Does Kingston offer a rich variety of opportunities or a corporate wasteland?

point counterpoint

Andrew Bucholtz
Andrew Bucholtz
Harrison Smith
Harrison Smith

Kingston not appreciated enough by students

One of the first questions that invariably arises when meeting people is, “Where are you from?” Our hometowns and native countries often play a strong role in everything from the bands we enjoy to the sports teams we follow, and even our alcoholic beverages of choice.

It seems odd to me that most of the students I’ve met at Queen’s have a great deal of pride for their points of origin, but have none for Kingston itself. It’s clear many students are just here to get their degree and get out, and have no great love for the city. This is a pity, as Kingston has a lot to offer, and is a place I would definitely consider living in for many years.

Perhaps part of the disdain towards the city comes from students’ lack of engagement with it. Without a doubt, there are great experiences to be had around the campus area and the Ghetto, but Kingston has much more to offer as well. Sticking around in the summer when the student population drops dramatically is a great way to interact with non-students, but they’re also available during the year.

Whether it’s playing in the city’s recreational sports leagues or just joining the regular crowd for Saturday morning breakfast, beer and soccer at the Toucan, some of the best times I’ve had in Kingston have been well outside the bubble.

The city provides a lot of options for free or cheap entertainment. There’s a sizeable number of concerts in town over the year, and the variety of genres offers something for everyone. In the summer, there are events such as the Skeleton Park and Wolfe Island Music Festivals. At FebFest, there’s a free outdoor concert, a hockey tournament featuring notable former NHL stars such as Kirk Muller, Doug Gilmour and Dale Hawerchuk and a reenactment of the first organized hockey game played in Kingston—between Queen’s and RMC. Many bars offer live music throughout the year and there are several good local theatre groups for the thespian crowd. If you’re tired of getting your exercise on campus, there are many local outdoor ice rinks in the winter and tennis courts in the summer where you can play for free. The city has a good deal to offer sports fans as well, with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.

Kingston’s size and location is also one of its greatest assets. The city is large enough to offer a variety of concerts, events, and services, but small enough that it can easily be navigated on foot, by bike or on the bus. This is a far cry from my home in the Vancouver suburbs, where it’s necessary to drive everywhere and constantly fight traffic. Moreover, Kingston’s central location between Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa offers easy access to shows or events taking place in any of those cities. This fusion of smaller-town convenience with big-city opportunity is one of the most attractive things about the city.

Kingston is not a perfect city. There are serious issues in some areas, particularly with things such as housing, garbage and recycling, poverty and the omnipresent town-gown divide. However, for me at least, the city’s many positives far outweigh its few negatives. I plan to seriously think about staying here once I finish my degree, and I would urge other Queen’s students to do the same.

--Andrew Bucholtz

Community's development controlled by elite minority

Kingston is a city strongly rooted in its history and is no doubt proud of its role in the development of the confederation of Canada. However, despite its rich past, Kingston’s citizens and local leaders need to wake up and stop obsessing over this.

The upsides to Kingston make it a great place to live. These include its gorgeous architecture, strong public institutions and friendly, relaxed citizens. The problem with Kingston now is it’s experiencing a sort of identity crisis and it seems that we don’t know where to take Kingston in the future.

Instead of focusing on what Kingston used to be, we need to start talking about what it’s going to be. Unfortunately, this kind of discourse escapes the public’s attention, often because of political and economic reasons. As such, our downtown and waterfront, two excellent symbols of Kingston’s identity, are now becoming increasingly planned and controlled by an elite minority of politicians and business developers.

Take the new Large Venue Entertainment Centre (LVEC) for example. Its location and development will likely go down as one of the biggest blunders in Kingston’s downtown history. Originally estimated to cost $28.5 million in 2004, the LVEC has since ballooned to about $46 million and will most definitely end up clogging the downtown roads, parking lots, and costing the tax payers an exorbitant amount in infrastructure maintenance and debt repayment. The decision to build the LVEC downtown is based on a false assumption that entertainment complexes can revitalize a particular area. It assumes someone who goes to the LVEC for a hockey game or concert will be more likely to visit a bar or restaurant after. However, the LVEC will also include numerous concession stands and a restaurant. This, in essence, defeats the whole purpose for building the LVEC downtown. In addition, a 2004 survey of Kingston’s downtown by the Kingston Business Improvement Association revealed that 80 per cent of respondents said parking was the biggest problem facing the downtown. Instead of addressing this rather obvious issue, the association and other interested parties pushed for a 6,000-seat entertainment complex right downtown.

Another example of Kingston’s loss of identity is the increased presence of major corporations, such as Starbucks, Chapters, Shoppers Drug Mart, The Gap and Staples in the downtown. Not only can these corporations end up hurting local business, but they also homogenize our downtown identity to that of any other city. What Kingston needs is more local businesses and fewer cookie-cutter corporations in our downtown. If Kingston does indeed value its history and identity, then we should be acting to preserve its roots by keeping the development of the downtown and the waterfront a public discourse rather than in the hands of a minority elite.

As students, we have the potential to create this kind of change and engage the community. Because of our significant economic impact on the city, and our strong sense of social cohesion as a student body, students can indeed play an important role in shaping the development of this city.

--Harrison Smith

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