Kingston to solicit proposals for downtown conference centre

On Tuesday night, Kingston City Council approved a motion to move forward with seeking out proposals for the building of a downtown mixed-use development that will include a conference centre, a hotel, and residential and commercial space.

The motion passed by a vote of 10-3.

The city will look to sell the land for a nominal fee of $1 to a developer and have them repurpose the plot of land known as Block 4 across from the newly renamed Slush Puppy Place.

Taggart Group of Companies and CaraCo, Claridge Homes Group of Companies, IN8 64 Barrack, Homestead Land Holdings Limited, Jay Patry Enterprises and Trinity Development Inc., and Fitzrovia and Seeker Labs are all being invited to submit proposals.

In addition to the $1 sale, the city is incentivizing the purchase for developers with measures including a city contribution of approximately $40,000 per public parking stall,property tax exemption for the conference centre through a Community Improvement Plan, eligibility for the City’s Brownfields program, and a contribution of up to $110,000 per year for five years from the Municipal Accommodation Tax.

Council also approved a $50,000 honorarium for all completed proposals, regardless of whether they're chosen, with city staff saying that is standard practice.

Loyalist-Cataraqui Councillor Paul Chaves, one of the votes in dissent, objected to the inclusion of honorariums for proposals, saying the development opportunity should be incentive enough.

“I do believe $11.9 million dollars is enough incentive to get good applications and projects for the benefit of our residents, and would consider this the cost of doing business for any proponents,” Chaves said.

The motion calls for the city to require a number of different elements as part of any submission, including 169 public parking spaces and a future partnership with St. Lawrence College that could involve experiential learning opportunities at the hotel.

The possibility of requiring a minimum number of residential units including affordable housing units was also discussed as a must for any proposal.

Tourism Kingston, a partner in the project, vouched for the call for proposals on Tuesday night.

In a presentation from Tourism Kingston to council, Ted Robinson said there's missed economic opportunities from not being able to bid on events due to lack of appropriate facilities.

He said in recent months, there's been 9 events the city couldn't bid on that would have resulted in $6.5 million spent directly in the community.

Overall, 40% of tourism spending in Canada is business travel, and the development will largely target that market.

The city is also spending $85,000 on a consulting firm to manage proposals.

In passing the motion, the city moves on to the next step and staff will initiate the requests for proposals.

Trillium Councillor Jimmy Hassan said a project like this is a needed investment into the city's future.

“This is kind of an investment, it’s an investment for the future,” Hassan said.

“All the crises the city is facing at this point, we need money to deal with that.”

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News