Saturday, January 29, 2011

University Gone Wild

You would think after all the controversy regarding the demolition of the 41 properties along the south side of Colborne Street, the last thing anyone would suggest is demolition another building that may have heritage implications in the downtown core. Apparently we need to all think again. It appears one more property is on the block for a date with the wrecking ball. The property is 105 Wellington and the purpose of the demolition is to provide a parking space for Laurier Brantford. I want to thank Leis Marie Jansen for the link of the Report. The document makes for a compelling read, on one hand, you have the recommendation of proceeding with the demolition, and on the other, you have the Heritage Committee calling for its preservation. So you have two dynamic forces at work, the University and its wish to expand to develop the downtown campus and to further enhance the downtown core, and those in the heritage committee who want to preserve something of Heritage Brantford. I suppose if there is any good news to come out of this is the fact people are talking about preservation. Last year you might recall only a few "cranks" spoke out for the preservation and renovation of the South Side of Colborne. Interesting to note, I was talking to a person regarding this very issue, he suggested that any building can be preserved and restored. Knowing this individual's background I think he is in the know, pity no one talked to him.

If you read the document you will note, the building is not necessarily a heritage structure, but is part of a landscape of buildings from the same time period, as well it is part of the housing stock for the downtown. The concern of the Heritage Committee is:
The Heritage Committee, at its meeting, January 18, 2011, discussed the proposed demolition of the building at 105 Wellington Street.
Members of the Committee recognize the university’s need to expand, planning for future growth and the demand for additional parking. However, the Committee noted that the property at 105 Wellington Street is part of a group of buildings that form a small, cohesive streetscape of early 20th century architecture and the proposed demolition of this building would result in a vacant gap along this streetscape.
Members of the Committee stated that the property would provide a limited number of parking spaces. The Committee would encourage the university to utilize the building until such time as it is required for a larger redevelopment of the area.
The Heritage Committee made the following recommendation:
THAT although the Heritage Committee supports Wilfrid Laurier University’s plan for growth, the proposed demolition permit application for 105 Wellington Street BE NOT APPROVED as this building forms part of a cohesive architectural grouping of an early 1900’s streetscape.”

So you ruin the cohesiveness of the block and place an empty space where a house once stood. I suppose it will only be temporary since you tear down one house, what's to stop the demolition of the entire block? After all, more parking is needed, even though there is a lot approximately two blocks south which in the most recent survey is only 40% utilized. I know its a bit of a walk, but walking is good for us.

I don't want to get on the "the University is Bad" bandwagon, because the University is a good thing, but there should be some understanding and consideration. The first is, is there any under-used property in the area that could be used by the University, that may have the infrastructure in place for parking, or perhaps is close enough to existing parking spaces?

The area of the downtown is a Demolition Control Area, meaning that Council needs to approve any requests for demolition. From reading the local news, it seems there is some resistance to the idea of the University talking this property and turning it into a parking lot. This is a good thing, I mean its one thing to simply say, have the University and the Heritage Committee meet to establish the proper protocol for demolition of property in this zone, which means, well, what? How do you establish a protocol for a bulldozer knocking down a house? I know it means more then that, its just- can there be expansion without destruction. The University should be praised for the work of restoration and revitalization that has already taken place in the Downtown Core. However it needs to do make it does not lose its lustre and start tearing things down for its own needs.

Just as an aside, while the bylaw required all requests of demolition to go to Council, it appears Council doesn't have a problem approving demolition requests in the zone.

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