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The Downtown and Harbour Architectural Guidelines Study was a City initiated study undertaken by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects. The study was intended to guide building design within the Downtown and Harbour Area Study Area. It generally includes Princess, Queen and Brock Streets from Division Street to the harbour and the area generally expands from Bay Street to William Street including the waterfront area. The historic Market Square District and City Hall are within the study area.


Study Components

  • Architectural Character Statement intended to provide a snapshot of the architectural and streetscape character of the study area which was assessed based upon five sub-areas namely the Market Square Heritage Conservation District; the Historic Area Adjoining the Market Square Heritage Conservation District; Lower Princess Street; the Harbour; and North Block and Environs area;
  • Architectural Character Plan to document how old and new buildings could co-exist in a respectful manner and how the unique character of the Downtown and Harbour Area could be respected and also developed based on the five sub areas;
  • Architectural Guidelines containing standards designed to be compatible with the historic architecture and unique character of the Study Area which was designed with guidelines for the entire Study Area and then with specific guidelines for the various sub areas;
  • Implementation Plan identifying the Consultant recommended means of implementing the study's findings; and the study's recommendations.

The findings of the Downtown and Harbour Architectural Guidelines Study, including the proposed land use policy framework, will be used as background information for the Comprehensive Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw Review.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Downtown and Harbour Area Architectural Guidelines Study?

The Downtown and Harbour Area Architectural Guidelines Study is part of the background information that is needed to prepare the updated city of Kingston Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw.

It will identify architectural guidelines for

  • building facade renewal,
  • courtyard developments and
  • new construction in the city's downtown and harbour area.

These guidelines will help to ensure that proposed developments in old or new buildings are compatible with existing built forms and features. It will also implement Official Plan policies for the former city of Kingston that address the need to preserve the historical and cultural character of the core area. 

Why is the study important?

The City of Kingston recognizes the value of its historic architecture and streetscapes in the downtown and harbour area. The city's downtown is distinctive in Ontario. In addition to City Hall, which has been described as one of the finest historical buildings in Ontario, there is a wide range of other institutional, retail, office and residential uses in buildings dating back over three centuries.

Courtyards and passageways between buildings, once used as carriageways and laneways, have also been redeveloped as outdoor cafes and unique pedestrian passages.

The downtown area is also noted for its scenic waterfront. Existing Official Plan policies protect selected waterfront views. There are also a number of waterfront uses such as Confederation Park, Confederation Basin Marina and various hotels, apartments, museums, restaurants and wharves that serve the Wolfe Island Ferry and summer tour boats.

Despite the historic and cultural value of the downtown and harbour area, there are no architectural guidelines currently in place for this area as a whole. Developing guidelines that deal with the unique characteristics of the downtown and harbour area will help to ensure that renovations, additions and new developments are compatible with existing built forms and features. 

What steps are involved in the study?

The Downtown and Harbour Area Architectural Guidelines Study  involved the following series of integrated steps:

Preparing an Architectural Character Statement: Since the downtown and harbour area contains a wide range of land uses and building types, the study will focus on areas in more detail through an 'Architectural Character Statement' that will outline the following:

  • A present day snapshot of the architectural and streetscape character of the downtown and harbour area.
  • An inventory of key historic buildings, groups of buildings and streetscapes.
  • Highlight unique architectural areas within the downtown and harbour area, including strengths and weaknesses of each.
  • Recommend possible treatments to the existing built form in terms of colours, materials and other details.

Preparing an Architectural Character Plan: The Architectural Character Statement will provide the basis for an 'Architectural Character Plan', which will discuss how old and new buildings can complement each other and how the character of the downtown and harbour area can be protected and enhanced. An important part of the Architectural Character Plan will be to determine whether the existing land use regulations in the Official Plan and Zoning By-Law for the former city of Kingston address future land use needs in the area.

Preparing the Downtown and Harbour Area Architectural Guidelines: The Architectural Character Statement and Architectural Character Plan will be used to prepare the 'Downtown and Harbour Area Architectural Guidelines'. These guidelines will focus on elements such as building form and scale, colours and materials as well as streetscape and courtyard relationships for newly constructed buildings and alterations/additions to existing buildings.

Public Consultation: In order to plan properly for the future, it will be important throughout the study process that the public is engaged in a discussion of architectural design issues and options in the core area. A number of opportunities to consult with the public are being planned and will run until the Downtown and Harbour Area Architectural Guidelines Study has been completed. From web page updates, to workshops, stakeholder meetings and open houses, the city of Kingston wants your feedback about how development in the downtown and harbour area should be guided in the future. 

Who completed the study?

The consulting team of Baird Sampson Neuert Architects was contracted to complete the Downtown and Harbour Area Architectural Guidelines Study with the direct involvement of the city's planning and development department, other city staff and external stakeholder groups and agencies.