by Deron Johnston

I sat down with a downtown Kemptville resident this week in a local coffee shop. I asked him what subject was important to him, one that he wishes someone would talk about in the North Grenville Times. His response was that it seems like there’s a lot of uncertainty around downtown Kemptville and its future these days. He said that he wished that people who lived downtown and were on limited income knew what was happening in the downtown area, so that they knew what their futures might hold. Rarely does it appear that we consider how our ‘big plans’ impact those people who are the most vulnerable and least mobile in our community. There are a number of situations affecting downtown that are currently up in the air, and there seems to be little information being shared about their status.

For example, many have asked about the fate of Kemptville Landing, the two condominiums towers that were to be built by the LA Group in downtown Kemptville. There was a ground breaking last year, but still no work being done. The hope was that this would bring a large number of people to live in the downtown area and increase foot traffic for local businesses. The project seems to have hit several roadblocks along the way, including a re-design of the buildings and property. This is also uncharted waters for the municipality, in terms of increasing population density in downtown Kemptville on such a large scale. So far, though, all we really know for sure is that not even one of the two towers has materialized.

Kemptville Campus is another issue that would affect downtown. It’s still unknown whether the municipality will be able to buy the campus from the Provincial Government. If they do, will they stick to the business plan that they paid a lot of money for, or go in a new direction? One has to wonder how long it will take to attract enough tenants to be able to cover the cost of buying and operating the campus. Maybe there are some possible tenants lined up already? There’s lots of rumours about who might, or might not, be interested.

Another piece to the puzzle is the state of the underground infrastructure (water and sewer). It apparently needs a very big investment to get it functioning properly. Some people believe that the municipality may have to sell off some of the campus land in order to pay for the work. North Grenville CAO, Brian Carré, said that he expects to have an update on the Kemptville College situation at the end of March.

There’s also the issue surrounding the ongoing empty commercial spaces in Downtown Kemptville. The Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area [BIA] seems to be making efforts to try and make things happen, but their attempts to solicit help from council and the municipality seem to be falling on deaf ears. The BIA’s pop-up shop program is an attempt to attract businesses to fill the empty spaces in downtown, but the program seems to be stalled, as the BIA looks for the funding necessary to help launch it. Some people believe that downtown is dead and money is just being wasted on it at this point. However, there seems to be a lot of positive activity happening for an area that some people have written off. Just this week, we learned that an Eastern Ontario firm called ISI Controls Inc. has leased the empty space at 113 Prescott Street for three years, and could have as many as ten employees moving in on April 1.

If all of these situations turned out positively, then surely downtown property values would go up? If property values went up, then the current property owners, who have been sitting on properties without maintaining or improving them, or even trying to bring in tenants, would logically look to sell. If they did, there’s a very good chance that residential rents would go up, with new property owners having paid more for those properties. Would the new owners even want to have rental properties? The municipality and council would be happy, because they would collect more property tax because of the higher property values. But what about people on fixed incomes who can’t afford their current hydro bills and now must pay more rent? I doubt anyone seriously considered that possibility. Then again, it rarely seems like people with limited means get much consideration in North Grenville.


  1. Hi,

    Some of the prevailing problems for businesess in the downtown core are the shortage of parking spaces within close proximity of shop locations and the fact that rental space costs are high in respect to the “drive by” traffic.

    It is a bit of a “Catch 22”. In order to draw people to the downtown core there has to be businesses of interest. That said, in order to make setting up shop in the core there has to be enough traffic to make the business profitable.

    Kemptville does not really need more pizza, fast food, or convenience stores. There has to be places of interest that are not overly similar to all of the retail at the Colonnade development. These shops also have to be willing to be open when people can access them outside their normal working hours (unlike Merrickville where everything closes early). Most people are not able to shop during the 8 to 5 working day.

    Even if the L.A. Group condos go up, people will not remain, and shop, in the downtown core if there is nothing of interest.

    In order to revitalize “Old Town Kemptville” the business plan has to be “give the people (consumers) what they want”. This becomes difficult if the Municipality, the BIA, and landlords are unable to work together to provide a good business/consumer environment.

  2. In my opinion the worst thing the town did was remodel the parking on Prescott St. Especially in winter. The plows can’t properly clean the cutout spots leaving much less room to get your vehicle off the road, so that cuts down on availability to park and shop.
    So then most drivers will choose to drive to the mall.
    Free and plenty parking out there.

  3. I moved my business (Back In Motion) from downtown because we needed to expand into a bigger location. It was not at all possible to stay dt because:
    – parking was hard to find for clients (and we were lucky to be up at the Clothier St end!)
    – snow removal was horrible dt. 3ft high snowbanks for about a week after a storm was the norm and made it impossible for our elderly or injured clients to easily make it to our front door
    – lack of accessibility was a key factor in other buildings dt not being suitable for ours (or any other?) health care business, therefor prompting us to look elsewhere.

    Bill is right (above)- there needs to be a key business of interest dt to bring ppl and have them discover the other shops. If it’s retail it needs to be unique, the one and only place people can go to get a certain product. It needs to be SO good that ppl are willing to detour off the hwy to get it.

    Our service-based business thrived, even with the above issues plus the Clothier St construction fiasco- because when you provide a great service, customers return to the professional that does such a good job. Array hair studio is another prime example of a successful dt biz that is service-based. They are booked solid! Cheeky Monkeys and CTUY have also expanded in dt in the past year. It IS possible to be successful dt, condos being built or not; but it needs to be well thought-out and cohesive with the other great businesses that are already doing well. Feed off of eachother, not compete, is very very important.

    Incorporating all businesses from the 43/44 intersection all the way down to prescott st, continue to vanburen and then across to Pioneer Nursery would make sense. Draw ppl off the hwy by showing them everything available in that commercial loop! There are businesses that have been successful there for years and that gives the area credibility. Only once commuters are convinced to turn off 43 at one end or the other will they see what is available and what they’re missing. Power in numbers: there are many very reputable business in Rideau-Prescott-VanBuren square that are ignored because they are not immediately located on Clothier or Prescott Sts. Those businesses are thriving without the dt being busy, but the opposite is not true- it would be to the BIAs benefit to expand their horizons, include these well-established businesses into their group and feed off of their momentum. They are digging themselves into a hole by excluding these other businesses IMO. I could go on for hours but everyone would get bored of reading and these opinions seem to always fall on deaf ears so…


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