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Development plan for former women’s prison met with mixed reviews

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Kingston’s former Prison for Women will become a planned community, pending approval from the city.

Siderius Developments has unveiled a $143-million plan that would see the 8.1 Acre property located at 40 Sir John A. McDonald Blvd transformed into a living community called “Union Park” that includes a seniors living community, condominiums, a green space, a hotel and ground-floor retail space.

The announcement was made on Tuesday by Siderius Development Kingston, which is a partnership between ABNA Investments Ltd and King’s Town Development Corporation.

“Union Park Kingston will reimagine this site’s potential by creating a vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood for the benefit of all existing neighbours in Portsmouth, Kingstonians in general, and the hundreds of people that will live and work at Union Park,” said Nate Doornekamp with Siderius Developments

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They say that the project would provide much-needed housing, jobs and commercial space to the Portsmouth Village while preserving the built heritage and history of the property.

Critics of the project have expressed their worry about their ability to follow through on that promise, however.

In February, an op-ed letter was penned by Hadley Howes and the P4W Memorial Collective bringing forward concerns about developers properly maintaining the “intangible resources” of heritage and the lack of collaboration with community members most closely linked to the prison.

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“The relevant experts on the history of P4W – namely the community of people who have been imprisoned there- have been shut out of this collaboration, in spite of repeated attempts to meet with representatives of Siderius,” wrote Howes.

It continues saying the proposed plan looks at the Prisoner for Women not as a living memory of those incarcerated, but as “objects of learning and fascination to a community that engages in carceral tourism,” with the development plan working as a tool to hide the systemic inequities in the prison system and Canada’s history.

Since 2000, the P4W Memorial collective has been lobbying for a memorial garden to be built for women who died at P4M and at prisons across Canada.

The news of this proposal has also been met with mixed reactions on social media, with many seeing the potential this development could add to the Portsmouth Village, but others feeling strongly that by moving forward with this proposal the city will once again be turning a blind eye to its biggest need: affordable housing.

“I think they should be building affordable housing and not housing that only people in a higher income bracket can afford,” said one user. “Another million-dollar condo building? We need affordable housing in Kingston,” added another user.

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The process towards construction of this development has begun, with applications to amend the official plan and zoning by-law as well as a Draft Plan to Subdivision submitted to the City of Kingston.

Siderius says they will continue outreach with residents, landowners, business owners and groups such as the Prison for Women Memorial Collective.

The developer’s plan details steps related to both community development and the construction’s heritage strategy.

Siderius was unable to be reached in time to provide a comment on what their plan to respect the heritage of the building might entail.

In the timeline laid out, Siderius would expect to receive council approval for phases 1 and 2 in 2022, with construction starting in 2023 with hopes of wrapping up in 2027.

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