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The final Commercial Land Review Report was accepted by City Council on May 17, 2016. The purpose of the review was to update the City's commercial inventory, complete a commercial land supply and demand analysis, and provide guidance and policy recommendations to update and improve the commercial policy structure in the City's Official Plan. The City retained SGL Planning and Design Inc. and urbanMetrics inc. to complete the review.

Key Findings

The key findings and recommendations of the Commercial Land Review are:

Provincial policy has resulted in increased residential intensification, which in turn has led to more intensive commercial formats that had previously been resisted by the retail industry.

In 2015, the city currently had approximately 9.6 million square feet of commercial space in total. It is estimated that almost 1 million square feet of commercial space has been added since 2007. The downtown commercial node comprises 15% of all commercial space in Kingston and is the city's largest commercial node.

The ‘Services' category (which includes financial services, entertainment, personal services, medical services, eating/drinking facilities, professional offices, daycare facilities and others) has experienced the highest growth between 2007 and 2015.

The distribution of commercial space on a per capita basis (based on 2015 population estimates) is as follows:

  • Food Store Retail: Between 2007 and 2015, the per capita ‘Food Store Retail' (supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores and specialty food stores) has increased higher than the rate of population growth. The current rate of 5.8 square feet per capita is within general industry norms of about 4 to 6 square feet per capita.
  • Services: Between 2007 and 2015, the per capita ‘Services' space has also increased higher than the rate of population growth. The Services sector has increased per capita from 25.2 to 26.5 square feet. This level, although high, is not out of line with Kingston's role as a tourist, institutional and regional centre.
  • Non-Food Store Retail: The per capita ‘Non-Food Store Retail' (department stores, clothing stores, general merchandize stores, home furnishings stores, pharmacies and personal care stores, building and outdoor home supply stores and miscellaneous stores) has declined. However, the current ratio of 29.4 square feet per capita in this category is higher by industry standards, which reflects Kingston's regional service role. The higher per capita ratio also reflects Kingston's draw as a tourist attraction, which together with its sizeable student population, creates increased demand for Non-Food Store retailing beyond that generated by residents only.

In 2007, the city had an overall commercial vacancy rate of 4.95% which has since increased to 6.5% city-wide. Although the vacancy rate has increased, it remains within a healthy range, which is typically between 5% and 8%.

Demand: by 2036, approximately 1.5 million square feet of additional retail space is warranted in Kingston. However due to the forecasted decline in population after 2036, the warranted additional new space is anticipated to decline to 1.3 million square feet by 2041.

Supply: the updated vacant commercial land inventory as of March 12, 2015 totals 76.7 hectares.

The supply and demand analysis has identified the potential over-supply of commercial space of approximately 955,800 square feet by 2041.

The findings indicate that there is no demonstrated need for additional commercial designated lands in the city. While there may be needed uses that may not be able to fit on an existing commercial site, the City should ensure that

  1. there is market to support the use,
  2. that it cannot reasonably be accommodated on other vacant designated commercial sites and
  3. that it would not significantly impact the planned function of existing or planned commercial areas.

Market findings support residential development downtown to support downtown commercial vitality, and continued encouragement of mixed-use formats.

The review offers recommendations pertaining to potential Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw amendments. The review suggests that existing policies in the Official Plan adequately express Council's support and commitment to creating a sustainable, healthy, and vibrant community, and its encouragement for mixed land use development. Some amendments are proposed to the existing commercial policies that will more clearly express the strategic policy direction to further prevent the over-supply of commercial designated lands, to support and encourage the creation of mixed use areas where appropriate, and to encourage the provision of more walkable commercial areas that foster a sense of place.

The recommendations for the Zoning Bylaw are intended to ensure alignment of the range of permitted uses with the intent of the land use designations and also to improve streetscapes and the pedestrian environment (for example, reduced front yard setbacks, and minimum landscaped open spaces).

Next Steps

The recommendations of the review will be implemented through an Official Plan amendment, distinct from the on-going Official Plan Update, and new zoning standards will be considered in the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw.