City Update | Future of Kingston Penitentiary & Portsmouth Harbour

City Announces the Future of Kingston Penitentiary and Portsmouth Harbour

On February 27th, the City of Kingston announced its “emerging vision” for Kingston Penitentiary and Portsmouth Olympic Harbour sites. Since Correctional Services Canada announced in spring 2015 that it was giving up the property, questions about what to do with Kingston Penitentiary have been anxiety inducing for many Kingstonians, especially Portsmouth Village residents. The public consultation process has been ongoing since June 2016, so Monday’s announcement was eagerly (and nervously) anticipated by anyone invested in the site’s future.

So what will the new sites look like? Right now, the plans contain a little bit of everything. The vision includes the following:

  • recreation and event space
  • 2-4 storey townhouses
  • 8-12 storey apartments
  • commercial and retail space
  • a public road
  • search and rescue facilities
  • a new waterfront pathway
  • and more.

To maximize views of Lake Ontario, the prison’s south-facing walls will be removed. As for the rest of the penitentiary, don’t worry – most of the National Historic Site will be preserved to promote tourism and film opportunities. For a more detailed map of the site (including pictures of what the new residential and commercial buildings may look like), click City of Kingston.

The city stresses that this emerging vision is just that – emerging, with nothing set in stone just yet. Thankfully, residents are encouraged to give feedback on the project. Click here to fill out the City of Kingston’s survey on the emerging vision. The survey asks you to answer two questions concerning various areas of the project: (1) what you like about the plans, and (2) what you would change about them. The last day to submit your comments is March 17th; complete your survey before the deadline to ensure your voice is heard! If you would like to submit your ideas to the consulting firm, you can email them to

What are your thoughts on the emerging vision? Those upset with the plans claim that views of the water will be affected, parkland will be reduced, and that the historic feel of Portsmouth Village will be diminished through modern development. Others argue that the project—with its abundance of residential housing—will increase the number of consumers heading downtown, contributing to its revitalization. For now, let’s remain cautiously optimistic that the development of these two sites will succeed in fulfilling Kingston’s overall vision: blending the city’s historic past with the wants and need of its modern citizens.