Heritage heretics

We absolutely agree with the confederacy of dunces on this issue.

HRM Council and the Heritage Society defeated a development by the Armour Group to build a nine-story building behind a facade of heritage buildings in downtown Halifax. Mayor Peter Dolittle Kelly and his Heritage Society have their heads in the clouds if they think that stopping this sort of development is going to preserve the heritage sector in Halifax.

It is a matter of cutting your nose off to spite your face. By being intransigent the municipality will lose not only the guts of the building but the facade as well. Hasn’t anyone heard about negotiation? Where there should be a win-win solution where developers work with government to come to a compromise which serves at least most of the aims of both sides, instead they push the developer into a corner where he says – to hell with you guys, tear the d___n thing down.

Too many of these buildings are crumbling and underutilized. The owners are not Mother Theresas of the Halifax heritage sector. Even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t be able to leverage money to restore old buildings if the business case isn’t there. And they don’t want to keep paying taxes on declining properties. It’s cheaper to tear them down.

That’s not a good way to protect heritage buildings.

No, it isn’t. It isn’t as if the Heritage side has a wealthy philanthropist standing behind them willing to buy these old buildings and restore them in a completely authentic way (as much as we could wish for such a thing).  No, it’s odd, but very few people who care actually put their money toward preserving heritage. They expect government to do it. The Arts and Culture “industry” (imaginatively called) it seems is not really a sector which expects to be self supporting. There is a saying which applies – “Beggers can’t be choosers” . Anyone who has been to Toronto can guess how much of their built heritage was lost until they started to incorporate this heritage into new (and stunning) designs such as BCE Place.

Or the old Toronto Stock Exchange building facade incorporated into the Toronto Dominion Centre.

Other projects such as this one have similar aims and developers are cooperating. Similar proposals may be Halifax’s best hope for preserving its built heritage. If it really does care that is. Wolfville better start thinking that way too. Let us encourage our businesses and homeowners to maintain and modernise our heritage buildings.


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