsten says it’s been a frustrating process but he remains confident this project represents a compromise in the heritage vs. high-rise debate.

“It’s unfortunate it’s taken this long and it’s unfortunate so many people had to put so much time and effort in this. But I think we’re cautiously optimistic and hopeful we’ll have a good positive outcome.

“We are in this for the long haul.”

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