Ottawa developers Taggart, Claridge approved to bid on Kingston conference centre

Kingston conference centre Taggart Claridge

Ottawa developers Taggart Group of Companies and Claridge Homes have been pre-approved by the City of Kingston to submit proposals to build a new conference centre.

Planned for a parcel of land across The Tragically Hip Way from Slush Puppie Place in downtown Kingston, the conference centre has been more than a decade in the making. 

A city council decision on Feb. 20 voted in favour of requesting proposals from six pre-qualified companies.

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The approved developers are: Taggart Group of Companies and CaraCo; Claridge Homes; IN8 64 Barrack — which includes IN8 Developments Incorporated, the Springer Group of Companies and Westdale Properties — Homestead Land Holdings Limited; Jay Patry Enterprises and Trinity Development Inc.; and Fitzrovia and Seeker Labs.

The report presented to council on Feb. 20 outlined the considerations that must be included in proposals for the multi-use redevelopment. They included a restaurant, hotel with approximately 100 rooms, residential, and ground-floor commercial spaces; a 52,000-square-foot privately owned and operated conference centre space; a minimum of 169 public parking spaces; retention, restoration and/or adaptative use of the existing heritage buildings; and a future partnership opportunity with nearby St. Lawrence College. 

Council also approved a payment of $50,000 to each bidder that submits a complete proposal, with that cost split 50-50 between city reserves and Tourism Kingston. 

Tourism Kingston’s half of the cost will be drawn from municipal accommodation tax revenue, which is raised through a tax on hotel stays and allocated to funding tourism-related projects, which CEO Megan Knott called a “good faith component.”

“The intention is to offset a portion of the costs that developers would pay to comply and complete the documents for the RFP process,” said Knott. “Whether they complete the process to the point of submission will be determined, but the intent is that this arrangement is an incentive.”

The conference centre is a “unique model,” Knott said, because while the land is provided by the municipality, the property will be managed by the developer.

“It’s been a long process to get to where we are today,” said Knott. “In 2018, there was more work done to ask, … ‘Have we built up enough of a pipeline and is there enough demand to sustain a mid-sized convention centre?’

“Now, we know the pipeline has actually grown for business events and other uses.”

Last spring, city council presented a feasibility study that supported the development of a mid-size conference centre that could accommodate up to 1,000 delegates. As the study outlined, the central location is within one kilometre of five hotels.

Ted Robinson, business events specialist for Tourism Kingston and a member of the working group, told OBJ in May 2023 that while Kingston may not have been ready for such a facility before, there’s no better time than the present. 

“It’s become quite apparent in the last number of years that, if we’re going to expand our position in the business events industry, we need more facilities than we have now,” Robinson said. “We’re losing out on a lot of business and I’ve tracked back and looked back at business we know we’ve lost out on, conferences we’ve bid on that have come back and said we don’t have what they need, but also businesses that aren’t even considering Kingston.”

In May 2023, the cost of construction for the conference centre was estimated at between $33 million and $41 million. 

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