Princess Street Promenade expands after business concerns

August 4, 2023

The Princess Street Promenade is returning to Kingston this Saturday August 5, the second time this year that the one day festival has been held.

The event runs from 10 am to 5 pm shutting down a large, downtown stretch of Princess Street to traffic so pedestrians can freely roam the street to browse storefronts.

Initially plans for this weekend's Promenade only began at Barrie Street, leaving Brian Lipsin - owner of Brian's Record Option - miffed at the event as a whole. 

The event is organized by Downtown Kingston BIA (Business Improvement Area), and Lipsin says while he commends them for the effort they put into Downtown Kingston, he typically doesn't look forward to the events they hold in Kingston's downtown.

He says a portion of his property taxes go towards the BIA, but he feels his store location falls in one area of the downtown core that often gets overlooked in the planning of these events.

"Whether they do anything for you or not it's irrelevant," Lipsin said. 

"Every time the BIA starts something... I find it detracts from my business."

Lipsin took to Facebook with his gripe on Wednesday, saying that it "irks me that I have to pay taxes to an organization that does not benefit me in many ways." 

The Downtown BIA said it sends out multiple member newsletters and event invitations to gauge interest and didn't receive any responses from stores located between Division and Barrie Street. 

Lipsin says he hasn't received those emails, and that simply relying on email communication isn't the most reliable route to take. 

"In the old days if they didn't hear from us they would either make a phone call or they would send someone over with a poster," Lipsin said. 

"But emails get lost, it's a lazy way of doing things I'm afraid."

Lipsin said he planned to coordinate with Bon Evans and Amherst Island Radio's station fundraiser to hold some live music out in front of his store as part of the Promenade, and after hearing about his concerns and those plans the BIA actually decided to extend the Promenade in order to include Division to Barrie Street.

Lipsin says in seeing that change, he's glad to see the Downtown BIA is listening and making an effort to respond to concerns.

"I'm glad they listened, and I'm glad they reversed things," Lipsin said. 

"Because they decided to do it now and reverse what they were planning, even though it was the last minute, I think this is a positive step."

Jan MacDonald, Director of Events for Downtown Kingston BIA said after being alerted to Lipsin's concerns the organization quickly worked with the city to include the stretch of street that includes Brian's Record Option.

She says they want to involve everybody but after getting no response to their emails indicating interest in participating from Brian or his direct neighbours, the BIA had decided it wouldn't be wise to close off more of Princess Street than necessary.  

"We've taken all the necessary steps to get extra barricades and extra signs," MacDonald said.

"We certainly wouldn't intentionally leave anybody out that wanted to be involved, but the process is of course you have to sign up, we have to know who you are because we have to make sure we have room on the street for everybody who wants to be there."

She added that while the functionality and location of Market Square often makes it easy to focus on, the Downtown Kingston BIA is conscious of trying to include the entirety of downtown Kingston in their events. 

MacDonald pointed to efforts taken this summer to bring music and activities to Sydenham Street as an example, but said that businesses who still may feel like they're being left out should contact the BIA so they can try to find a solution.

"I would suggest any business that has that concern to be in touch with us," MacDonald said. 

"Sometimes it's just a matter of communication, and knowledge and understanding what we're about and how we're more than happy to work with all of our business members to make sure that they're happy."

Lipsin for one is happy that things got resolved the way they did for this weekend, but says he and some other business owners who tend to fall on the outskirts of events in the downtown core would like to see a little more deliberate attention paid to spreading the wealth. 

He says the effort that the Downtown Kingston BIA demonstrates is certainly appreciated in any case, but he'd like to see it benefit everyone.

"At least they're trying, they're doing things, it's not always for our benefit," Lipsin said.

"I'm not totally against all that... but part of it is don't leave our area out."

The Promenade returns to Kingston on Saturday morning, with Kingston forecasted to have sunny skies during the entirety of the event. 

Over 150 businesses are taking part in a stretch on Princess from Division Street all the way to Ontario Street.

The last Princess Street Promenade event was held on June 24 after air quality concerns forced the BIA to pivot from their initial June 8 plan. 

Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative