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August 28, 2006

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Construction boom hits Kingston

ICI buildings are popping up throughout the city

KINGSTON

Kingston’s construction industry is booming this year with the city’s building and licensing division reporting a $41.7-million increase over the first seven months of 2005.

Newly released building and licensing statistics show that Kingston construction activity is up for the first seven months of the year, reaching a total value of $136 million and a projected $320 million over the entire year.

“It’s showing that Kingston is open for business,” said Del Stowe, the municipality’s supervisor of building permit issuance.

Much of the new construction can be attributed to industrial construction, which grew to $23.3 million during the first seven months of this year, compared with $8.3 million in the same period of 2005.

Institutional construction activity also increased substantially to $30.9 million during the same period, up from $9.6 million in the same period of 2005.

There was also a 41 per cent increase in new housing units in the first six months of this year. There were 359 new housing starts in Kingston in the first six months of 2006 compared to 212 during the same period in 2005.

The largest single 2006 construction project is a $19.5-million apartment complex being erected on the city’s waterfront by Homestead Land Holdings.

“... it’s just a matter of time until we’re discovered.”

Del Stowe, City of Kingston

The next largest project is a $9-million distribution centre being built in Kingston’s St. Lawrence Industrial Park by Lyreco, an office supplies distributor.

Also on the list is a new $4.2-million sewage pumping station in the city’s north end, a new $23.5-million police station, a $4.55-million expansion of the city’s west-end Rio-Can shopping centre and a $1.2-million renovation at Kingston General Hospital.

Another $236.8 million in projects are expected to begin by the end of 2006.

When Lyreco announced its plans to consolidate its Montreal and Toronto distribution centres in Kingston, officials said this city’s close proximity to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and the U.S. border played a major factor in the decision to relocate.

Stowe believes Kingston’s centrality is one of the reasons the city is experiencing a construction boom, but he thinks one of the over-riding reasons is the municipality’s recent efforts to create a more customer-friendly environment for developers.

In spite of new legislation to the Ontario Building Code that mandates building inspectors to make more visits, Kingston has tried to keep the building process streamlined by restructuring City Hall staff.

“Council has also waved impost and development charges for industrial work and we have quite a few industrial things that have come in or expanded as a result,” Stowe said. “Kingston’s an untapped resource and it’s just a matter of time until we’re discovered.”

In Kingston, serviced land costs about $35,000 per acre as opposed to $500,000 per acre, according to data from Kingston Economic Development Corp.

It also helps that the provincial government has loosened its purse strings in Kingston, Stowe said.

Four of the 18 major projects underway have ties to the Ontario government, including the expansions at the hospital, two projects at Queen’s University and $2.6 million in construction at Ministry of the Environment offices.

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