Participants including Jay Abramsky (left), Rob Baker and Michael Davies take part in yesterday’s Imagine Kingston gathering in Memorial Hall.
By Brendan Kennedy
Local News - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 @ 07:00
Kingston’s brightest citizens plan to form a parallel council to “complement” the city’s elected representatives, it was determined at a summit intended to help plan the city’s future.
“It would be representative of the higher education and business sectors, that at the executive level could come together to plan a strategic framework for moving forward around the various strengths of Kingston,” said Queen’s University Principal Karen Hitchcock.
The prominent community leaders gathered yesterday for a summit on the city’s future called Imagine Kingston.
It was led by former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray and sponsored by local businessman Walter Fenlon of Assante Financial Management.
Fenlon organized the summit of 32 of Kingston’s political, educational, cultural and business leaders in order to develop strategies and priorities to help Kingston reach its potential.
The most significant outcome from yesterday’s summit was the commitment to create the roundtable, an informal body made up of leaders in the business and education sectors.
“So it’s a whole community effort, but a small steering group that could bring focus to the conversation and concentrate on things that we can do in the short term, mid term and long term,” she said.
“And as the ideas and plans become formulated, to work with all those that are critical for things to happen city administration, city council, not-for-profit organizations, service organizations.”
John Wilson, former manager of Alcan operations, said the roundtable will represent diverse interests in the community and “complement city council.”
The roundtable will be chaired by Fenlon and Hitchcock. Other members have not yet been named, and the group has no set meeting dates.
Murray said the day yielded positive results and the effort was unlike any he’d seen so far.
“I’ve worked with several communities and I’ve never seen a group get so focused and so committed, with so much clarity,” he said.
The morning portion of the summit focused primarily on identifying development priorities and future needs, while the afternoon dealt with ways to achieve those objectives.
Some of the ideas proposed included making the downtown accessible to wireless Internet, encouraging more pedestrian-friendly development and developing the waterfront and integrating it with the rest of the downtown.
The groups also stressed the importance of following through on existing development initiatives such as the Grand Theatre, Market Square and the proposed large venue entertainment centre.
There was a significant amount of discussion at times rather heated about the arena project.
Participants spoke of the desire to make it a sustainable building relying on as much “green” power as possible, integrating the LVEC into the existing development in the area; making it a flexible, multi-use facility; making sure it presents diverse programming and ensuring that it is pedestrian-friendly.
Optimism reigned supreme throughout the day.
After the summit, Rob Baker of The Tragically Hip spoke about the focus on encouraging creativity.
“The whole concept of this meeting is that creativity fuels development in all respects,” he said. “Whether it’s artistic creativity or business creativity, creativity comes first.”
Former Queen's principal Bill Leggett said the summit was inspiring.
“I think the key point is that every action had a list of people’s names associated with it,” he said. “They were people who volunteered to take the next step and make sure that this wasn’t just a day of talk, and that we continue to do the work to identify how we can be positive forces in the community to help the citizens of Kingston achieve some of the things they want to achieve.”
John Cowan, principal of RMC, said the summit was different than similar events in which he has been involved over the years.
“There was more optimism than there was with such kinds of meetings years ago,” he said. “In fact, there was almost a sense of inevitability about economic development in Kingston. I remember the discussion a decade ago and a little more than a decade ago ... then it was more a matter of preventing things from going backward. Now it’s a matter of at what path forward and at what rate.”
Organizers also committed to releasing a full report detailing the results of the summit. No timeline for the report’s release was offered.