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Development opponents claim another victory in downtown Kingston condo battle

IN8 Developments

Opponents of a proposed highrise in downtown Kingston are feeling victorious after Ontario’s divisional court struck down a developer’s appeal of a decision against the project.

But now those who fought successfully against IN8 Development’s 16-storey Capitol condo will have to decide if they’ll appeal the new 12-storey plan.

Waterloo-based developer Darryl Firsten was dealt a blow in court on Wednesday, when his appeal of a rejected plan to build a 16-storey building atop the former Capitol Theatre in downtown Kingston was dismissed.

But the decision comes just a week after IN8’s “Plan B” for the site passed a crucial hurdle.

On Oct. 6, city councillors voted 8 to 5 to support the rezoning application from IN8 Developments for a 12-storey building on the site of the former movie theatre at 223 Princess Street.

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Read more: Kingston city council votes 8-5 to support downtown Capitol condo building

“We’re grateful the planning committee supported it, that the peer reviewer deemed it to be appropriate… I believe a lot of citizens really like it,” says Firsten, the developer of the Capitol condo building.

“I’m not against high-rise buildings but I find that when a developer wants to come and build, what they’re interested in is maximizing profit and that means maximizing size,” said Helen Finley, a member of Frontenac Heritage Foundation.

Finley, along with members of  ‘Building Kingston’s Future’, one grassroot group opposing the project, is happy about the court’s decision to dismiss IN8’s appeal. However, the group believe 12 storeys would still negatively impact the city’s historic downtown core.

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

The ruling was deemed a victory by citizens and local groups who challenged the initial design at their own expense.

“It’s full of wonderful architecture and we should really care for it,” said Finley.

Members of Building Kingston’s Future are still considering their options when it comes to the 12-storey proposal.

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Read more: President of Frontenac Heritage Foundation says Capitol Condo rejection sets a precedent

Firsten, meanwhile, remains hopeful his new 169-unit concept, which includes commercial space on Queen Street, won’t trigger any appeals.

“Everyone wants to see the jobs created, the new building built, the new tax revenue that will come in once the building is done, and a new store front that will be created for shopping and amenities,” Firsten said.

The revised 12-storey design had earlier received the support of city planners and the planning committee.

Planners say the application meets the city’s goals for urban intensification, addressing the city’s low vacancy rate and promoting less auto-oriented movement to reduce carbon emissions.

Barring any setback, Firsten says he would like to start construction in the spring of 2021.

“We are of the belief that city staff will work with us to move things quickly to get us there.”

— With files from Bill Hutchins

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Kingston citizens group ‘in it to win it’ in fight over downtown condo project