Half of Kenora’s Central Park is set to be developed into additional housing units, once the City of Kenora finds a developer for the property.
City councillors voted unanimously in support of rezoning Central park from an open space to a residential space earlier this week during a virtual council meeting.
At this point, the western portion of Central Park will be developed and the Central Community Club area and the eastern ball diamond will remain, along with green spaces, which was identified as a priority by city councillor Sharon Smith.
During a public meeting on the issue last week, City Planner Kevan Sumner said the eastern section of the park could also include a new clubhouse and outdoor rinks, which have both been proposed by city staff.
A developer for the property hasn’t been found at this point, but the city is now able to send out proposals to developers after the rezoning. Staff add the city will work with the future purchaser of the property to ensure any development is well-suited to the needs of the community and neighbourhood.
City staff have said the Central Park area is a great location for a new housing build, with its close proximity to the downtown core, access to municipal services, is located on a bus route and has frontage on Park Street, First Street South and Seventh Avenue.
Opponents to the zoning by-law change had said the land should remain in its current state as a public park, citing poor land drainage, the value of neighbourhood green spaces for youth, and the preference that new housing builds should be constructed elsewhere.
Prior to the virtual public meeting, 1 submission in support of the application had been sent to the City of Kenora, while 13 residents sent in submissions opposing the project.
The city notes they’ve looked into the history of the Central Park site after suggestions that the original transfer of the property to Rat Portage had a condition specifying the property must be used as a park, but this is false.
The City of Kenora says a review of the property title with the Lake of the Woods Museum and Heritage Kenora has confirmed that Hudson’s Bay Company’s plans from the 1880s showed the Central Park area was to be used as a residential area. It was turned into a park by the 1890s.
In 2018, the Central Community Rink building was closed and ultimately torn down because the building was old and beyond repair. Volunteers with the Light Up Central campaign have been working to raise $170,000 to rebuild the building since.