From time to time, I like to post items from Built Heritage News. You can subscribe to this newsletter by visiting the website, which you can access through the link in the previous sentence.
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|Demolition underway of Winnipeg’s Coronation Block
Christian Cassidy, West End Dumplings
Demolition has begun on Winnipeg Chinatown’s Coronation Block / Shanghai Restaurant Building. Constructed in 1882 -83, it was one of just a handful of commercial buildings left from that era.
Touted as the location of a new seniors housing complex, in July 2010 city council demanded that designs be submitted and building permits be taken out before a demolition permit was issued.
Owners came back in late 2011 saying that they now opted for a vacant, landscaped lot instead. Council issued the permit.
For a look back at the history of the Coronation Block:http://winnipegdowntownplaces.blogspot.ca/2011/01/238-king-street-coronation-block.html
Following all the controversy about the unprotected views of Queen’s Park, particularly the potential for intrusion into the silhouette of the building, the City of Toronto has introduced modest views protection into the Official Plan. The OP amendment proposes to protect the full silhouettefrom just north of College Street, the post card view, and just the central block roofline from Queen Street. The Centre for Landscape Research and Robert Allsopp of DTAH, acting on behalf of the Ontario Capital Precinct Working Group recently did a quick test of the proposal and have concerns that development could occur that would damage the silhouette from the central block west from several vantage points on University Avenue. However OCPWG was loath to appeal the proposed protection for being not enough, better a bird in the hand?
Not the City’s developers, last week we were advised that the proposed minimal views protection was going to be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board by property owners at the following addresses.
The appeals are from the developers at 21 Avenue Road and 33-45 Avenue Road, who both have current applications filed with the City and the property owner of 164-172 Bloor West (Park Hyatt Hotel) does not have an application on file. Even though the University of Toronto did not appeal wrote a letter of concern to the City of Toronto they did not appeal.
What needs to happen is for the Province to once and for all step up to the plate and agree the view is important to all of Ontario. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Minister of Culture need to declare a provincial interest in the case. But that may be tough, it is hard to tell if anyone is home at Queen’s Park right now.
You might want to mention to your MPP you think the time has come for Ontario to assist the City of Toronto in efforts to protect this view. If they’re not running for the leadership of the “governing” Liberal party, they may have time to do something about it.
I don’t generally review theatre, but saw Boblo, a Kitchenband production, last night and want to recommend to subscribers.
It is a show with lots of great music and clever staging about a closed, now derelict, amusement park on Boblo island between Detroit and Windsor. The park operated from 1898 to 1993, and was very popular, with dances and all kinds of amusements. Erin Brandenburg, one of the creators of the show, grew up going to Boblo, and wrote the play as a “love letter to the past with a question. If we are our memories, what does it mean to let go, or to hold on? How do we take meaning from it all?”
Staged in the former gymnasium at The Theatre Centre (downstairs), 1087 Queen W., in Toronto. it makes great use of the two level space, the track where Tom Longboat trained for the Boston marathon in 1907. A highly inventive production, giant paint cans become search lights, a light swinging on a wire evokes a roulette wheel, and an impossible to describe rollercoaster ride. This is fringe theatre at its best.
Between evocations of amusement rides are tales of blockhouses, battles, ghosts and speculation about collective memory and how it connects us. I found myself thinking of Ontario Place and its future. The play ends December 2, and will be their last performance in this space. (Does anybody know what the future of the space is?)
Walking out along Queen St. West, through our former nieghbourhood near the hospital, I had the same sense of disconnect experienced by the cast, the neighbourhood around the hospital is barely recognizable now…like those dreams you have where you go to your former house and its not there.
I recently wrote to the City of Toronto regarding the proposal to save just the facades of two buildings on King Street West, across from the new TIFF headquarters. The block is commonly referred to as Restaurant Row. I wanted to point out that when facades alone are saved only a fraction of the heritage value inherent in a property is protected, I didn’t expect my letter would change the course of events as it seemed a done deal that had been endorsed by the Toronto Preservation Board and staff in Heritage Preservation Services; I wrote to propose an alternative way of designating main streets buildings that would protect them whole, would preserve not just the physical fabric, but the cultural activity, the way of life that the fabric supports.
As is often the case, the City had come to an unholy compromise hoping to avoid the Ontario Municipal Board where something worse might happen. The City has moved all of the restaurant row buildings forward for heritage protection but agreed to permit a 49 storey building on two adjoining sites in the middle of the block, if the developer saves the facades and agreed to drop objections to the rest of the designations.
Here’s the letter:
2012.TE20.Alterations to Heritage Properties – 321-327 (333) King Street West
I am writing with a general concern about the way the heritage value of this property has been evaluated and hence compromised.
On the site in question we will achieve only token protection for a vestige of the heritage value embedded there, ie only the front skin. No matter how the future tower is integrated with the historic façade the resulting built form is discordant with the rest of the block in scale and in function.
Regrettably this kind of heritage protection has become the norm and is widely practiced in Toronto. In this letter I would like to suggest a more effective way of identifying and protecting heritage value, so that all of the powers available under the Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) are used to protect not just the vestiges of a place, but also the activity that the built form supports.
The unrecognized loss here is the historic use of the properties as home to small scale, family run businesses which is an intangible heritage value that the City could protect under the OHA if it chose to, but so far Toronto has not identified such heritage value in designations. There is a strong argument to be made that the use of the property is one of its most significant heritage values, in addition to its architectural design, and the physical arrangement of the facade. The facade that is being protected reflects the uses inside, ie ground floor small-scale commercial operation and either residential or office uses upstairs, yet those uses will be lost in the proposal. By disconnecting the facade and applying it to a new building it no longer reflects an internal function so is thereby losing its meaning, and thus a significant measure of its heritage value. The buildings have been used in this way since their construction, and the proposed “alteration” obliterates that use and that intangible value.
In failing to identify the use as a key heritage value of the property, and focussing on protecting only the physical fabric the City is preserving only a subset of the heritage values present in these properties, reducing a fully operating property to just a remnant skin, albeit a handsomely designed one.
Notwithstanding there are precedents for “facadism”, the practice began pre-2005 before the Ontario Heritage Act shifted to a values based approach to heritage protection, allowing wider latitude in identifying and protecting both tangible and intangible values. If the City chose to make the argument, the City has the power to protect all the heritage value in any property, and thereby protect not just physical fabric or fragments, but the way of life within, arguably far more important to identify and preserve.
The preservation of restaurant row, an important commercial area in Toronto, is possible but Council needs to direct staff in heritage and planning to dig deeper into the toolbox, beyond the usual facadist treatment to engage in full protection of both the physical fabric and the fine grain activity it supports.
Forget Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day; Re-Occupy Main Street and Remember Small Business Saturday
I have always been appalled at the concept of Black Friday, where people get pepper sprayed and trampled to death in the search for bargains at the suburban big box stores. Nor am I a big fan of Buy Nothing Day, particularly when I have two kids who work in small shops pulling espressos and mongering cheese.
But it is becoming increasingly more obvious every year that supporting our small businesses and our Main Streets is critically important, not only from an economic point of view, but from an environmental one. Almost five years ago, in what I think is one of the most important pieces he ever wrote, My Other Car is a Bright Green City, Alex Steffen wrote:
There is a direct relationship between the kinds of places we live, the transportation choices we have, and how much we drive. The best car-related innovation we have is not to improve the car, but eliminate the need to drive it everywhere we go.
Since then, study after study, book after book (summarized here) have confirmed the thesis that walkability, urbanity and density are the keys to green living. It’s why I cringe every time Mike shows us another Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid to be Priced at $39,495; to quote Alex Steffen again, “the answer to the problem of the American car is not under the hood, and we’re not going to find a bright green future by looking there.”
heritage properties may be lost due to a lack of city staff
Worried the character of Lawrence Park and other neighbourhoods is being lost as residents tear down their homes and build bigger houses in their place, heritage advocates are dismayed the city won’t step in to protect three homes.
The city’s decision not to seek heritage designations for houses at 19 St. Leonard’s Ave., 102 Wanless Ave. and 105 Golfdale Rd., all in the Lawrence Park area, is “shocking and in our opinion cannot go unchallenged,” Geoff Kettel, chairperson of the North York Preservation Panel wrote in a letter.
There is a bigger issue than simply three homes, Kettel said.
Potential heritage homes in communities such as Lawrence Park, North Toronto, Don Mills, Leaside and the Beach are at risk of being torn down and replaced with larger houses, he said.
The Masonic Temple is the latest heritage building to face an uncertain future.
The Masonic Temple is the latest heritage building to face an uncertain future. Why can’t we get our (Ontario Heritage) Act together?
Iman Sheikh | Nov 17, 2012 8:03 AM ET
Peter J. Thompson / National Post
The reason so many older buildings end up demolished may be the various interpretations of the Ontario Heritage Act, a set of regulations reinforced in 2005 to help preserve historical buildings. According to Michael McLelland, principal at heritage conservation and urban design firm ERA Architects, there’s a total disconnect within the legislation that Heritage Preservation Services has to work with.
“There are two ways to look at a building: the heritage way and then the planning way,” he says. “One of the problems of the Heritage Act is that it’s separate from the Planning Act. You have people saying, ‘Well I’m just doing what I was told, I don’t care what the planning implications are.’
The look and development of communities like Stouffville are often anchored by a few signature buildings.
Arguably, the Bartholomew Farmstead at 4721 Stouffville Road (near McCowan), built in 1855, plays such a critical role for the western gateway into Stouffville. On Feb. 21, local historian Fred Robbins made a recommendation to council on behalf of the town’s Heritage Advisory Committee (HAC) to designate the Farmstead a structure of cultural heritage value under Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act.
Mr. Robbins reminded council that only one of three criteria must be met to qualify for the provincial designation: the structure must be of significant historical, architectural or contextual value. The last criterion was substituted in the presentation with the term “cultural,” and Mr. Robbins made an impassioned argument for all three.
The motion to designate the Farmstead was moved by Councillor Hargrave, but did not find a seconder, and thus did not come before the meeting for debate – or designation.
What value does an old building have? The structure’s “contextual” value was not addressed but may be the easiest entry point to appreciate its historical and architectural value as well.
Secret Ontario Place documents tell a story of success, not failure
When the provincial government announced the sudden closure in February of Ontario Place, it portrayed the waterfront park as a money-losing disaster.
But, in fact, Ontario Place was not on the ropes.
Indeed, the Toronto waterfront park was well on its way to a dramatic turnaround, with overall attendance, revenues and visitor satisfaction up significantly in 2011, documents obtained by the Star indicate.
Surprisingly, though, the Ontario government cited only outdated statistics when it announced it was shutting down the park, arguing it was costing up to $20 million a year, was underutilized and was suffering huge declines in attendance.
The sharp discrepancy between what the McGuinty government told the public when it closed the park and the documents obtained by the Star raises serious questions about why Queen’s Park acted so quickly to close most of the park, including the water attractions and Cinesphere.
Why did Finance Minister Dwight Duncan and Tourism Minister Michael Chan make Ontario Place’s operations look worse than they really were?
Was it to clear the way for an eventual casino on the site?
In recent months, Duncan has been championing the idea of a “golden mile” of luxury shops and entertainment on Toronto’s waterfront and Paul Godfrey, chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., has called for a casino-resort near the lakefront.
Editors Notes:Missed this story this summer, in other editorials the Star calls for Waterfront Toronto to manage.
Shift in heritage: Richard Serra sculpture has uncertain future
The closest thing southern Ontario has to Stonehenge is Shift, a sculpture by Richard Serra in a King City farmer’s field. Serra is a superstar artist whose work is worth millions of dollars but Shift remains relatively obscure. Though many places would envy our big Serra, last month the Ontario Conservation Review Board decided not to support King Township’s request that Serra’s work be protected under the Ontario Heritage Act, so its future remains uncertain.
Not many have seen Shift as it’s deep on private property off the two-lane blacktop of rural Dufferin St., north of Toronto. Those who make the pilgrimage park on the shoulder and ignore the no-trespassing sign installed by landowner Great Gulf developers. After a 10 or 15 minute walk, past the ruins of an old farmhouse, Shift appears over the crest of a hill.
Six concrete walls zigzag across a field, down one slope and up another. Built between 1970 and 72, the artwork draws attention to the land, how it dips and rises. At the far edges, two people walking in opposite directions disappear from view from each other.
Developer who bought historic Yonge St. post office may put up a condo of some kind
A historic post office on Yonge St., near Eglinton Ave., has been sold to a private developer, despite months of protest from local residents.
The group, which collected 10,000 signatures in favour of saving the building, received word Friday that Postal Station K has been sold to the Rockport Group with no guarantee the developer will protect the historic integrity of the building, MPP Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence) said.
The spot once served as the site of Montgomery’s Tavern, the headquarters of William Lyon MacKenzie, leader of the Upper Canada Rebellion.
And if Colle has it his way, it won’t be the last rebellion to take root here.
It’s not clear what the developer plans to do with the property, but it won’t be a post office for much longer. A sign is posted in the building to notify customers the post office will be relocating.
Jack Winberg, CEO of the Rockport Group, extended an olive branch to the community and said he wants to work with the residents to find a suitable solution to develop the heritage site.
“We know it’s a special site,” Winberg said. “I’ve been reading the press, I know there are a number of constituencies that think the building is important and I agree … but I want consult with the community, the planners and try to come up with a plan that works for everybody.”
Editors Notes:I’m betting the application for demolition will be in on Monday. Government real estate handling seems to be done by people who come in from the private development world. It is not good when one can’t tell the actions of our government from those of private speculators. Over the past few years we have had several of these bad faith sales where government agencies seem to be trying to skirt the preservation system.
Mississauga’s got Googie.
More specifically, the Canadian Tire gas bar at 1212 Southdown Rd., which, thanks to the efforts of a few aficionados, has retained and restored its swooping, retro-futuristic, concrete canopy over the gas pumps.
“It’s a landmark in the community,” says architect Alex Temporale, principal of Oakville-based ATA Architect Inc., who was asked to prepare a heritage report in 2008 that would ultimately get the winged canopy the respect it deserves. “It was innovative for its time in terms of the technology, it was obviously different than everybody else in the market, and it was part of an era where everyone was optimistic about the future.”
The Bartholomew house will be leveled, if the owners get their way.
Council is expected to either grant the demolition permit or give the approximately 160-year-old home a reprieve during this afternoon’s council meeting.
The house sits on about 260 acres of land that was purchased earlier this year by auto parts magnate Frank Stronach’s company Adena Stallions.
The land is located on the south side of Stouffville Road between Hwy. 48 and McCowan Road in the hamlet of Ringwood.
Reports by various consultants conclude the late Georgian style home, once owned by Henry Bartholomew, is mould infested. Asbestos-containing materials may also be present, along with lead-based paint.
Prolonged exposure to moisture has resulted in the deterioration of the flooring and walls. There is also the potential for the structural integrity of the roof and floor joists to be compromised.
An engineer noted it may have been used as a grow-op at one time, based on the grow lamps and electrical bypasses.
There are animal droppings in the farmhouse and “entrance into the house should only be carried out with proper gas masks, white suits and gloves,” according to the engineer’s report.
Based on structural integrity, the barn and farmhouse “are beyond salvage and suggest they be demolished,” according to the engineer.
The Heritage Advisory committee disagrees with these conclusions. The committee agrees with a consultant’s cursory evaluation earlier this year that stated, in part: “the farmhouse is structurally in good condition. … There is no doubt that this property can be retained and made habitable again.”
Historic neighbourhoods have twice the value
Homes within seven designated heritage districts in Hamilton are on average worth double those in surrounding neighbourhoods, a city research firm has found.
And homes in historic areas are gaining value quicker than those outside.
The Centre for Community Study, a nonprofit urban research group, found the average property value difference between 323 homes within heritage districts and the other homes in the same ward was about six percentage points higher in 2012 than in 2010.
The most marked difference this year happened in the Durand-Markland heritage district. The average value of the 46 homes within the district was $507,977, versus $173,400 within the entire area of Ward 2. That’s a difference of 193 per cent.
The difference in the St. Clair Avenue district was 139 per cent, with homes in the designated area valued at an average of $330,434 compared to the entire Ward 3, at $138,300.
It was not simply a lower city phenomenon, either.
In the Cross-Melville area of Dundas, the 50 homes in the heritage area have an average value of $661,444, versus the entire Ward 13 at $326,500. The difference there is 103 per cent. That is up a full 43 per cent in just two years.
“I was surprised by the level of the difference and that it was across six of seven districts,” said study author Paul Shaker.
The only heritage district that bucked the trend was the Mill Street area of Waterdown. Its average value was $307,113 in 2012 across 105 homes, versus $368,400 for the entire Ward 15. Shaker attributes that to a boom of suburban building along the border with Halton, where home prices are considerably higher.
Editors Notes:See also report by Centre for Community Study, The Economic Value of Heritage Districts
“While there is a growing consensus on the aesthetic value heritage buildings bring to an urban landscape, there is wide-spread perception that designating buildings or districts under the Ontario Heritage Act adversely impacts property values. This UrbanInsights bulletin analyzes this validity of this perception by looking at a case-study of Hamilton, Ontario.”
Since it was built in the late 1960s, the soaring canopy of the Canadian Tire gas bar at Southdown and Bromsgrove Rds. has been a landmark of the Clarkson area.
Its narrow form, winglike and graceful in its upward curve, is far more elegant than the roofs that shelter refuelling motorists elsewhere. A recent renovation returned the once-decaying structure to its previous glory, and now former Mississauga architect Alexander Temporale has been honoured for his part in drawing attention to the cultural and architectural significance of the structure.
Temporale, president of Oakville-based ATA Architects, has received an Award of Merit from the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals for a study he conducted on the canopy that persuaded Canadian Tire to keep it and restore it.
The Brownstone Revisionists
WHEN Charles Lockwood’s now-classic book “Bricks and Brownstones” was published in the early ‘70s, there was only one thing to do with an old New York town house — restore it to within an inch of its pristine 19th-century glory. The brownstone revival movement had started a few years earlier, and in Manhattan and growing swaths of Brooklyn, the talk on the street was of marble stoops, brass doorknobs, wide-plank pine floors and original wainscoting — the fancier the better.
Impeccably restored town houses still set the tone today for most brownstone neighborhoods. But it’s increasingly common to find vintage town houses sheathed in glass, aluminum and other relentlessly contemporary materials. Especially in Brooklyn, rear facades are being opened up — “blown out” is the term architects use — to provide large doses of light and air. Many of these reworkings take the form of sweeping glass rear walls, designed to transform spaces that for all their charm are typically small and dark. Some changes boggle the imagination: Preservationists still talk about owners who sought to install a lobster tank atop a newly acquired town house.
A Vision to Avoid Demolition for a 70s Pioneer
CHICAGO — A familiar sort of preservation battle has been stewing for months here over the fate of the old Prentice Women’s Hospital, a concrete, cloverleaf structure from 1975 by Bertrand Goldberg, the Chicago architect. It’s a groundbreaking, wonderful oddball among the architectural monuments in this city. High-profile designers like Frank Gehry, Jeanne Gang, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien have signed petitions entreating Northwestern University, which owns the building, not to tear it down, arguing for landmark status and pleading for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step in.
London borough approves plans to replace C Howard Crane’s art deco venue with thousands of homes
It has played host to chocolate festivals and fascist rallies, royal tournaments and performers including the Rolling Stones and Madonna. But now the art deco Earls Court exhibition centre will face the wrecking ball, after Kensington and Chelsea approved plans to replace it with thousands of homes.
Designed by Detroit architect C Howard Crane, conjurer of fanciful picture palaces across America, the exhibition hall was the biggest indoor space in Europe when it opened in 1937. A deft feat of engineering, spanning four different railway tracks, the gargantuan column-free arena was designed to seat 23,000 and contained a 60m-long swimming pool – which could be transformed into a flat-floor exhibition space at the touch of a button.
As one of London‘s highest capacity venues, Earls Court has seen some of music’s biggest names, including Pink Floyd, the Stones, Queen and the Spice Girls, as well as hosting the Brit awards for a decade. In recent years, it has lost out to the success of the O2.
Both the original building and its 1991 hangar-likeextension are to be replaced with a “new London district” of7,500 homes and a “21st-century high street” creating 12,000 jobs, according to developers Capital & Counties Properties PLC.
Controversial modernist buildings are rightfully being listed
It is 25 years since postwar architecture first started to be recognised as “officially quite good, here and there”. The year 1987 was when the system for designating and protecting valuable old buildings — the listing process — was given an almighty kick. Any building more than 30 years old, and in extreme cases only 10 years old, was from that moment eligible for the protection that listing provides. Some found this shocking, even though the first place to be listed was the traditionalist Financial Times HQ, in the City of London.
The antimodernist rhetoric of the time often described concrete buildings as “bunkers” or “missile silos”, as if the material, rather than the architecture, was all that mattered. So there is a piquancy to the fact that, 25 years on, Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, has authorised a clutch of new listings, including, as well as a regional theatre and some sharp-edged housing, a couple of actual nuclear missile silos.