Tim Jones of PEC Community Partners outlines plan for former air base

Loch Sloy Business Park



What is old will soon be new again, at least at the site of the former Camp Picton. After sitting mostly derelict for several decades, the former air base changed hands in December 2021. Plans are already underway to transform the space, beginning with the 70 acre chunk of land that boasts multiple heritage buildings.

Tim Jones, member of PEC Community Partners-the group that recently purchased the defunct air base-took some time to speak with the Gazette, answering questions about the group’s intent and the extent to which the project will benefit year-round residents.

Jones recently presented the group’s plan to Prince Edward County Council. During this presentation, he provided a list of several businesses and public interest groups, from wineries to the affordable housing corporation, who PEC Community Partners have consulted with so far.

Given the long-standing history of the air base within the community, from it’s military role to it’s role for various organizations and events, the Gazette questioned Jones as to whether the public would be consulted as well.

“Absolutely, our plan is to build this project from the ground up. That’s just the beginning of our outreach,” replied Jones. “We’re sort of at this stage talking to a few community leaders-our tenants and people who have a strong interest in community building-but the public will absolutely be part of this process.”

Jones added further consultation work will be underway come March.

Tim Jones of PEC Placemaking

“We will be engaging the public all the way along as we build this project,” he said.

In Jones’ presentation to council, he referenced placemaking multiple times in relation to the project. Queried by the Gazette as to what exactly that will mean for the old air base, Jones extrapolated on the group’s vision of building from the ground-up and involving various members of the community, with the hopes of creating an authentic, purpose driven place.

“If you go way back to the 1960s and 1970s, placemaking was a term used by people in the New Urbanist Movement when talking about trying to build interesting, authentic places in a more purposeful way,” he explained. “People like Jane Jacobs were strong proponents of placemaking.”

He added the idea came about at a time when people have seemingly lost their ability to build interesting, dynamic spaces. Currently, he noted, there is a strong resurgence of interest in the idea of placemaking in the urban development community.

Furthermore, Jones stated there is a growing interest in creative placemaking (a term coined by Jones, he noted, in 2006) which is concerned with leveraging culture to catalyze the transformation of place.

“Three’s several layers to that question but when we talk about placemaking it’s about being intentional. There’s so many factors that establish the quality of place and often you get the best kind of places when you’re building from the ground up, listening to lots of people, and taking note of lots of perspectives,” he added.

While the revitalization project aims to provide entertainment events, from comedy to plays and other displays of the arts, Jones noted they also hope to capitalize on the former uses of the buildings on site and offer various educational programs.

“One of the amazing things about the site’s former use as a military base is there was a whole community up there with spaces used for convening people…a lecture hall, a theatre, a drill hall and gym,” said Jones. “We see an opportunity to bring these spaces back to life in a way that is similar to their original uses while have been being repurposed in a more contemporary way where we can host talks and educational programs.”

Jones commented that the group will be reaching out to the community regarding use of the space to get ideas and build partnerships.

Of course, being an air base, the property boasts a well-loved air strip used for many years by the Air Cadets for their gliding program and then again for local pilots who wish to take to the skies.

Asked whether the air strip would still be in use, Jones stated they are still figuring out that portion of the project.

“None of the partners in the group have run an airport before, so we need to learn about regulations, whose using the planes, how does it work etc.,” he noted. “We’re just in our discovery phase on that. Like everything else, we’re going to be involved talking with the stakeholders.”

With the growing affordability crisis crushing the County with punishing weight, concerns about gentrification precede talk of most new developments. Given this, the Gazette questioned Jones as to just how accessible the project will be for long-time and year-round residents.

“This site is currently operational 365 days of the year. As we bring it back to life, we’ll be programming year round and we’re going to be mindful of what else is going on in the County and the gaps in programming…this is part of our co-creation to figure out the ways this project can enhance the community and who we can partner with to make that happen,” explained Jones.

He added that, while the first stage of revitalization will focus on the built area of the property, they also hope to be able to provide affordable housing in the future.

“We’re not yet at the point of looking at housing, we are very keenly aware of the crisis of affordability happening,” stated Jones. “That’s one of the important conversation we will have…how this project can contribute to affordable and attainable housing. That’s an important focus for us.”