More permanent residents moving into Williamsville and the Downtown core will provide the boost in traffic that the mostly small businesses in the area desperately need. Parking becomes less of an issue with people living close to work (the three proposed projects are within walking distance of three of Kingston’s largest employers; Queen’s, KGH/HDH, and CFB Kingston), shopping, and entertainment. Proposed parking structures on an existing surface lot and as part of a private development on Queen Street would result in a net increase in the amount of parking in the Downtown core anyways. Moving people closer to where they work and shop also aligns with the City’s sustainability plan. Increasing density also saves taxpayers money, and results in an increased tax base that could save the rest of the city from rate increases. Utilities only need to be run to one building as opposed to servicing a whole subdivision, new roads don’t have to be built and maintained, and services like garbage/recycling, snow removal, and emergency services don’t need to be increased. Year over year the savings add up considerably. In the Capitol alone, 223 units with an average value of $300,000 represents a significant amount of new revenue for the City, without the expense of servicing a greenfield site. How much tax revenue does a vacant site generate?
Currently a number of new developments have been proposed for the Princess Street corridor through Williamsville catering primarily to students. Building high density student housing along the main street will soften demand for housing within the neighbourhood, reducing the number of single family homes being converted to student rental units.
The heritage look of the downtown core can be preserved while still building to meet the needs of residents today and well into the future. The proposal for the Queen Street development is to do just that- building the street level with a design that matches the existing construction on the block, and setting the tower itself back from the street. This is also the plan for the Capitol, with the front of the old Theater being a designated property they have no choice. The mixing of old and new design elements has been done many many times in other cities and works very well when executed properly. I think people are just scared when they hear Downtown Highrise, because they immediately think of the disaster that is Elrond/Princess Towers. These projects will be anything but, these are going to be world-class buildings that are thoughtfully designed to blend in with the existing heritage streetscape and will undoubtedly be very well maintained for decades to come. The time has come to give highrises downtown another try.