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Envisioning Public Space in downtown Kingston

IMG_4300Downtown Kingston has a history and reputation of bringing bold ideas to life. Boasting a high occupancy rate and many exceptional amenities in and around the main street, for example, the ice rink in Springer Market Square, we will continue to dream big and look to the future.

In 2023, we will concentrate our efforts on further improvement of public spaces in an effort to enhance quality of life by creating inclusive public areas, and to attract more people to the downtown core, generating more foot traffic to local businesses and services.

What does that mean? 

Over the last few months, we have been approached by several members that have heard that Princess Street will be closed this summer. I want to take a moment to address these inquiries and provide more details. 

This past September, Tourism Kingston presented the 2022-2027 Integrated Destination Strategy (IDS) to City Council, which Council subsequently approved. The IDS was also endorsed by the Tourism Kingston and Kingston Accommodation Partner boards.  

In January 2023, the Downtown Kingston BIA Roadmap for 2023 was presented and approved by the BIA Board setting the organization's direction for the first year of a four-year term of the new board. Both the IDS and the Roadmap include working collaboratively on the development and animation of public spaces in the downtown core. 

BIA Roadmap 

Improve and fully activate Market Square events, programming, and animation year-round 

  1. Lead a collaborative approach from concept to completion with the City and Tourism Kingston on Springer Market Square seasonal experience.  
  2. Using downtown Kingston seasonal themes (Embrace the Season, Celebrate Summer) design and build assets and programming to engage visitors and locals at all times of the year 

GOAL: Develop Springer Market Square as a premier destination and gateway to the downtown Kingston experience for locals and visitors. 

Design and development of new and exciting events and programming in the downtown area. 

  1.  Work with Tourism Kingston and the City on activation of community spaces, including pedestrian-only spaces. 
  2. Research existing and potential audience demos so that when designing new programming the target audience is taken into consideration 
  3. Look for ‘layering’ opportunities on existing and 3rd party events (inside and beyond BIA boundaries). 
  4. Refresh and improve successful existing events 

GOAL: Continue to attract current and new visitors to downtown Kingston and establish ourselves as the preferred venue for large events and dynamic programming. 

Integrated Destination Strategy 

The IDS includes 25 initiatives to strategically develop Kingston as a four-season tourism destination. Initiative 20 in the IDS is as follows:  

Create and animate downtown pedestrian-only zones. 

To view the full Initiative 20, please see page 46 the IDS 

In response to the project's collaborative nature, a BIA-led Downtown Public Spaces Ad-hoc Committee was struck to explore the IDS recommendation and ensure that the interests of the BIA members were considered throughout the process. Meetings commenced with staff at the City, Tourism Kingston, and Downtown Kingston BIA in the fall and the first BIA-led Street Pedestrianization Committee meeting was held in late December. In January, a planning and landscape firm specializing in the creation of community spaces in downtown cores was engaged by staff to help design and activate public spaces in downtown Kingston. 

As a part of that process, the Downtown Public Spaces Committee met with the contracted team and Brad Joyce, Commissioner, Transportation and Public Works at the City of Kingston to understand the project goals more fully and bring forward feedback from the BIA membership. The meeting helped to align all three agencies on the process and outcome of street pedestrianization in the downtown area, as well as confirmed the BIA’s position as an equal partner in the process and ensure the membership is represented in the decision-making process. As a part of the process, BIA members will be engaged in the project details and next steps. 

Activation of pedestrian zones and other public spaces in downtown Kingston serves a two-fold purpose: to enhance quality of life by creating inclusive public areas, and to attract more people to the downtown core, generating more foot traffic to local businesses and services. 

The scope of the contracted companies’ work focuses on the layout and furnishings in Springer Market Square and the continued beautification of Princess Street, both key opportunity areas in the downtown core. The goal of this work is to ensure that the streetscape and street furnishings in these places invite the public and encourage them to linger, strengthening the sense of place in the downtown. Also, the work will aim to ensure that key elements are in place to better respond to the many festivals and events held by the BIA, the City, and other groups within the core downtown area.  

While the contract companies’ work will advise on ways to maximize the benefits of street closures when and if they occur (such as during existing events like Promenade), their recommendations are not meant to address the efficacy or location of additional street closures. The next step in this process will be a workshop with committee members and other stakeholders held by the contract company in early March. Watch for updates in future Member Bulletins and help to direct all member feedback to the office so that we can provide the most up-to-date information.