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Ideas for a New North End

By: James Jeff McLaren
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An Opinion Piece on Eliminating the North-South Divide

As good fortune would have it, many diverse plans are coming together to transform a neglected part of Kingston into an exceptional, forward thinking, livable, green, and innovative urban space. In an exciting convergence community groups, the school board, the City, and the province are working together to reinvigorate the north end.

This is important because the north end has historically been overlooked and marginalized. This short shrift of north end concerns has created a myriad of issues and problems that has detrimentally divided Kingston in two. This separation is often referred to as the north-south divide; a divide that has held Kingston back from achieving our best potential. This disregard is now ending.

Among the factors coming together to rethink and redevelop the north end are 1) the Limestone school board’s decision to put new public schools on the QECVI site, 2) the Rideau Heights Regeneration plan which includes the new Rideau Heights Library and Shannon Park/Wally Elmer Community Centre redevelopment, 3) the province’s new Community Hubs strategic framework, 4) City Council’s decision to designate a new secondary plan area for the old industrial lands and the inner harbor without any preset constraints, 5) Council’s fast tracking of the completion of the K&P trail in time for our sesquicentennial, and 6) the community improvement work of city and citizen groups like the waterfront Working Group, the Friends of Belle Park, the Friends of the Inner Harbour, WellingtonX, and others.

One aspect of a smart city is its willingness to take and build on the opportunity to have so many interests pulling and moving forward together with good, smart, positive, people centric development. Development that builds a creative core and lays the foundation for stronger civic and economic growth is a benefit for the whole city. When Council passed a motion to start the secondary plan process we deliberately chose to direct staff to take a new fresh look at land use. We want the planning to be exceptional and innovative. We need a cultural shift in planning towards quality of life. This means going above and beyond the best practices of urban design principles and taking into account the health and wellbeing aspects of urban design. In other words, we want to maximize livability which I take to mean the urban form that is most conducive to building the types of personal, emotional, social and spiritual relations that make life worth living.

We also asked for a forward thinking plan that takes into account the future trends in how we will live sustainably in community. I would like to see 1) high density to maximize service delivery and city income while minimizing the individual cost to citizens, 2) well connected low rise human scale urban form similar to downtown with the occasional innovative landmark tower in appropriate places, 3) efficient development patterns that facilitate jobs and opportunities close to homes for us and our children, 4) land patterns that include affordable housing and accessible neighbourhood amenities that advanced active transportation and transit use (such as connecting paths, bike lanes, off-road bike trails and smooth sidewalks) so as to provide all people many options to live, shop, work, play, study and worship, and 5) a green city with lots of trees, trails, parks, and a doubling of the tree canopy which improves wellbeing, reduces crime and helps deal with storm water. In short, I would like to see a strong, sustainable, resilient and safe community for people of all ages in a clean and healthy environment with an innovative and competitive economy.

The school board’s decision to put brand new schools on the site of QECVI will further add dynamism and attractiveness to the new redevelopment for the next 75 to 100 years – the expected service life of the new schools. This redevelopment will be further fueled with new private sector development as the elements that attract demand come into place. In this way a long neglected part of the city will grow more vibrant and prosperous thereby supporting the entire city with new found dynamism, opportunity and quality of place.

This is a long term process of transformation, rejuvenation and growth. We are thinking 15 to 30 years ahead to improve the city, eliminate the north-south divide and to come together as one city with an authentic heritage downtown and an innovative 21st century north end; one city where history and innovation thrive.

Added on: Sept 18, 2015
By: James Jeff McLaren
© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren