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Issue No. 209 | March 26, 2013

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Feature Stories

  1. Battle of Lundy's Lane Battlefield - Rezoning
  2. CRB Decision on Bala Falls Released
  3. Globe and Mail: End of Peter Dickinson at Regent Park?
  4. Globe and Mail: Ottawa Modern Heritage Conservation District
  5. Globe and Mail: Redundant Malls
  6. U of T Back Campus Proposal- Review Facebook, Sign Petition

Events

The Willowbank Lectures
Feb 27 - Jun 8
+ read


Exhibit- Building a City
March 9-September 14, 2013
+ read


Heritage Planning Workshop
May 4 & 5 AND May 25 & 26
+ read


Tools for Identifing and Protecting Heritage Trees (South West Ontario area)
Friday, April 12, 2013
+ read


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1. Battle of Lundy's Lane Battlefield - Rezoning
Niagara Falls Municipal Heritage Committee

At a Council Meeting on 26th of February, 2013, the Niagara Falls Council rejected the advice of the the Niagara Falls Municipal Heritage Committee (MHC) in favour of advice from the local City Planners to re-zone the Culturally important Battle of Lundy's Lane Battlefield (known to the U.S. as the Battle of Bridgewater), supporting a development of an apartmentment building and worse still a car park.

The MHC has sent a letter of objection to the Council the contents of which are:

"As members of the Niagara Falls Municipal Heritage Committee, as well as citizens and taxpayers of Niagara Falls, we feel compelled to voice our concerns over Council's recent decision regarding the severing and re-zoning of the Lundys Lane Battlefield property.


We are all acutely aware of the pressures the City is under to make financially sound decisions.

Sometimes in life seemingly logical short term choices may not be the best in the long term. This we feel was one of those times. As a whole the Municipal Heritage Committee has a very difficult time accepting the Councils decision, to abandon the Citys own Master Plan for the battleground and, to permanently discard arguably one of the key pieces of real estate of the battlefield.

The Committee feels our initial recommendation to simply extend time for proper research into alternate available Government and private funding (other than the 1812 funding) was ignored as was our research and recommendations regarding proper protection of this already designated National Historic Site.

This is not an issue of balanced budgets or good land use planning or "win-win situations". This is a once in two hundred year opportunity to assemble and protect one of our most important Cultural Heritage Landscapes, as per the Ontario Heritage Act, and continue toward completion of your own Battlefield Master Plan, not just for the anniversary of the Battle, but for all time.

We feel it is our duty as stewards of Niagaras history to speak up and defend it. The removal of this parcel of land makes the possibility of creating a heritage park less viable and diminishes the historical value, as well as the valuable tourism potential, of this designated site.

The preservation of the entire parcel of land with no severance provides the potential for a very important tourist attraction for the City of Niagara Falls, as well as offering a unique Tourism Marketing advantage for the local BIAs as well as the Museum. This long term benefit was obviously recognised by some members of Council, but sadly not all.

The written history and testimonials of those who came forward to address Council as well as the Citys own experts have placed this site as one of the most important, if not unique, battlegrounds of the war of 1812-14. Its position in Niagara, Ontario, Canadian and North American history should be revered and protected.

The members of the Municipal Heritage Committee feel City Council was, on this matter, badly advised by the City with respect to some of the information it was provided. The fact that the recommendation, from City to Council, to designate the property only after a Park was established reinforces these misgivings that the concepts of powers and permissions, available to Council within the Ontario Heritage Act, appear not to be properly understood by Council before they make their decisions.

Once again, the Committee as a whole is very disappointed in your decision."

Does the fact that the City of Niagara Falls, as the owners of the property in question and being responsible for the protection of this Cultural Heritage Property, in choosing to ignore this set a precedent that could jeopardise many other municipally owned heritage properties?


2. Heritage Canada: Launch of National Conversation
Carolyn Quinn

Toward a New Vision for Heritage – Launch of National Conversation


Ottawa, ON – March 11, 2013 – HCF Working Groups made up of volunteers who are taking the lead in developing an action plan for the future of heritage conservation in Canada began meeting this week to review and refine a new Vision developed during the National Heritage Summit held last October.


Born out of a desire to heighten the relevance and social purpose of efforts to conserve, rehabilitate and celebrate heritage buildings, natural sites and communities, the Vision was recently published in the February issue of Municipal World and will become a roadmap for collective action, launching HCF’s 40th anniversary conference, Regeneration: Heritage Leads the Way.


HCF is committed to engaging as many people as possible in this important exercise. Over the coming weeks, HCF will offer online opportunities for members of the heritage community and others from across the country to comment on Working Group results and provide input into this exciting new national initiative.


The Five Vision Statements are as follows:


1. Conservation is about community, local identity, economic self sufficiency, social inclusion and cultural vitality.


2. Heritage is conservation: Heritage-led regeneration is a powerful antidote to the crisis of consumerism and disposability.


3. Heritage is in demand: We envision a future where the tangible benefits of heritage are recognized by society and seen as worth investing in. Moving beyond rules and regulations, governments have become enablers.


4. Heritage is more than buildings: Our sphere of interest and influence has expanded to embrace the entire environment, including spirit of place, community, memories, stories and traditions.


5. Heritage reflects broader perspectives: The heritage sector seeks to better recognize and embrace the perspectives, interests and values of a broader public, including youth, and expand the sphere of engaged stakeholders to include non-traditional partners.

A more detailed article by HCF executive director, Natalie Bull, entitled “Regeneration: Toward a new vision for heritage” is in the February issue of Municipal World.

Contact:
Carolyn Quinn, Director of Communications, cquinn@heritagecanada.org 
Telephone: (613) 237-1066 ext 229; Cell (613) 797-7206
www.heritagecanada.org


3. First Public Meeting: Kensington Market Historical Society
Ruth Grossman

150 people turn out for first meeting of KMHS

The inaugural event of the newly-formed Kensington Market Historical Society took place on March 20th 2013, at the Lillian H. Smith Library. The Society introduced itself to a packed hall of about 150 Market enthusiasts, who came together to persevere in a wide variety of inclinations - intellectual, practical, scholarly, professional, as well as nostalgic. Accordingly, the buzz was eclectic and reconnections among audience members abounded.

Kensington Market Historical Society, which was only recently incorporated last November, describes its general objectives as collecting and disseminating knowledge pertaining to the cultural, historical and art historical context of the Kensington Market area. As part of its approach, it will undertake primary research and seek out opportunities for collaborative projects. Taking an additional interest in artefacts, records and built structures that might otherwise be lost, the Society also maintains a preservationist and archival orientation. There never having been, interestingly, an historical Society in Kensington Market before, Kensington Market Historical Society has committed not only to a very important, overdue and long-term endeavour but also to a rich and richly-varied agenda.

This first event of the Society took a broad approach to its primarily documentarist aims by inviting two speakers to present short illustrated talks articulating some of the nuanced aspects of the Kensington Market area over time.

Jean Cochrane, author of Kensington (Boston Mills Press, 2001), spoke about the evolution of the Market, beginning with the influential Denison family in 1815, whose sizable estate dictated much about future demarcations of property within the compact region of the Market. A distinguished historian, as well as a very interesting speaker (a fascinating array of sources and interviewees were referenced in the course of her talk), Jean Cochrane described Kensington Market as an evolving haven that accommodated the needs, lifestyles and economies of successive waves of immigration over approximately two centuries, including the counter-culture of the 1960’s and 70’s, and the fairly recent proliferation of specialty food shops and restaurants.

Rosemary Donegan, curator, historian, art critic and author of Spadina Avenue (Douglas & McIntyre, 1985), focused on Spadina Avenue proper as a main street or gateway to the Market. As she has brought to bear in her exhibitions and in other talks, Rosemary lent a sense of the complexity and layering of her subject matter by identifying many of the disparate and seemingly contradictory facets of life and work on Spadina Avenue in the context of a rapidly changing and robust site of cultural and commercial activity.

The two presentations on March 20th were an excellent preview of events to come. Kensington Market Historical Society plans to have approximately three speaking events a year, with topics ranging from the built environment to oral histories of Market residents and shop owners, to art historical subjects, to the music culture that originated in the Market area, to the historicization of Market narrative, and so on, to label just a few of the Society’s interests.

Please visit their website (currently being upgraded) to gain a further sense of the aims and purpose of Kensington Market Historical Society, to stay abreast of future events and to join the Society (an extremely modest annual sum required).

 


4. CRB Decision on Bala Falls Released
Catherine Nasmith

The town dock, Lake Muskoka, Bala, Ontario
Portage Landing, Moon River

Right at the top I should say I was the expert witness for the Township of Muskoka Lakes in the recent Conservation Review Board hearings regarding the designation of three municipally owned properties in Bala.

Lots of hats were tossed by heritage advocates in Muskoka last week following the release of the CRB’s decision. For heritage policy wonks the decision is an interesting one, and it was a relief to me, and many community members who had argued long and hard for protection, to see the CRB endorse designation of all three properties. The appellant was Swift River Energy Corporation, who retained Golder Associates' Marcus Letourneau and Chris Andreae.

There were long detailed arguments on both sides of the case and the decision incorporates elements from both sides, and also offers suggestions for amending the designation statements. It also provides guidance on process regarding the issuance of Notice of Intention to Designate.

The three sites are small pieces of a much larger cultural heritage landscape in Bala, which the Town chose to protect under Part IV, with a view to including them in a larger Part V process in future. The decision contains discussion of the relationship between the Ontario Heritage Act and the Planning Act when it comes to protecting views to and from a heritage property, as well as guidance on how and what can be listed as heritage attributes in a designation statement. The decision is not conclusive on including views as heritage attributes. 

The case is unlike most that come before the Board in involving a built structure, or art as in the recent Shift case. All three places are low key, seemingly ordinary places in Muskoka, the Town dock, a parking lot that was created when rock was blasted away to bring a modern highway to the town and the portage landing between the Moon River and Lake Muskoka which has been in continuous use for over a century.

These places all are important and valued by the community in different ways, but unless you know the economic and cultural history it isn’t immediately obvious what the cultural value of these places might be. Each was being designated to protect space for activities that are important to the community, portaging, community festivals, and a regatta that has been ongoing for over a hundred years. The town dock is in the general location of the former Steamship dock where travelers transferred from the train to water transport, but apart from potential archaeological remains, the train station and the steamships exist only in memory and on many Bala postcards. “Spirit of Place” is an important idea in the protection of these publicly owned places.

The decision offers lessons for all sides and for municipalities looking at Cultural Heritage Landscape designations. 


5. Book Review: One More River to Cross-Bryan Prince
Catherine Nasmith

Book Cover

Coming back from a place built on slavery (Charleston S.C.) I picked up One More River to Cross with new interest. 

The book pieces together from research in many archives, libraries on both sides of the Canada U.S. the remarkable story of one black family's escape to Canada from slavery. So many people stepped in to fight legal processes in Pennsylvania, then a state that had abolished slavery, to keep Isaac Brown out of the clutches of men determined to press false charges against him. There is a story here worthy of a hollywood movie, of the kindness of strangers, legal sleights of hand, midnight releases from jail, in a time when laws varied wildly from state to state, and across borders. The bravery and commitment of the anti slave movement really comes through.

Bryan Prince set out to find his own ancestor, instead discovered the story of another by the same name who had made the press in several states--a highly controversial case yet forgotten in modern times. I was fascinated by how much of the story survives, albeit in fragments scattered in many dusty corners.The narrative suffers a bit from the bumpiness of trying to construct a life story from birth, death and marriage records, but where the records survive of the court case and the journey from Philadelphia to Ontario,  the tale is gripping, in the way that only real life can be. 

The book is worthwhile in telling both this story but also of early black settlement in Ontario, and the mechanics of the underground railroad. Its definitely one to put on your list.

Thank you to Bryan Prince for a passionate and obsessive piece of research and a story well told.


6. Globe and Mail: End of Peter Dickinson at Regent Park?
John Bentley Mays

As Regent Park rebuilds, a pause to consider what came before

14 Blevin Pl.

The British-born architect Peter Dickinson came to Toronto in 1949, and worked here until 1961, when death took him, at age 36. In the dozen years of an extraordinarily prolific career, he dotted the local landscape with buildings that were hailed at the time as gems of festive, svelte design – the Benvenuto Place apartments, the Inn on the Park (demolished), Beth Tzedec Synagogue, and numerous others.

But Mr. Dickinson did more than put up memorable structures. He also created a circle of admirers who kept alive public interest in his work when mid-century Modernism went out of fashion, and who have persisted down to the present day. Indeed, to know and like the art of Peter Dickinson is part of what it means to be a savvy citizen of Hogtown these days. In a way unmatched by another architect active here in the 1950s, he matters deeply.

So it’s hardly surprising to find a considerable number of townsfolk dismayed by the prospect of seeing Dickinson buildings swept away. The structures I’m thinking of are the three remaining towers (of an original five) in Regent Park, the large former public housing complex now undergoing massive transformation into a mixed-income, public-private neighbourhood.

Each of these award-winning blocks is a 14-storey stack of spacious two-level apartments that spread across the entire width of the building. When I visited one of the three-bedroom suites a few years ago, I found it to be a fine, honest expression of what mattered to the humane modern architects of mass housing in Mr. Dickinson’s day: excellent cross-ventilation, copious natural lighting, density without a sacrifice of privacy, and a strong sense of the social and communal. If the elevators were not kept in working order as time went by, if mindful maintenance was allowed to slide, if poverty wrecked the lives of the inhabitants – none of that is the fault of the architecture, which embodies a style of serious social conscience that should never be forgotten.

Yet, by the end of 2013, Toronto could lose important traces of Peter Dickinson’s moral and artistic legacy. In an e-mail sent to me last week, Thomas Burr, Regent Park’s development director, described the current state of play: “Two of the five towers were demolished in 2011, and three remain. Toronto Community Housing [TCH, the landlord of Regent Park] intends to seek City approval to demolish the remaining three buildings later this year as part of phase three of revitalization.”

But, as Mr. Burr went on to explain, the razing of all three towers could be frustrated by a combination of forces. One will probably come from the heritage lobby, or there might even be a public outcry. The city has placed Mr. Dickinson’s block at 14 Blevins Place on its list of “heritage properties,” a fact that will serve as leverage by a person or group inclined to save the slab. Also, an independent design review panel, charged with vetting every move in the Regent Park overhaul, is expected to return an expert opinion on the matter “in the coming months.” It could vote to preserve the building.

TCH, it should be noted, is not simply hell-bent on bulldozing everything standing in the way of its bright, shiny redevelopment scheme. Years ago, when the “revitalization” was in its earliest stages, the public agency promised to consider sparing 14 Blevins Place (if not the other four Dickinson projects). TCH has made good on its promise: Mr. Burr said in his e-mail that the organization has initiated “three studies to determine whether there is any viable re-purposing of the building.”

One thing is certain: If 14 Blevins is left standing, it will indeed be “repurposed,” and its current career, as social housing, will end. “We have received very clear direction from the community who live in 14 Blevins that they do not like the building,” Mr. Burr said. “There are real issues about retaining the building as social housing, and the ward councillor has indicated that the building should not remain in its current use.”

 

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:

The apartments sound terrific, surely there is a developer who can see the potential for re-use as a condo, or co-op?


7. Globe and Mail: Obituary, Michael Hough
Alex Bozikovic

Michael Hough brought ecology to the cityscape

The people of Cornish Road weren’t impressed by the apple tree. It was the 1980s in Toronto’s leafy Moore Park neighbourhood, and the Houghs – the landscape architect Michael Hough and his wife, Bridget – had planted one in their front yard. Even more uncouth were the tomatoes, green beans and lettuce. To Mr. Hough, this was just good sense: Why pour water and energy into a lawn, when you could put the soil to better use?

“Michael lived by his principles,” says his old friend, Simon Miles. “This upset many of the neighbours, but Michael felt it was the right use of the south sunlight.”

Mr. Hough, who died in January at 84, spent his career in pursuit of this ideal – the integration of cities with natural systems. As a young landscape architect in the 1960s, he helped lead that profession to combine urbanism and ecology, to think of human activity and nature as complementary and connected.

His own design work included Ontario Place and the University of Toronto’s new Scarborough campus, as well as advocacy that helped clean up the polluted Don River and preserve the historic Don Valley Brick Works.

But it was his teaching at University of Toronto and York University, and his books – including Out of Place (1990) and Cities and Natural Process (1995) – that helped cement his thinking. The ideas were deep and prescient. Today, cities across North America are working to repair their ecologies and make room for urban agriculture. “Landscape urbanism” is a powerful movement, and Mr. Hough’s legacy is very much alive.

Click here for Link


8. Globe and Mail: Ottawa Modern Heritage Conservation District
Dave Leblanc

Heritage District Recognizes Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Canada

Pop the cork and grab a cigar: Two weeks ago, Canadas first protected mid-century modern neighbourhood was born.

Weighing in at 23 homes on two curving streets, this bouncing architectural wonder from the 1960s, Briarcliffe, is now a Heritage Conservation District and, fittingly, its in our nations capital, Ottawa.

Click here for Link


9. Globe and Mail: Redundant Malls
Russell Smith

Why are artists so obsessed with the fall of the mall?

AI live near two of what must be the saddest malls in Canada, and I say that with full knowledge that competition in this field is intense. I am sure you live near one of these too. These are the malls with the papered-up space where a big-box store once lived, and maybe one of those discount grocers where everything is yellow. These are the malls with one hot-dog stand, the kind that still has the rolling oily rods. They all bear “sign scar” – the outlines of absent logos. And yet the size of these things – the sprawling flat footprint, the windowless walls along a half kilometre of sidewalk, the lunar parking lot – is inalterable. It is hard to destroy a mall; it’s just too expensive. So the dying malls of North America live on as giant unpickable scabs on cities. As ruins, unlike abandoned factories or houses, they have no romance, no majesty; they tell no stories of craftsmanship or community spirit, and their architecture is lacking even the most distant of human touches.

Click here for Link


10. Toronto Star: Toronto's First Black Letter Carrier
Isabel Teotonio

Union honouring family of Albert Jackson, Torontos first black postman

The family of Albert Jackson — an escaped slave who overcame prejudice to become Toronto’s first black postman in 1882 — will be honoured Sunday by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

About 100 members of the Jackson family will be in Toronto for the event — some travelling from the United States. The CUPW will give family members a commemorative poster honouring Jackson’s achievements — the same poster widely circulated by the union in February, during Black History Month.
“It means a great deal for the family,” said Jackson’s great-grandson, Jay Jackson. “But I think it means more for the city of Toronto.”


The story of Albert Jackson, a former child slave from the U.S. who escaped to Canada through the Underground Railroad, is part of an important chapter in the city’s history, he said.

Click here for Link


11. Toronto Star: Sustainability of Toronto's High Rise Condos
Antonia Zerbisias

Growing Up: Are Torontos new condos built to last?

Building experts say resiliency and energy efficiency are going out the window with all those floor-to-ceiling glass walls being installed in the city’s towering condos.


Is the condo boom causing too much density?


“There’s only one reason why all these buildings have floor-to-ceiling windows: it’s because architects and builders are lazy,” maintains retired architect and developer Lloyd Alter, who now writes for Treehugger.com and teaches sustainable design at Ryerson University.

“If you have a building that’s brick and glass, you’ve got to hire a mason, you’ve got to hire a window guy and you’ve got to co-ordinate them. When you’re dealing with floor-to-ceiling glass, you’re just dealing with one trade.”


Ted Kesik, a professor of building science at the University of Toronto and an outspoken critic of the condo development industry, says he, too, worries that condo developers care more about profits than ensuring their buildings last.


“I feel sorry for people in buildings like that, because those windows are going to fall out in an extreme weather event. There will be water damage. It’s just going to be a mess.”

Even Toronto’s new chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, allows there’s a problem with the windows’ efficiency.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:

Great to see Past ACO President Lloyd Alter speaking out so strongly


12. U of T Back Campus Proposal- Review Facebook, Sign Petition
Catherine Nasmith

A lot has been written about the impact of proposed artificial turf playing fields at U of T. Margaret Atwood and Richard Florida have weighed n against the scheme. If you are trying to figure out what is going on and whether you should take a stand, review images and comments on Facebook Pages below. You will find a link on the Facebook page to send email to the President of U of T.

 

Facebook Page   https://www.facebook.com/BackCampusGreen?ref=ts&fref=ts

 

To sign Petition: https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/university-of-toronto-governing-council-keep-u-of-t-back-campus-green-2

 


13. BBC.com: Preserving history in Buenos Aires
Karina Martinez-Carter

Much of the efforts to document and preserve the citys historic buildings has been undertaken by grassroots initiatives

The residential Casa de los Lirios in the neighborhood of Balvanera represents the Catalan modernism movement in Buenos Aires. (Robert Wright)

Argentina – where Spanish is spoken with Italian-like intonations and where rugby and polo are two of the most popular sports – is largely a country of immigrants. And in the capital Buenos Aires, the many Europeans that came to Argentina starting in the late 1800s had wide open spaces to make their new city look like home, fusing Baroque, Art Nouveau and Beaux Arts-styles to create an eclectic, cosmopolitan and entirely unique architectural landscape – a sort of brick and mortar exhibition that traces the city’s economic history, cultural influence and varied demographics. But while many historic landmark buildings still stand, some city residents are vocal about the dire need for concerted preservation efforts.

The diversity of the city’s architecture includes edifices such as the Palacio Barolo on Avenida de Mayo, which was commissioned in the 1920s by Luis Barolo, an Italian immigrant who made his fortune in fabrics. The building was designed to resemble the allegory of Dante’s Divine Comedy, sectioned into three levels to represent hell, purgatory and heaven.

Click here for Link


14. New York Times: Art and History Among the Dead
JANE L. LEVERE

Benjamin Petit for The New York Times - The Harkness family grave at Woodlawn Cemetery. The architect was James Gamble Rogers, the landscape designer Beatrix Farrand and the metal worker Samuel Yellin.

ONE of New York City’s most unusual museums is not on Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue, but on 400 acres of beautifully landscaped land at Webster Avenue and East 233rd Street in the Bronx.

That would be Woodlawn Cemetery and Crematory, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year by casting itself as, in effect, an outdoor museum.

Established in 1863 as a cemetery for the rich and famous, Woodlawn is the final resting place for business titans like Jay Gould, Joseph Pulitzer, J. C. Penney and R. H. Macy. Many of those people hired as designers of their places of interment the same architects, landscape architects and sculptors who designed their homes. The financier William Whitney, for example, used the architect Stanford White, who designed his Manhattan mansion in Manhattan, for the memorial on his grave site, a granite plinth decorated with bronze swags.

Click here for Link


15. New York Times: Dreams of Saving Art Deco Havana
VICTORIA BURNETT

Jose Goitia for The New York Times - The 1930 Bacardí Building in Havana has been restored in the last few years but other Art Deco buildings in the city are crumbling.

HAVANA — Kathleen Murphy Skolnik gasped one recent morning as she gazed up into the stairwell of a 1939 downtown apartment building here and pointed at the chevron pattern in the ironwork, at the unpolished rust-pink marble and a simple alcove on the stairway crowned by a stepped arch.

“It’s so beautiful,” said Ms. Skolnik, an architectural historian who lives in Chicago. “And it’s so run-down.”

Ms. Skolnik’s words serve as an unofficial motto for the rich, wide-ranging and often neglected buildings that, experts say, make Cuba one of the world’s most significant but overlooked troves of Art Deco architecture. As some 250 Cuban and foreign connoisseurs gathered last week in Havana for the World Congress on Art Deco, there was hope the event would foster wider recognition of the island’s Art Deco heritage and the urgent need to preserve it.

 

Click here for Link


16. New York Times: Fulton Fish Market as a New Urban Food Market?
Mark Bittman

Food Market for New York

There is nothing like a grand urban food market, which can anchor a neighborhood and even a city. Think of the 120-year-old Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia; the Ferry Building in San Francisco, which 10 years ago helped revitalize the Embarcadero; and the ever-popular Pike Place Market in Seattle. Even much-maligned Los Angeles has a permanent mid-city market, in business since 1934.

New York … well, the grandest market “we” have is 80 miles away, in Philadelphia.

New York City built a dozen or so indoor markets around 100 years ago, and a couple of smaller ones remain in operation. 

We’re enthusiastic about our existing big markets, represented by the ongoing success of the quite limited Chelsea Market and the excitement over the decidedly upscale Eataly.

But imagine the Union Square Greenmarket with a roof over its head, bigger and better: fishers and foragers, selling directly; purveyors of all types, gathering great food from everywhere; prepared foods that might make you drool. Think of the first great indoor market you visited — huge in scope, democratic and central — and imagine it in Manhattan.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:

As a resident of Kensington Market, and of Toronto with its St. Lawrence Market, and numerous weekly farmers markets and neighbourhood grocers, organic grocers I really enjoy our access to great fresh local food. I see a direct link between heritage preservation, (slow buildings) and the local food movement. Same values, and generally it is rare to find slow food in new buildings. Toronto is uniquely blessed with a great building stock that supports local food, so much of it on our fine grained main streets. 


17. New York Times: Saving Schools and Libraries by Giving Up the Land They Sit On
JOSEPH BERGER and AL BAKER

The Brooklyn Heights library is neither the oldest nor the most dilapidated branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. But the 52-year-old limestone building is nonetheless ripe for demolition

Uli Seit for The New York Times - The Pacific branch of the Brooklyn Public Library would be rebuilt at no public expense on an apartment towers ground floor.

The Brooklyn Heights library is neither the oldest nor the most dilapidated branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system. But the 52-year-old limestone building is nonetheless ripe for demolition.

It sits on land that developers crave, in a fashionable neighborhood where housing is in high demand. And so the library system, desperate for money to pay for $230 million in long-deferred repairs for its 60 branches, has embraced a novel financing model that is increasingly being used around New York City as a way to pay for government services.

The library, on Cadman Plaza, along with another library near the Barclays Center, would be sold to developers, torn down and then rebuilt at no public expense on the ground floor of a new apartment tower.

Government-financed agencies, seeing a way to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in a weak economy, are looking at the land right under some of their own institutions and offering it to the best bidder, who will build new, modern libraries or schools in the base of new developments. In the process, they will also erase the stout civic buildings now there, in effect leveling public facilities to make sure the agencies are financially secure.

The strategy has been embraced in Brooklyn, where the two libraries need repairs of $9 million to $11 million.

“We would deliver two of these libraries for essentially no cost to the library system,” said Joshua Nachowitz, the Brooklyn Public Library’s vice president for government and community relations. “It’s a win-win.”

But the approach has provoked growing protest in the affected communities. Most pressingly, residents are concerned about how far they will have to go to reach a library, and where their children will go to school, during the years it will take to erect the new towers. But they are also worried about the aesthetic and cultural price of replacing local institutions to which they are deeply attached, neighborhood landmarks if not official ones, and having them swallowed up into stacks of concrete, steel and glass.

“What makes a place interesting is different kinds of architecture and a school looking like a school,” said Laurie Frey, a member of the Community Education Council in District 3, a board that represents public school parents on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. “There’s a feeling of, ‘Oh please, not another high rise,’ and a feeling that, since we’re already getting used to an increased density in our few blocks, do we really need more?”

The city’s Educational Construction Fund is reviewing proposals for construction of high-rise apartment towers on the sites of two public schools near Lincoln Center — P.S. 191 on West 61st Street and P.S. 199 on West 70th Street, which was designed by the modernist architect Edward Durell Stone — and another school on East 96th Street, the School of Cooperative Technical Education. In each case, new schools would occupy the lower floors of the new buildings.

Click here for Link


18. The New Republic: Brad Pitt Make it Right Just Not Enough
Lydia DePillis

If You Rebuild It, They Might Not Come

Brad Pitt's beautiful houses are a drag on New Orleans

Other than the nine hours spent clinging to a rooftop, the loss of the house she'd bought in 1977, and the two and a half years spent shuttling back and forth to her daughter's home in Atlanta, Hurricane Katrina has been pretty good to 72-year-old Gloria Guy. That's because, about five years ago now, Brad Pitt built her a really, really nice house.

Guy was the first beneficiary of the Make It Right foundation, the charity Pitt started in 2007 to furnish homes for those in the already dirt-poor Lower Ninth Ward who lost theirs. These new homes were not just slap-dash replacements. Guy's mustard-yellow two-bedroom is perched on nine-foot-tall stilts, with a roof that slants upward from front to back and leans to one side like a jaunty haircut—a bizarre sight in this city of graceful Creole symmetry. It was designed by a high-end local architect and features the latest in energy-efficient technology, as well as a solar array, non-toxic finishes, and custom cabinets.

"Baby, this was the worst disaster to have, and they did nothing," says the tiny woman hunched in a sweatshirt on her lofty porch, referring to the federal and local powers that be. "The only person who came through here and worked with the people was Brad Pitt. The Prince of Wales came down here, and boy he was in the helicopter looking at us hanging on the roof, and then he took off in a jet and kept going."

Make It Right has managed to build about 90 homes, at a cost of nearly $45 million, in this largely barren moonscape—viewed from the Claiborne Avenue Bridge, which connects the ward to the center city, they spread out like a field of pastel-colored UFOs. But for a while now, Make It Right has been having trouble enticing people to buy their made-to-order homes. The neighborhood has turned into a retirement-community version of its former self; the ward's other former residents are dead or settled elsewhere. Construction on the cutting-edge designs has run into more than its share of complications, like mold plaguing walls built with untested material, and averaged upwards of $400,000 per house. Although costs have come down, Make It Right is struggling to finance the rest of the 150 homes it promised, using revenue from other projects in Newark and Kansas City to supplement its dwindling pot of Hollywood cash. Now, in a wrenching deviation from its original mission, the non-profit has decided to open up to buyers who didn't live in the neighborhood before Katrina.

But there's a Catch-22: The neighborhood doesn't have enough residents to attract many stores and services, and prospective buyers end up elsewhere because the neighborhood doesn't have enough stores and services. So about 90 households, primarily elderly people like Guy, are living in futuristic homes that most Americans would covet, and yet there's not a supermarket—or even a fast food restaurant—for miles.

It didn't have to be this way, and it's costing the city.

 

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19. Vancouver Sun: Poor Preservation Policy leads to Losses
Elizabeth Murphy

Flawed policies doom Vancouver's old buildings

Chronic state of crisis management where last-minute bids are made under threat of demolition.

In recent years new development has caused the loss of many arts, culture and community assets including local theatres such as the Ridge (and Bowling Alley), Pantages, Hollywood, Varsity, Granville 7 and Playhouse; music and entertainment venues such as the Starfish Room, Richards on Richards and Maxine's; community space of St. John's Church, and the list goes on.

Although the public generally supports the arts, culture and related amenities, city policies have not been enacted to ensure their retention. Instead, we have a chronic state of crisis management where last-minute attempts are made under threat of demolition, often after the building has been abandoned and degraded - as it was with the Pantages and York Theatres.

This comes at a high cost of either huge density bonuses or demolition. The solution would be to protect these assets under policy rather than rely on desperate initiatives. While council's recent approval of mapping existing cultural assets is a step toward addressing the issue, the problem is broader than a few specific sites.

What these assets have in common is that they are old buildings, some heritage-listed. Current city policies do not recognize the role older buildings play in creating a city that is affordable and vibrant.

Cities need a variety of ages of buildings, including a large quantity of older buildings in different levels of condition. The mix should include some depreciated "fixer-uppers" that people starting out in a new business or home can rent or purchase at lower rates and improve through adaptive reuse.

 

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