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Issue No. 138 | March 3, 2009


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Feature Stories

  1. Editorial: OMB Makes it Harder to Defend Ontario's Beautiful Places
  2. PROUD Disappointed with OMB Decision on Port Place Development
  3. St. Catharine's Standard: OMB approves Port Dalhousie Project
  4. Links to Evidence and the OMB Decision in Port Dalhousie


City of Toronto 175 Birthday Party
March 6, 2009
+ read

175th Birthday of the Incorporation of the City of Toronto
Friday March 6
+ read

Fort York Visitor Centre - National Design Competition
Stage I: 16 February - 11 March 2009
+ read

Black Creek Pioneer Village presents: History Talks! Manly Men
Tuesdays: March 24, 31 and April 7, 2009
+ read

Cabbagetown-Regent Park Museum Fundraiser Lecture by Karolyn Smardz Frost
Saturday, March 28, 2009
+ read

A Unique Meeting - Past & Present

+ read

Fort York and our Neighbourhood, 1793-2012:
Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
+ read


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1. Editorial: OMB Makes it Harder to Defend Ontario's Beautiful Places
Catherine Nasmith

Rendering from Michael Kirkland Architect of the Proposal

The Ontario Municipal Board decision on Port Dalhousie makes the mountain that communities must climb to defend their special places even higher.

No community group could be more committed than PROUD to defending the special nature of their townscape. For five years citizens worked to put in place a Heritage Conservation District to protect the special character of Port Dalhousie. When their Council made a decision on a proposed development in the district that they disagreed with, St. Catharines citizens worked to elect a Council that opposed the development. When the developer appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board the community raised close to half a million dollars for an expert legal team, planning and heritage experts to defend the heritage district. With all that work, PROUD was unable to defeat a proposal that included a seventeen-storey tower in their Heritage Conservation District. Discouraging?- you bet.

In Toronto a seventeen-storey tower might go unnoticed, but in a canal village of one, two and three storey buildings it will definitely stand out. To the casual observer the misfit seems a no-brainer, but in the convoluted technical world of the OMB hearing room, economic development triumphs even if the locals aren’t convinced of the benefit.

The OMB decision on the Port Place development is a long, but critically important read for any group seeking to defend their community. It is too easy to just lambast the OMB. In this decision panel member Susan Campbell lays out in cold hard language the places where the municipality, could have, should have done things differently to achieve a different outcome. The key point to understand is that a pre-2005 heritage district plan does not have the power to over-rule conflicting municipal bylaws or other provincial policy. Unless a municipality upgrades the existing HCD plan and enacts a new bylaw under the 2005 Act it will not enjoy the enhanced protection available in the new legislation. That creates a huge number of second class heritage districts in Ontario.

Existing HCD’s do not have less protection than they ever had. However in dealing with applications the OMB will treat heritage, and the “shall be conserved” provisions of the PPS, as just one of the many provincial policies it must deal with. The Board may give equal or greater weight to the need to intensify, or as was the case in Port Dalhousie to the chimera of economic development.

In this decision the OMB took a narrow view of “shall be conserved”. There was disagreement about how much of the existing fabric was signficant. The OMB agreed with the proponents they had met the provincial policy requirements because the project conserved some heritage resources.

The fact that two teams of highly qualified heritage experts, Michael McLelland and Spencer Higgins representing the developers, Phil Goldsmith, Herb Stovel, David Cumings and Wayne Morgan for PROUD and the City of St. Catharines, were able to give diametrically opposed opinions on heritage matters points to a lack of clarity in provincial heritage policy. Herb Stovel’s testimony was completely ignored in the decision, presumably because the OMB member could not find Stovel's expert opinion, gleaned from years of experience of international practice, reflected in Ontario heritage policy.

Susan Campbell made it clear that she would not try to read between the lines-- if it wasn’t in black in white in all the municipal or provincial planning documents it did not exist. That puts the onus on those drafting Heritage Conservation Districts to be very precise in wording on what is important and what must be protected. Such detail will naturally translate into higher costs to develop the necessary documents, and probably ends the days of volunteer involvement in the preparation of HCD plans.

Given that so many communities rely on volunteers for expertise and to produce background documents, and that we have no means to produce more professionals to do this work, the chances of being able to meet the standard demanded by this decision any time soon are very low.

The chimera may be the promise of the 2005 Ontario Heritage Act and PPS to deliver stronger heritage protection in Ontario. As lawyer Jane Pepino pointed out in her summation to the OMB, “Balancing economics versus heritage is a fight that heritage will rarely win.”

Editor's Note:
You can post comments on this situation or follow the discussion at a special blog page to deal with the fallout of this decision for heritage preservation in Ontario. See Link Below

2. PROUD Disappointed with OMB Decision on Port Place Development
PROUD Media Release

February 27, 2009

"We are very disappointed. The proposed tower is not the type of development that our members and the majority of residents want to see. In addition, it is contrary to the intent of the municipal and provincial regulations that are in place to protect this important Heritage District in Port Dalhousie.

Our lawyer is currently reviewing the 68-page decision in detail and has advised us to keep all our options open." stated PROUD President David Bergen.

PROUD, the volunteer community organization, has recently concluded participating in a gruelling, and extremely expensive, 21-week Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Hearing on a proposal to build a 20-storey height condo tower in the heart of Port Dalhousie's low-rise designated heritage district. "We participated in the process in support of the City because, like the vast majority of Niagara residents, and most heritage experts who testified at the OMB, our over 600 members recognized that the tower proposal was not in keeping with Port's unique heritage or with the policies designed to direct development in the heritage district." added Bergen.

"This was truly a community-wide effort and we thank the numerous individuals and organizations that supported us from throughout the Region and beyond. In particular, we commend our Mayor and Council for standing up for the City’s approved regulations." said Carlos Garcia, PROUD's Executive Vice-President. PROUD is concerned that the ruling will lead to a development that is not consistent with applicable regulations and will restrict access by residents and negatively impact traffic and parking. This ruling is particularly disappointing given the recent discovery of Lock 1 of the first Welland Canal in Lakeside Park. The ruling by Hearing Chair Susan Campbell significantly weakens the Heritage Act and sets a precedent that makes not only Port Dalhousie but the other 91 heritage districts in the Province vulnerable to towers and inappropriate development.

PROUD continues to be ready and willing to work with this or any developer, and with the City, to seek and provide community input on proposals for the Port Dalhousie Heritage District. Input from the community will remove uncertainty from the process going forward and will help ensure that whatever development may eventually be built will benefit all stakeholders. To quote from our letter to PDVC's principals back in February of 2005: "… we would be happy to work closely with you to help develop an application that may be acceptable to all. We are also always available to meet with you.”

A development that preserves the 'village feel' and historic character will truly revitalize Port Dalhousie and generate major economic benefits for our City and Region.

PROUD (Port Realizing Our Unique Distinction) is a Port Dalhousie, community-based, all-volunteer organization founded in 1999. PROUD spearheaded the extensive community consultation process that led to Port Dalhousie being designated as a Heritage Conservation District under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Please contact: or visit
Carlos Garcia
Executive Vice-President
PROUD Port Dalhousie

3. Heritage Day event, St. John's, NL
Ken O'Brien

On Heritage Day 2009 (Feb. 16th), at the suggestion of its Heritage Advisory Committee, the City of St. John's instituted a new program -- Certificates of Recognition for outstanding work on buildings in the Heritage Area. These are not necessarily designated heritage buildings. The idea is to give some public recognition and a "pat on the back" to property owners who have done good work on their buildings.

This first year, the St. John's Municipal Council, at its regular weekly meeting on Feb. 16th, presented certificates to the owners of three buildings -- Babb Lock and Safe, Stella Burry Community Services, and Superior Office Interiors. The descriptions follow.

The first award is presented to Babb Lock & Safe located at 442 Water Street. This was the building that started us thinking about this process of certificates of recognition.

The Babb family started Babb Lock & Safe in 1976 in the building next door to where they are now located. Two years later they purchased the building at 442 Water Street; it became their office and retail store.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Lorne Babb wanted to restore the façade of the building to its original state but there were no companies here doing that type of work at the time. Everybody was using siding so they went ahead and installed metal siding. Lorne was never happy with that decision but the siding stayed on the building until 2005.

That year, a major windstorm hit St. John's and blew a complete section of siding off the front of the building. There was a considerable amount of damage sustained. Lorne saw it as an opportunity to restore the building like he had envisioned. By then, there were a number of companies restoring older buildings.

In the summer of 2006, they contracted Quality Coatings Systems of Paradise, NL, to redo the façade. After it was completed, Babb Lock & Safe could not believe the number of calls they received from people complimenting the restoration.

The City's Heritage Advisory Committee chose this building because of its high quality restoration. This included the removal of the old metal siding and subsequent parging of the façade, followed by the installation of the attractive sign band and good choice of colour for the restored property.

Our second award is presented to Stella Burry Community Services (SBCS) Inc. for their building located at 140 Military Road (at Rawlin's Cross).

Stella Burry purchased the old W.J. Murphy grocery store in 2003. The former grocery store and its attached family home were constructed in the early 1900s.

Stella Burry was aware of the building's landmark status at one of the busiest intersections in the older part of the city. Rawlin's Cross was the location of the first traffic light for St. John's in the mid-1900's. That first light was manually operated by a police officer of the Newfoundland Constabulary.

SBCS contracted with Ron Fougere & Associates, Architects, to design the new building, taking into account its heritage, prominent location, and the needs of Stella Burry. The redevelopment was completed in 2006 and the new building contains six (6) one-bedroom apartments for people in need of supportive housing, plus the Hungry Heart Café (a training restaurant, open to the public), and administrative offices. Stellas Circle, as the building is called, has become the new landmark for Rawlin's Cross.

Our Heritage Advisory Committee chose this building due to the fact that it replaced a landmark building with one that was sensitive to the old Murphy's Store architecture.

Our third award is presented to Superior Office Interiors at 219 New Gower Street.

Our Committee chose this building partly for its exterior, which is attractively finished with good colours and helps anchor the intersection of New Gower Street and Springdale Street.

We were also impressed with their initiative of placing a plaque on the building to remember the people who died on that very site in the terrible Hull Home fire of 1948.

The building at 219 New Gower Street was built in 1932. Superior Office have occupied it since 1973. In 1993 the company renovated the building with the guiding principal of maintaining its original look. While the building was being renovated, there was also a rebranding exercise ongoing and Ms. Sheila Boone, who was hired for that project, uncovered some information on the Hull Home fire in her research.

Being a long-time resident of St. Johns, Mr. Reg Noftall, owner of the business, was aware of the 1948 fire and felt that erecting a plaque on the newly renovated building would be a fitting way to commemorate the fire. The wording on the plaque reads as follows:

"This was the site of a devastating fire on February 10, 1948. It tragically claimed the lives of 34 residents and staff of the Hull Nursing Home that occupied this building at the time."

We felt that this initiative to recall a painful event merited a Certificate of Recognition.

4. Support Bill 149: Protection for Inactive Cemeteries
Toronto Historical Association


The entire Provincial heritage community is strongly urged to contact their own MPP and ask him/her to support Bill 149 and act to protect Ontario’s inactive cemeteries. The Bill was given first reading in the legislature on the 19th of February, and the second reading is to come in March. This Private Member’s Bill has been introduced by Jim Brownell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, and because it is a Private Member’s Bill, it must have the full support of all MPPs in order to protect the more than 4000 inactive cemeteries in Ontario.

5. St. Catharine's Standard: OMB approves Port Dalhousie Project
Peter Downs and Karena Walter

Port Place project approved

architect's rendering of OMB approved project

The contentious debate that has torn Port Dalhousie into two distinct parts over the past few years has been decided.

A developer can go ahead and build a 17-storey condo tower in the heart of the lakeside neighbourhood.

After a marathon hearing that wrapped up in November, the Ontario Municipal Board handed down its decision Friday.

Hearing chair Susan Campbell’s ruling gives the Port Dalhousie Vitalization Corp. (PDVC) the green light to overhaul the community’s commercial core with an 80-unit condominium tower overlooking the waterfront, a 70-room hotel, 415-seat theatre and a retail centre.

In a 67-page written ruling, Campbell sided with the developer, maintaining the Port Place project promises to breathe new life into a struggling commercial area at the same time as it helps preserve its heritage buildings and character.

“The board accepts the evidence of a variety of witnesses that the Port Dalhousie commercial core faces challenges to its economic viability.... Further the board finds that if the commercial core IS not economically viable, valuable heritage resources or attributes may be threatened,” she wrote.

Campbell’s ruling came as a welcome relief to the developer.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for that decision and it’s here,” said Ralph Terrio, one of the partners of PDVC.

“Now we can move on to the next stage and work with the city of St. Catharines.”

Terrio, speaking from Florida, had not seen a copy of the decision Friday. He said the company will next sit down with the city to negotiate the details of the project.

It’s been a long process with a lot of money involved," he said.

“It took five years for the first steps and I hope it doesn’t take five years for the next step.”

Mayor Brian McMullan, in Kitchener at a mayors’ meeting, hadn’t seen the report either, but had been briefed.

He plans to request a city staff report for council, with input from planning and legal departments, analyzing the decision.

There are still some outstanding issues that may require input and decisions need to be made on how to move forward, he said.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:Vague heritage policy in the province of Ontario allowed two teams of highly respected heritage consultants to take diametrically opposed views on this file.

6. Links to Evidence and the OMB Decision in Port Dalhousie
Catherine Nasmith

Save our Seaport has posted on its site the final submissions of all of the parties and the recent OMB decision permitting a high rise development in the Port Dalhousie Heritage Conservation District. Whether you agree or disagree with this decision, it is very important to read and understand the way the OMB is weighing heritage considerations in its decision making.

This OMB decision calls for a very high degree of detail within a Heritage Conservation District Study and Plan in order to give clear comprehensive direction to decision makers. The decision makes it clear that if municipalities wish to seek the full protection for their Heritage Conservation Districts afforded under the 2005 Ontario Heritage Act (OHA), it will be necessary to amend and re-adopt HCD bylaws put in place prior to the 2005 Act.

That may or may not require quite a bit of additional work on the part of the municipality to ensure the Study and Plan meet the process and content requirements of the 2005 OHA.

In reading over the decision I was left with the sense that it would be practically impossible for Ontario municipalities to put in place the level of comprehensive detail this OMB member is demanding, hence all of our existing HCD's are vulnerable.





Click here for Link

7. Eye Weekly: The Toronto "Look"
Shawn Micaleff

Cyberpunk built by the Swiss

the ROM addition, from Eye Weekly

The new old in Toronto is the new beautiful, and that’s the key to our beauty

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BY Shawn Micallef February 18, 2009 21:02

Long before I moved to Toronto, a native Torontonian described this city as the ultimate cyberpunk metropolis. This was the mid-1990s, when we could say cyber-anything without snickering, and he was referring specifically to the genre of science fiction that blended high tech with the old. Its perfect cinematic expression is the futuristic Los Angeles depicted in the film Blade Runner where “the future” wasn’t completely modern, like the one seen on Star Trek, but a more realistic one where the new stuff was built on top of and around existing old stuff. Apart from perhaps the androids, rampant crime and unicorns, it’s the messy vision of the future that we see unfolding today in Toronto and it may be useful in describing what the elusive, near impossible to explain “Toronto look” is.

Sci-fi purists would argue that Toronto is not nearly the kind of dystopia required to be truly cyberpunk, and they’re right, but that blend of new and old is what Toronto does very well and often effortlessly. Here we have glass, steel and concrete skyscrapers next to old buildings — even Victorian and Edwardian single-family homes — and, quite often, it works out just fine. Even those beloved old downtown neighbourhoods are heavily modified. While the facades of homes in the Annex, Beaconsfield Village and Cabbagetown may look like movie sets, the interiors are usually renovated and the backsides often include modern additions. An early childhood visual memory I have of Toronto is of vaguely Victorian-looking houses with skylights carved in the roofs. It was striking, but seemed right: old things alive and lived in.

Toronto is not a period piece, like some pristine European cities are, and we are fortunate for that. Toronto is always changing (an urban workshop more than a museum) and always has been. New things are being added all the time, making this an exciting place to live, unlike, say, the morgue of a city that Paris has become. When was the last time you heard about an interesting building or contemporary art scene that’s come out of Paris? Our lack of cohesive architectural look — what snobs might refer to as “ugly” — means this city is tabula rasa, a blank slate waiting for us to do stuff in it without too much historical burden to smother the new, allowing cultural ferment of all kinds to happen.

Click here for Link

8. Globe and Mail: Saving old churches from the wrecker's ball
Lori Mayne

Globe and Mail photo

When Kris and Melanie Taylor set out to convert a 160-year-old wooden church into a theatre, they knew a bit about what they were getting into.

“We were married here,” Mrs. Taylor says. “Three of our kids were baptized here. So, it is a special place for us.”

The Taylors bought what had served as the United Church in Hunter River, 23 kilometres northwest of Charlottetown. Built in 1846, the structure had been put on the auction block due to the amalgamation of four United churches.

“We knew it was coming up for sale. And we thought, what a great location,” she says. “Why tear something down that could eventually be something wonderful?”
Harmony House Theatre
The Globe and Mail

To that end, they bought the old church for $50,000 in July, 2007, and, after extensive renovations, including removing the old wooden steeple, established Harmony House Theatre, a 140-seat venue for performances, movies and special events.

They are among a number of individuals and organizations that are saving Canada's old churches from the wrecker's ball and finding new purposes for them.

Churches often hold valuable real estate in the communities they serve. Increased urbanization, changing demographics and building costs have led churches across different faiths to consider development options for their properties.

“We built in the midst of the baby boom,” explains deacon Bob Britton, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax. “We also built with what I would call a rural mentality. In other words, everybody went to church. Catholics went to church. Protestants went to church. I was brought up in Montreal in a Jewish neighbourhood, and Jewish people went to synagogue on Saturday. That was the way the world was. And it was also the time when everybody walked to church. So you had lots of churches within walking distance or short distance.”

Click here for Link

9. Globe and Mail: Threats to Views of the Ontario Legislature
Terrence Belford

How high is too high? Four Seasons may find out

Queen's Park
View from City of Toronto planning report

How tall is too tall when it comes to new condominiums? Just how far can we push intensification by expanding upward instead of outward? If an 80-storey condo at Yonge Street and Bloor Street is dandy, then how about at Avenue Road and Bloor Street?

Those questions frame a three-sided wrestling match over the future of the existing Four Seasons Hotel at Avenue Road and Yorkville Avenue. Menkes Developments wants to tear down the 23-storey hotel and in its place build twin towers - one 44 storeys and the other 48 storeys.

Local residents, businesses and groups with an interest in architecture and historic preservation are vocal in their opposition. They raise objections ranging from the shadows the towers will throw on nearby streets, through the disruption construction and later occupation by residents will create, to how the towers will detract from the view of Queen's Park looking north along University Avenue.

In the middle, trying to find a solution, is city planner Louis Tinker.

"What we want to do is achieve the city's overall goals in areas such as intensification but not at the expense of all other factors such as quality of life and the potential impact on the neighbours," he says.

Developers facing opposition from various special interest groups is nothing new. Not in my backyard continues to be the rallying cry when it comes to many projects, especially those affecting long-established neighbourhoods. This one, however, seems to be almost in a class by itself.

The tale starts in 1969 when the Four Seasons was built. At the time, nothing in the area was supposed to rise above the seven-storey Hazelton Lanes immediately to the north. In fact, the official plan still calls for height restrictions of just 46 metres at Bloor Street and Avenue Road and 18 metres on Yorkville Avenue.

Click here for Link

Editor's Note:Can you imagine what the reaction would be if someone proposed a tower behind the Whitehouse or the Capital....imagine a condo tower behind Obama's inauguration festivities?

10. Toronto Star: Former Grand Trunk Railway
Shawn Micaleff

Our 1856 link to Pearson airport

photo from Toronto Star

Standing on Fort York's south ramparts, eyes shut, it's easy to imagine Lake Ontario is only a few metres below. The hum of the Gardiner Expressway even sounds like the surf. But open your eyes and the freeway looms on its concrete columns, and you must look between condominiums to catch a glimpse of the distant water.

On the north side of the fort are hints of why we have Toronto terra firma where the shoreline once was. Nearly a dozen rail lines cross Toronto near this spot; one branch heads along the lake towards Hamilton, the other curves northwest towards Weston and Georgetown. The latter follows some of the historic Grand Trunk Railway route, Toronto's first railway.

Soon, the 19th century route responsible for so much of the city's early growth may play a key role in the evolution of 21st century Toronto, by serving as backbone of the long-sought rail connection between Union Station and Pearson International Airport.

The name Grand Trunk still sounds expansive; it is a reminder that after the War of 1812 railways, not armies, started to decide Toronto's future. The Grand Trunk would grow, as planned, into a main trunk line – becoming for a time the world's largest railway system – and finally morph into CN. But when first built, the Grand Trunk did not even cross what is now downtown Toronto. It swung down toward the lake from the northwest and stopped at a terminal on the south side of Fort York.

Evidence remains, in impressive earthworks visible between the fort and Strachan Ave. In the shadow of the Gardiner near here is an old trench that was dug west to Strachan, where it curves north and now disappears, with few traces, under modern Liberty Village.

The Grand Trunk was originally chartered as the Toronto & Guelph Railroad Company, and became part of plans for a railway between Toronto and Montreal and southwestern Ontario. Between 1853 and 1856, lines were built in two sections: Toronto to Montreal and Toronto to Sarnia. Engineer Casimir Gzowski was the contractor of the western section, and his Grand Trunk accomplishment is one reason the lakeside park west of Sunnyside bears his name (he is also the great-grandfather of the late CBC broadcaster Peter Gzowski). The large terminal yard for the Sarnia line was constructed in front of Fort York on eight hectares, about half of which was landfill, thus beginning the shoreline's slow move south to its current point across from the Toronto Island Airport.

Click here for Link

11. Bancroft This Week: Station reno committee refocuses
Dan Schell

After reconfirming the mandate of the Railway Station Committee to restore the local historical building to house the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce and Bancroft Mineral Museum in light of the recent discussion surrounding the natural heritage complex; the committee met once again to continue the process of revitalizing the community building.

As much of the discussion has recently surrounded the stations role in the large scale Bancroft Redevelopment project, committee member Milt McGhee brought the committee back to its original focus.

These meetings have been sidetracked from the restoration of the station and we are putting the cart in front of the horse, says McGhee about the groups focus on the residents of the building. It was my understanding that the major goal was restoring the building and its history.

With the station being the main heritage focal point for the committee, they opted for a two-phase restoration making the first priority the original building, in the end separating the additional baggage shed for later development.

Chief Building Officer for the Town of Bancroft Dale Shannick helped focus the discussion surrounding the best options for the design of the building. He suggested that for the building to be publicly accessible, the A2 designation provides the right structural regulations to make it a safe building due to the strict regulations for engineered and architectural review.

In terms of the choice of using a slab base or a full foundation, Shannick stressed that the basement would be the best option for the strength of the structure in future dates.

It is easier if you want to do additions, and it allows for more storage which is something that was missing in the offices before, said Shannick recalling the massive weight of flyers that used to be stacked in the back of the station by the Chamber that bowed the floor in the back. It will provide something sturdy for the building to sit upon and allow for usable space.

Click here for Link

12. Brantford Expositor: Interest shown in saving Gilkison 'heritage' house

Named Oak Bank after Gilkison's earlier home in Glasgow, it is one of a handful of buildings still standing that predate the Rebellion of 1837

A group of heritage advocates has 45 days to find someone willing to take over one of Brantford's earliest houses and give it a new home far away from a developer's wrecking ball.

City council has agreed to defer until April 6 consideration of a permit to demolish Oak Bank house at 71 Gilkison St. On that date, the owner, ABT Quality Homes Inc., will be free to get permission to demolish a house built in 1832 by William Gilkison, an early pioneer and founder of several area communities.

The developer wants to tear down the building to make way for the construction of other homes.

Coun. Dan McCreary, a member of the city's heritage committee, was successful in getting the reprieve with the help of a presentation by history teacher Bill Darfler.

"The deferral gives those who want to save this building some time to put a plan together," said McCreary.

"There is a good debate going on in our community about the need to save our heritage. I know there are agencies interested in this building. If we can marry those interests together, it could bring a lot of benefit to the community."

Advocates face substantial obstacles, including a lack of support from the heritage committee. It did not officially object to the developer's application permit, due partially to an engineering report that says the house is in poor condition.

The committee suggested contacting the town of Elora, which recognizes Gilkison as its founder, to see if that community wants to move the house there.

Click here for Link

13. Chatham Daily News: Architectural heritage volunteering
Jim and Lisa Gilbert

The recent unfortunate demise of Erie Street United Church in Ridgetown has shone the spotlight on the somewhat sorry state of architectural preservation in our area. Churches, because of their public nature, and because of the number of them whose future is, at present, uncertain, have gotten much of the publicity. But everyday there are other buildings which are suffering with neglect and are threatened with demolition.

I can't remember how many times we have driven past the remains of a structure (which was standing just the day before) and have been shocked at its ruins because we didn't even realize it was under threat. Sometimes, I'm ashamed to admit, we can't even remember what the building looked like, even though we passed it regularly.

Click here for Link

14. - Opinions - Time to stop the gall and vinegar and get on with it
Susan Ratcliffe

Out came fire, and smoke, and thunder, and lightning, and gall, and vinegar, and brimstone, and melted physic bottle, in one terrible, scorching, withering raging stream, fizzing, whizzing, blizzing, about the devoted heads of Mr. Smith and the Building Committee, and ending in a whirlwind of applause from the 'pet lambs' of the suburbs.

Is this a description of a coming apocalypse? A fiery sermon from the pulpit about modern morality? A description of question period in the House of Commons?

No, dear Reader, it was just another debate about the construction of Guelph's municipal hall, but this one was on March 22, 1851 at a public meeting to decide the question of a new "market building."

A group of businessmen had proposed the building combine a market house, fire hall, meeting rooms, council chamber, engine house and a jail. In a newspaper report at the time, they said such a building would "push the town forward (and that citizens) would not mind being taxed a little for the improvement and benefit of the town." The fiery opponent of the plan was Dr. William Clarke.

On Sept. 18, 1856, the cornerstone for the town hall was laid but the debate about the location, condition, building style, costs, taxes and surrounding landscape did not end and indeed has never stopped.

In 1907, several aldermen wanted to demolish the hall on Carden Street to make more space for the more profitable Winter Fair. In 1967, outgoing mayor David Hastings recommended demolishing city hall to create more parking spaces for Memorial Gardens. In 1992, 1999 and 2004 the debate surfaced again with new life and the same arguments.

And it has not stopped even now with the imminent opening of the new city hall.

Click here for Link

15. Owen Sound Sun Times - Council to once again weigh church's future

GEORGIAN BLUFFS: Staff to outline past deadlines

Georgian Bluffs might still order the demolition of the historic church at Mennonite Corners, but doing so would be an act of "utter vandalism," says heritage advocate John Harrison.

Township Mayor Alan Barfoot said council will decide March 4 either to give Harrison's group, Heritage Georgian Bluffs, more time to stabilize the 125-year-old structure, or order its demolition.

Staff will present a report outlining each deadline the township has set so far, along with whether they were met by Heritage Georgian Bluffs.

"We can make a decision to do one or the other, but we want to make sure we're not jeopardizing a previous commitment somewhere along the line," Barfoot said Thursday.

"Council is prepared to make a decision based on the information that comes from this report."

The church has been declared unsafe by the township and access is prohibited.

Heritage Georgian Bluffs has vowed to restore the structure, which has so far staved off its demolition.

Council originally set Oct. 29 as the deadline for the stabilization work. The deadline has been extended several times.

Chief building official Bill Klingenberg said the work is not complete, but design drawings have been submitted.

Harrison said Heritage Georgian Bluffs has taken many steps toward saving the structure.

"We have done a huge amount of work," he said. "We have accomplished what we said we would accomplish."

The group temporarily patched a large hole in the building's roof, paid for an engineer's report for the rehabilitation work and is working to secure funding, he said.

The stabilization work, Harrison said, is on hold while Heritage Georgian Bluffs awaits funding and works out a legal agreement with the township.

It is impossible to secure insurance for a building the group does not own, Harrison said, and there are also hurdles in getting a building permit.

Click here for Link

16. Owen Sound Sun Times - Story in stone
Laurie McBride

Student examines work of St. George's architect

photo, Owen Sound Times, on site is a video of exterior and interior

York University student Laurie McBride is focusing on St. George's Anglican Church as part of her research about architect Marshall Aylesworth for her masters in art history. Several other buildings in Grey County were designed by Aylesworth. Her research on St. George's will help with the steeple reconstruction project.

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Editor's Note:For additional photos and history go to:

17. The Londoner: Saving an Old South landmark - Renovations done in 2010 on the former normal school
Sean Meyer

For more than 100 years Wortley Village in London's Old South has been dominated by the building sitting at its centre.

Known to some as the London Normal School, a former teacher training facility, and having served as the headquarters of the London and District Catholic School Board as recently as four years ago, the building now sits empty  undergoing the renovations designed to save it for decades to come.

It's the focal point of this community, says Bob Porter, president of the Old South Community Organization. It's the largest structure in this part of town. And as a normal school it is one of four left in the province. All that is reason why it should be preserved.

Preservation has been very much on the minds of Mr. Porter and his organization since 2005 when the Catholic board decamped for new headquarters farther south. Rumours swirled the building would be demolished or sold to private developers and turned into condos, or worse, just left to slowly fall down.

Its a 100-year-old building (it was actually built between 1889 and 1890) on this lovely piece of land, Mr. Porter says. We just want to make sure this building is up to code, is safe and healthy and that a tenant can be found that would respect its value in this community and in this city.

And that is happening, albeit slowly.

The Ontario Realty Corporation (ORC), the province's real estate arm, took over the building in January, 2006 and launched a two-phase restoration process. Phase one saw the repair, cleaning and restoring of the masonry, windows and doors of the building's two main wings. Phase two, currently underway, involves repair and restoration of the central tower's masonry and windows, roof and attic floor.

Julia Sakas, a corporate communications official with the ORC, says the renovation work is scheduled for completion in 2010, which would clear the way for a search to begin for a new tenant.

It has been considered one of our major projects, Ms. Sakas says. The inside is still in good shape, but we had to work to get it in a good state of repair. It may need some interior renovations depending on the eventual use of the space, but once the work is done we can begin moving forward.

Once it is ready, we'll circulate to potential clients within the ministry and see if there is a use within the Ontario government. Then we'd open up to the federal government and municipality. We are still discussing options within the province at this point.

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18. The Update on the Centre Block in Kitchener
Terry Pender, forwarded by Brian Dietrich

Region's economic woes slow Centre Block start

Forsyth Block Demolition

Andrin Homes says it is still committed to redeveloping a key parcel of land next to City Hall.

But construction won't start until next year at the earliest -- a full decade after the city bought up the downtown land and almost two years after Andrin was selected to develop it.

Andrin plans a $95-million redevelopment that includes 385 condos in four new buildings, as well as underground parking and a parkette.

The launch of a marketing campaign has been pushed back to this fall, and no construction will begin until 80 per cent of the condominiums have been sold.

While the current recession batters housing starts and sales, the market for new condominiums will return, said Peter Smith, president of Brampton-based Andrin Homes. "We are still committed to it 100 per cent," Smith said in an interview.

Late next month, city councillors will be asked to approve an agreement of purchase and sale for the land on Centre Block, on the western half of the block bounded by King, Young, Duke and Ontario streets.

The agreement won't include firm deadlines for the start of construction. A separate document, called a development agreement, which details how and when the work is to proceed, will not be ready for approval next month.

"We have had to split the agreement of purchase and sale and the development agreement because the development agreement requires information we don't have," Anne Marchildron of Andrin Homes said in an interview.

Planning for the Centre Block project has not reached the stage where a development agreement can be signed.

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Editor's Note:Readers may remember this was the site of the former Forsyth shirt factory which was demolished by Kitchener Council a few years back.

19. Winnipeg Free Press: Heritage label a surprise
Chris Cariou

IT was, almost literally, like running into a 125-year-old brick wall. Sport Manitoba didn't know, when it initiated discussions to buy the office building and attached warehouse of the Smart Bag Co. Building from Prosperity Knitwear, that the property was one of the city's heritage buildings.

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20. Winnipeg Free Press: Perspective: All together, nowSport Manitoba has a grand plan for its new HQ
Chris Cariou

145 Pacific Avenue, Winnipeg, photo from CTV website

ORANGE lines and arrows, archi­tects' directions, are spray-paint­ed on the old, grey floor, stark among support columns and brick walls in the vacant building in Winnipeg's Exchange District. It's the future home of the Sport for Life Centre, a planned one-stop shop for training, fitness, coaching, wellness, exercise, recreation and Manitoba's sports history and administration that's expected to draw 1,200 people a day. "There are examples across the country of high performance centres," Sport Manitoba's CEO, Jeff Hnatiuk, told the Free Press. "There aren't any examples, though, of the combination of the full administration of sport with an activity space, not that I'm aware of. That's unique. And we've got the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. "So we're dealing with heritage and recognition, we're dealing with development and activity, we're dealing with coaching and education, and we're dealing with administration -- all in one spot."

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21. Halifax Chronicle-Herald: McNabs fort to get facelift - DND to restore first floor of former officers barracks

The military plans to preserve a portion of historic fortifications at McNabs Island that came under the gun last year.

Several politicians and a former soldier who once served at the site complained last February after The Chronicle Herald revealed Defence Construction Canada's plan to demolish part of Fort Hugonin, on the northwest edge of the island in the mouth of Halifax Harbour.

A recent tender shows the federal government still intends to remove hazardous materials, including asbestos, lead or PCBs contaminating the property, but it also wants to preserve parts of the officers' barracks, a building that dates back to 1899.

"Our understanding is that they are going to remove the dilapidated second storey of the building, which has been leaking since the early 1990s, so it's in quite bad shape," said Cathy McCarthy, president of the Friends of McNabs Island Society.

"Then they're going to restore the main floor."

The building's second storey was added in the 1950s to house a navy listening post that monitored ship traffic. While losing that relatively new section doesn't bother society members, they weren't happy with last year's plans to tear down the whole building.

"We heard through The Herald that the site was going to be completely demolished, and we were a little upset about that and we contacted the Department of National Defence," Ms. McCarthy said Friday.

The work is expected to cost about $230,000. CFB Halifax spokesman Mike Bonin confirmed Friday that historic portions of the barracks will be preserved.

"After the Friends of McNabs Island raised their concerns we did go back and have a second look at the project, and this is now a result of the historical study," Mr. Bonin said.

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22. Montreal Gazette: City will revamp Place d'Armes, downtown squares - Dorchester Square, Place du Canada get facelift as part of $20-million plan

The city has earmarked $20 million for the redesign of Place d'Armes in Old Montreal and the restoration of Dorchester Square and Place du Canada this year. Cardinal Hardy/Teknika-HBA - the urban landscape architects responsible for the recent reconfiguration of Norman Bethune Square near Concordia University and the design of Place d'Youville in Old Montreal - have begun work on plans to revamp the two public spaces.

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23. Associated Press:Obama names urban affairs director

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Thursday named a New York City politician to a new White House post coordinating urban affairs.

Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion's appointment as White House director of urban affairs "will bring long overdue attention to the urban areas where 80 percent of the American people live and work," Obama said in announcing the selection.

"Vibrant cities spawn innovation, economic growth and cultural enrichment. The urban affairs office will focus on wise investments and development in our urban areas that will create employment and housing opportunities and make our country more competitive, prosperous and strong," the president said.

Carrion will report to Obama and coordinate all federal urban programs.

In his two terms as Bronx Borough president, the 47-year-old Carrion oversaw creation of 40,000 new units of housing, 50 new schools, $7 billion in capital and infrastructure expenditures and more than $400 million in new parks and parkland renovation, the White House said.

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24. New York Times: Fighting On to Preserve Morningside Heights

In its early days Morningside Heights was sometimes referred to as the Acropolis of the New World because of its soaring cathedral, acclaimed institutions of higher learning and Renaissance Revival brownstones bordered by grand parks by the likes of Olmsted and Vaux.

Neighborhood residents and public officials have been pressing for more than a decade to have the neighborhood designated a historic district. Their formal request for evaluation, submitted in 1996 to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, championed the area - home to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Columbia University and Barnard College, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Manhattan School of Music- as a sustained, exuberant, cogent expression of the American Renaissance.

In January designation efforts were given a potential boost: New York State's Historic Preservation Office deemed three residential buildings on West 115th Street to be historically significant, although their owner, Columbia, plans to demolish them.

The state office also determined that Morningside Heights overall met the criteria for listing on the state and national registers of historic places.

But the city landmarks agency has yet to be convinced that the area  roughly bounded by West 108th Street to the south, West 125th Street to the north, Riverside Park to the west and Morningside Park to the east  is worthy of protection.

The commission's criteria are different from those of the state and national registers, said Kate Daly, executive director of the commission. For example, she said, Robert B. Tierney, the commission's chairman, has made it a priority to balance the needs of designating districts in Manhattan with districts in the other four boroughs.

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25. Planetizen: Top Ten Websites

Worth a look, there are some interesting places to bookmark here.



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26. Treehugger: Building Storeys: Making Historic Buildings Hip
Lloyd Alter

Shadow Collective photo
Shadow Collective photo

Zaha and Rem don't do building restoration; it is green and creates a lot of jobs, but it's not cool and doesn't get you on the cover of the right magazines. Even at a conference like Greenbuild the subject doesn't draw flies. We can rail on that the greenest brick is the one that's already in the wall but let's face it, Howard Roark didn't do renos.

That is why the Building Storeys exhibition is such a breakthrough.

hoy photo
Tammy Hoy, The Shadow Collective

It the offspring of the May-December affair between the oh so proper Heritage Toronto, "a charitable organization that works with the citizens of Toronto to advocate for, preserve and promote a greater appreciation for our city's rich heritage," and The Shadow Collective, "a collaboration of photographers, based in Toronto and Buffalo, NY, with the aim of bringing together images of a similar theme. Each photographer brings to the table a passion for exploration and a love of photography."

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27. Treehugger: Trend Watch: New Skins on Old Icons
Lloyd Alter

Blair Kamin calls the Sears Tower " a symbol of Chicago's urban might, not only because of its dark, masculine color but also because its exterior boldly expresses the structural system of "bundled tubes" that support it."

It's not for nothing that Skidmore, Owings and Merrill were nicknamed the "three blind mies"- it has a bit of that Miesian elegance. And now, to save energy, the owners are considering painting it silver.

famous bundled tube structural system . "innovative in its potential for versatile formulation of architectural space. Efficient towers no longer had to be box-like; the tube-units could take on various shapes and could be bundled together in different sorts of groupings" WP

Kamin concludes:

How would Sears look in its new skin? My answer: Ridiculous, at least based on the Sun-Times illustration.... A mirror-glass skin would make this giant look as flimsy as a Dallas office tower. There have to be better ways to make Sears go green.

This is an issue we are going to face more of. What is worth saving? Can energy saving measures trump everything else?

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28. Treehugger:Spend your Weatherization Money Wisely
Lloyd Alter

Now that the stimulus bill has passed and the word about tax credits and weatherizing incentives is out, you can bet that the tin men selling "insulating" siding and new "energy efficient" vinyl windows will be out in force to sell you stuff that "pays for itself in three years" and that "the government will pay most of the cost anyways". Except these are two of the least cost-effective measures that you can take, and can significantly decrease the value of a house if they destroy its character and charm.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation put out a neat little interactive gizmo last year that suggests what you should be (and shouldn't bother) doing.

And when the window guy comes to call (he will), say no. The National Trust says:

There is an epidemic spreading across the country. In the name of energy efficiency and environmental responsibility, replacement window manufacturers are convincing people to replace their historic wood windows. The result is the rapid erosion of a building's character, the waste of a historic resource, and a potential net loss in energy conservation. Typically replacement windows are vinyl, aluminum, or a composite with wood, and none will last as long as the original window. Repairing, rather than replacing, wood windows is most likely to be the "greener option" and a more sustainable building practice.

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