Our innovative approach to heritage at Union Park Kingston

If you were one of the many who attended the Oct. 7 Planning Committee meeting, you might have heard some questions about heritage. The seasoned heritage professionals among us might have been able to follow the conversation with little issue, but for the rest of us: what did it all mean?

Heritage Conservation Strategy

A Heritage Conservation Strategy is a unique document requested by the City of Kingston for our project. It is intended to be a guiding document for the integration of heritage conservation and management within the overall property planning and management framework. Preparing this type of document is unprecedented for developments in Kingston and reflects the seriousness both we and the City place on redeveloping this heritage property respectfully.

This document has been created because there are four proposed buildings to be developed on-site at different times. Thus, a guiding document was seen as a critically important document to ensure proper protections for the heritage aspects of Union Park Kingston.

Within that framework, individual building Heritage Impact Statements will be prepared for each block.

Now we know what documents are needed. But what is the strategy meant to achieve (assuming you don’t want to read a 79-page document)?

More specifically, this guiding document is meant to assist both the developer (us), the general public and heritage enthusiasts (you), and the approval authority (the City) to conserve and manage the existing heritage resources.

The three goals of our Heritage Strategy are:

  • To provide site specific guidelines and make recommendations on the implementation of a cultural heritage strategy with reference to Parks Canada’s “Standards and Guidelines”.

  • To undertake the interpretation of the cultural heritage of the prison site and the enhancement of the public realm linked to interpretation and access to surviving features.

  • To identify the potential impacts (positive and negative) on the Prison for Women and where possible suggest mitigation measures.

The Strategy is an important first step in the heritage process, however. As is noted at the conclusion of the Strategy:

“It is understood that in addition to this Heritage Strategy, four specific Heritage Impacts Statements will be required by the City of Kingston Official Plan to accompany the specific future site plan and heritage applications.

“Based on the development parcels and phasing, these Heritage Impact Statements will be for the proposed Prison for Women rehabilitation project (Block B), the proposed hotel (Block D), the proposed seniors’ housing continuum of care (Block C) and the future mixed-use project (Block A).”

So, where are our Heritage Impact Statements you ask?

Once the Strategy is approved by the City, and following their peer review, we can move forward with crafting the individual building Heritage Impact Statements and submitting them for review and approval as well.

Heritage Impact Assessment (or Statement)

Each Heritage Impact Assessment (or Statement) will evaluate the impact of the proposed development, building alterations and site alteration on the known built heritage resource and the cultural heritage landscape.

This is a detailed document that will recommend mitigative measures and/or alternative development approaches to conserve the heritage attributes of the resource. These assessments must be prepared by a qualified heritage conservation professional.

As noted, there will be a series of these statements prepared and presented for approval in the coming months. Please stay tuned for more information.

Who is working on these documents?

We’ve hired two highly qualified heritage firms to work on our heritage documents. Let’s introduce them.

Barry Padolsky has been the principal of Barry Padolsky Associates Inc., Architects since 1969. He has been the architect for the restoration, renovation, or adaptive reuse of over 40 heritage buildings. He has won 28 design awards of which 22 are for architectural conservation. His heritage projects include the Victoria Memorial Museum Restoration; the Rideau Canal Museum; the Byward Market Building, the Fleet Street Pumping Station; and the Bank Street, Cumming’s, and Pooley’s Bridge Rehabilitation projects.

John J. Stewart, B.L.A., O.A.L.A., C.S.L.A., is the Principal of Commonwealth Historic Asset Management’s Perth and Miami Offices. He has extensive experience in building conservation, planning; and management of cultural resources and entertainment design. A graduate University of Guelph (Canada), he received additional training at Cornell University and Oxford University and holds a diploma in the Conservation of Monuments from Parks Canada.

Before Commonwealth’s formation, Mr. Stewart served for four years as the first director of Heritage Canada’s Main Street Program, and in this capacity was responsible for initiating, developing, and ongoing supervision of downtown revitalization projects across the country. His innovative revitalization work charted a path whereby business and property owners actively participated in reviving their own communities. He is past Chair of Perth’s Heritage Commission, and a past board member of The Association for Preservation Technology and ICOMOS. Stewart is coauthor of Perth: Tradition and Style in Eastern Ontario and a contributor to Reviving Main Street.

We’re pleased to have both Barry and John and their organizations on our team, and hope you’ll agree that their presence on this project demonstrates how seriously we view heritage preservation at this site.

Is the Prison for Women property considered heritage?

You might be thinking everything at the former Prison for Women constitutes heritage, given its age. Actually, the existing buildings are not all created equal in terms of heritage value.

While the heritage limestone building is subject to some heritage regulations, there is a more recent wing of the prison built with concrete and other building materials that are considered non-heritage. Due to their poor condition, the plan is to remove these non-historic appendages.

The interior of the building is also largely constructed of non-heritage materials and is in such poor condition as to be considered largely unsalvageable – though we are examining whether some artwork could be restored.

However, one item of heritage consideration is the locking mechanism used on some of the cell doors. We intend to preserve one such mechanism and have offered the others up to relevant museums such as the Correctional Service Museum of Canada.

A major heritage consideration for the site would be the views of the former administration building. While much of the former prison was obscured by walls for most of its life, the green cupola is a familiar sight to most in the Historic Portsmouth Village area as well as commuters along Union St. and Sir John A. Macdonald Blvd. This is why our development is laid out the way it is: to ensure other buildings on the site do not block heritage views.

It is important to remember that our property does not include the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Museum or the neighbouring CSC steam plant.

Closing thoughts

This article is intended as a brief and broad overview of the heritage points of interest and how they are being addressed at the former Prison for Women. If you have specific questions not answered by the Heritage Strategy, please reach out to us or join us at a future presentation.