Kingston city council is set to launch consultations to find out if there is support to close major downtown roads to cars permanently.

The goal would be to revamp the core, expand the waterfront park, and create more walking space in the hopes of supporting tourism and businesses.

The proposal would close Ontario Street, at least from Brock to Market Street in order to expand patios and walkways for pedestrians. It could also permanently close off Market Street.

Judy Heath lives downtown and is supportive of the move because she feels it could encourage local tourism.

“I think it’s great,” she says. “It might bring more people down here, walking around, going into some of the stores.”

Heath says any time the street is closed for special events, she feels a change.

“People were out on the street, the lawn chairs were moved over,” she explains. “There just seemed to be more people downtown.”

But not everyone is on board.

“Because I heard that it’s permanent I don’t think it’s a good idea,” says Nakita Jain, who also lives in the area.

Ontario Street is a major one. The nearby bridge for east-end commuters and drivers coming off the Wolfe Island ferry can feed directly onto the roadway. It’s also a straight shot for first responders.

The street is often closed for things like Canada Day. If it is closed permanently, Jain says her commute will be longer.

“I remember, when they did that, it took me about 20 minutes to cross all of Ontario Street to get to my apartment. And thinking about that being permanent… I think it’s just unnecessary effort and time.”

She, like many others, have no issue with the closure of Market Street, however.

“That made sense to me,” she says of previous Market Street closures. “They put out chairs; it was nice to sit there in the summer. It’s not as busy or high-traffic as Ontario Street so it just made sense.”

Mayor Bryan Paterson says the proposal is part of a larger effort by the city to “reimagine” the downtown core, taking a look at how it functions to see if improvements can be made. He says it’s in an effort to support local businesses, promote local tourism, and figure out the best use of space.

The city will ask residents later this year, he explains, and nothing is off the table.

”After two years of a pandemic, where we’ve been separated, we’ve been isolated from one another, maybe the time is right to start look at what sort of new, creative public spaces could we look at in the downtown that would encourage people to gather,” he says in an interview with CTV Neews Ottawa.

But to gather, those who commute insist, they need the space.

“There’s not enough parking down here as it is,” says one driver. “It’s hard enough to get down here as it is, with traffic.”

For others like Heath, it’s a chance for change.

“The fewer the cars downtown the better it is,” she says.