A proposal to knock down five houses on Johnson Street to build townhouses for students has been met with mixed reviews from local residents. If given permission from the city Planning Committee, the buildings will be constructed and rented out for Sept. 2013.
The proposed properties, which would be located between Toronto and MacDonnell Streets, will be built by Golden Dragon Ho, an Ottawa-based developer. Each townhouse building will have 27 units, with an average of four bedrooms each. The housing would bring an additional 108 students to the area.
Johnson St. resident Corinne Farber has lived in the area since 1983 and was one of many residents to express concern over the project at a city planning committee in June. Farber said she knows people who have already put their houses up for sale.
“I just think it will hurt the area to the point where what happened on Aberdeen will happen,” Farber said.
While many in the area are already used to living near students, residents worry that a higher student population could pose problems for the community.
“This is equal to one ginormous student residence,” Farber said. “I was a fulltime student when I was young, and I know they don’t mean anything, but I’ve also had to chase kids up the road for smashing bottles.”
Sandy Wilson, the project’s architect, said there’s a “definite need for good quality student housing in Kingston.”
“The number of students being admitted to Queen’s is increasing by about 100 places a year and those students are going to need some good accommodation.”
The project requires approval from the Planning Committee because the plans are one metre higher than zoning currently allows.
Jim Neill, Kingston city councillor for Williamsville District, said a decision could be reached by the fall. He added that he thinks the issue is more about the density of residents than the height of the buildings.
Neill said the proposed site for the project is underutilized.
However, the density of the people moving into the area could pose a problem due to the lack of proposed amenity space, he added.
“With that number of students in half a square block area, I think potentially you’re going to have to have a little bit of amenity space in the back,” Neill said. “They’ve squeezed in too many bedrooms and not enough common living space in my mind.”
Neill added that he applauded the plans to provide a parking space for each apartment.
“I think that this is very much a transition area. There is still a real mix, and a comfortable mix, of students and non-student residents,” Neill said.
“I don’t think people are necessarily opposed to students – this is Queen’s. It’s a reality. I think that people see a tipping point sometimes.”
Queen’s student and Johnson St. resident Andrew Cantarutti agreed that the density of students appears to be too high.
“Students are not necessarily strange to that area, but obviously it’s going to introduce a lot more of them. It does seem very dense for that small amount of property,” Cantarutti, ArtSci’13, said.
He said that the balance between student and non-student residents of the area can help students be better behaved.
“I find that, especially with the people I know, we tend to be more respectful of our neighbours,” he said of his friends that also live in the area.
Cantarutti added that there needs to be a change in the relationship between students and non-students.
“I think the problem is that a lot of the local residents tend to have a view of ‘themselves versus the students’ as opposed to one big happy community,” he said. “There’s always been almost an opposition between the two groups.”
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