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  #121  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 2:49 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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Originally Posted by counterfactual View Post
Mark, my comments were not at all directed at you. I know, and trust, your concerns are sincere. That when you speak of heritage, you really do mean that. If it was you quoted in the Herald story I read on this, I wouldn't include you in my generalization.

My comments were directed toward others opposing the development, which I don't think are sincerely about heritage. I don't think the "Schmidtville Conservation Proposal" is at all about heritage. It's about conservation, but mostly property values.

I get your concerns about the Victorian houses that may be lost in this development. But I guess my thought on this, is there are a very limited number of areas in the city where the overall planning objective is higher levels of density, with taller buildings *and* where viewplanes are not also hindering things.

This is one of the areas, where there are already huge towers nearby. If there is anywhere in the city for another tower, it's a location like this, even if a few heritage-valued homes were lost. I think they were actually lost in 2009, when HRMxD was put in place.

On the other hand, I think the value of the BMO at the Doyle block is much greater, and could be such a great feature of a bigger development that preserves/incorporates...

But to be clear, just because I'm critical of the NIMBY property owners quoted in newspapers, don't take that as suggesting *you* should "move along" and leave concerns to "experts". You concerns are reasonable, but I think that this is just an area where we should have this kind of development.
Hey CF,

No, I didn't feel your comments were directed at me. In fact, your posts are always well thought out and presented, and always respectful. I, personally, really appreciate that. In retrospect, I should not have responded directly to your post, and I apologize for that.

Recently, I have disobeyed one of my cardinal rules, and that's not to take anything I read on an internet forum too seriously. Time to dial back on that.

Regarding your points, I guess in a fit of naivete, I felt that the Schmidtville people were being genuine, and didn't consider that they might have motives other than to preserve those Victorians, which are disappearing bit by bit in our city. Although I'm not personally involved, I didn't feel that the group deserved the condescension they were receiving in some of the posts, as though they didn't have a right to express their concerns. Regardless, I'm still looking at it from the outside in, so perhaps I should not get involved in something that's not my fight.

Also, I don't disagree that this type of development should happen here, I just wish that there were some more thought towards treating 100+ year old buildings with more respect. Ideally, as mentioned, if there were some incentives for the developer to move them, or even be really creative and build around them or somehow find a way to incorporate them into the structure (though I recognize the level of difficulty in doing this) - I would applaud that. Alas, I know that none of these options will occur, but I personally think that at least, discussions like this need to happen.

And, I don't live in a vacuum. The BMO building issue is affecting my opinions on this case, along with other issues like the 'application to demolish' signs on those Barrington heritage buildings (discussed in another thread in which I also expressed frustration). There are other cases as well, too numerous to mention here.

The lack of effectiveness by the seemingly misdirected HT combined with apparent lack of concern by our municipal politicians and local developers, wears away at anybody who values heritage structures. I realize that they can't all be saved, and that doesn't bother me - it's the attitude that hasn't changed in 50 years that bothers me, especially when I travel to other places that have ventured to save interesting old structures, or have combined them with new construction to create interesting, viable structures that are respectful to history. This is not some dark art, it's actually happening elsewhere, and is often commented upon by several posters here.

While I generally post from the heart, I don't work in the planning or building fields, and really just have an interest in our city in general. There are many here who bring a lot more expertise to the table and I defer to their knowledge and experience. While I have a vision on how I'd like to see things go, I am only one person who comes here purely out of interest and really probably shouldn't be adding my 2¢ or responding to some chronically-negative posters as much as I do - I can step back and see how this only dilutes the conversation or even worse, knocks it off track.

So to be clear, I don't oppose this development. I'm not crazy about the architecture, but I don't feel it shouldn't happen. I would like to see something positive done about the Victorian structures, but I don't expect to see it.

...and I'm not PO'ed at anybody, just genuinely frustrated about certain aspects of our city's developments.

CF, thanks for taking the time to consider my writings, and responding to my thoughts. I appreciate the discussion.
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  #122  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 3:34 PM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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Originally Posted by OldDartmouthMark View Post

Regarding your points, I guess in a fit of naivete, I felt that the Schmidtville people were being genuine, and didn't consider that they might have motives other than to preserve those Victorians, which are disappearing bit by bit in our city.
This is a key point, and I too was a bit dismissive of the Schmidtville people, simply because I feel like their fixation is building height--which doesn't bother me--even as much larger heritage issues are going un-addressed. But it's true that the proposal in question will involve tearing down four perfectly good Victorians.

It looks, to casual observers, as if we have loads and loads and loads of these old wood-framed structures, but really, we don't. All it takes is one development to wipe out a half block of them, and the ones that really comprise the visible Victorian character of the South End are on stretches of just a few blocks on streets like South, Inglis, Queen, etc. Many are owned in large parcels by companies that rent them out, putting them at greater danger than a stretch of owner-occupied buildings (which tend to be pretty safe from demolition). When I moved here 18 months ago, I would've assumed that these high-visibility Victorian streetscapes would be safe from demolition--developers wouldn't dare propose large-scale demolition of these blocks, city council wouldn't permit it, and citizens wouldn't stand for it. That assumption was based on the norms of every other city I've lived in.

Having seen what's happening with the Doyle Block and the heritage buildings on Barrington, I don't think that at all. Nothing is safe, except maybe federally registered properties, because this place is outrageously retrograde on these issues, to a degree I find totally unfathomable.

There are still so many parking lots, three-storey 1960s apartment boxes, and this kind of cheap garbage, and yet we're still knocking down the best-quality architecture in the city.

We have a chance with this development boom to urbanize the city further, and create great new architecture side-by-side with the great architecture of the past. To some degree, that's happening, but there's way too much haphazard development and demolition happening as well. We're really running the risk of ruining a civic character two centuries in the making, in large part because we seem to be in thrall to a juvenile, "let's be open for business" notion that our development community are benevolent city builders, and we should leave them alone to do their business without interference--as if this is how great cities are built.
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  #123  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 4:37 PM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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My impression is that there are a few different perspectives supporting varying degrees of preservation for Schmidtville (for the purpose of this post, being the blocks between Clyde and Morris, and excluding Brenton) for varying reasons:

- Local homeowners who just dislike tall buildings generally or who will lose a view/sunlight etc.
- Local homeowners who are are concerned that development will bring their property values down

(I think these two groups are in the minority, but I could be wrong. The area is a mixed of rented and owner-occupied - it's not 3-4 blocks of exclusively "wealthy old-money homeowners" or whatever, although a few people in the neighbourhood might fit into that category.)

- Local tenants who are concerned that redevelopment will drive up rents
- Local businesses who are concerned that redevelopment will drive up commercial rents
- Area residents who like the integrity of the neighbourhood (ie. the lowrise Schmidtville blocks themselves). I agree that it's a very pleasant and unique neighbourhood, and that it's worth preserving
- Cultural Heritage types who see it as a regionally/nationally significant neighbourhood (it was one of the country's earliest "suburbs")

(A lot of my friends fall into the above categories, and I would say that I do as well)

There are probably also area residents who are getting tired of living in a perpetual construction zone. This part of town is never really "orderly" anymore.

One of the concerns that's been pointed out to me is that the new developments adjacent to these blocks set a new precedent for redevelopment/midrise/highrise in the area (I think most of us could agree on this). Thinking this through though, it's likely that the NSLC building will come up for redevelopment, especially because it doesn't have any real heritage value and because it will be one of the last remaining "tired/out-of-place" looking buildings left in the area. Replacing this building would be a good thing, IMO.

Unfortunately what this does is sets up a precedent where a significant chunk of one of the "remaining" Schmidtville blocks has been redeveloped, which makes redevelopment within Schmidtville as a whole more likely. (I often hear similar arguments in favour of this happening, here and in other neighbourhoods such as Agricola or Quinpool). The new developments will almost certainly raise property values in the area (despite what a few people always seem to think for some reason) which increases pressure to redevelop.

I'm not sure how much of these blocks consists of registered heritage, but I think it would be a good idea to preserve the remaining Schmidtville blocks as a heritage district. The NSLC could be excluded and redeveloped, but it should be clear that different rules apply to the rest of the buildings. The architecture and built form are worth preserving, and it does have good heritage value as an actual neighbourhood (it would be analogous to Cabbagetown or the Annex in Toronto, though obviously smaller) and much (most?) of the original neighbourhood has already been redeveloped. The Wright Ave (H) block on the opposite side of Morris would also be worth designating (or including in designated-Schmidtville), for similar reasons (it also has a more concrete history attached).

Although some find this tedious, it would probably actually be a good thing to create and name more heritage districts. Along with protecting the supply of older buildings, it gives Halifax a more identifiable character and makes the city/region easier to market and to navigate.


All of this said, I like this proposal and I would be ok with losing the Victorians if it was reasonable to expect that we wouldn't be losing any more of them in this neighourhood. I agree that we should be doing more to salvage/rescue old houses and move them to vacant lots or something (there are probably all kinds of creative solutions - house boats?). But at this point I think the best we can do is focus on preserving the "intact" Schmitville blocks and redevelop the surrounding area to its fullest potential. The new architectural paradigm for this area seems to be "wacky" so may as well embrace it.

Last edited by Hali87; Dec 3, 2015 at 4:50 PM.
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  #124  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 4:53 PM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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Originally Posted by Hali87 View Post
The architecture and built form are worth preserving, and it does have good heritage value as an actual neighbourhood (it would be analogous to Cabbagetown or the Annex in Toronto, though obviously smaller) and much (most?) of the original neighbourhood has already been redeveloped. The Wright Ave (H) block on the opposite side of Morris would also be worth preserving, for similar reasons (it also has a more concrete history attached).

Although some find this tedious, it would probably actually be a good thing to create and name more heritage districts. Along with protecting the supply of older buildings, it gives Halifax a more identifiable character and makes the city/region easier to market and to navigate.
Cabbagetown is an analogous neighbourhood. Well-maintained Victorian character diredctly adjacent to the parts of town with the greatest redevelopment pressure. It's also home to some people are are a bit TOO intense about heritage (last year, there was some controversy in Cabbagetown because someone put a basketball net outside, which was deemed insufficiently Victorian).

No one is ever going to propose tearing down anything in Cabbagetown, partly because Torontonians care that those areas continue to exist. And I wholly agree with that second paragraph quoted above. The fact that a Canadian capital city founded in 1749 has one (toothless, underfunded) heritage district is ridiculous.

As far as the proposal itself, I like it too, and I see it as something that will point the way towards better contemporary residential architecture on this scale. As far these kinds of developments driving up rents going up, that's probably inevitable around here. Building more condo units is probably part of the solution--restricting the housing supply to semi-attached houses is not going to make prices go down in a neighbourhood with this kind of demand.

I'm also okay with seeing some displacement of residents and businesses to places like the North End. Not to stray off topic, but that's actually another reason that preserving the older buildings along streets like Agricola is important (despite suggestions from some posters that the street should be largely redeveloped). Those old buildings are relatively cheap and function as ideal incubators for independent businesses and the kinds of uses being displaced from downtown and the South End. If Agricola is largely torn down and rebuilt, the neighbourhood will quickly cease to be amenable to that kind of organic turnover. I think Agricola's current evolution is turning out just fine.

Last edited by Drybrain; Dec 3, 2015 at 5:05 PM.
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  #125  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 6:32 PM
halifaxboyns halifaxboyns is offline
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Not a chance.
I thought you and ODM would get a kick out of that comment.
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  #126  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 6:37 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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I thought you and ODM would get a kick out of that comment.
More today than yesterday!
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  #127  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 6:43 PM
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Halifax should have many more heritage districts. Falkland-Maynard is another one, for example.

Maybe they should be called "character districts". I think the goal should be to preserve and amplify the city's unique character and quirkiness, not shrinkwrap large tracts of land. People should be encouraged to invest in and improve their properties in a way that compliments the rest of their neighbourhood (not just preserve old stuff, although that can be good too), and plain buildings or underused sites should be developed.

The Forbes Restoration type work is great and I wish more of that were facilitated by the city. There are many parts of the city that are just okay today but have great bones and could be spectacular with a modest amount of investment.

I agree that it's important to keep some cheap old buildings around too. I think the current restrictive building envelope rules are perversely encouraging the old buildings to be demolished long before that would otherwise be necessary because they happen to be tied to scarce higher density plots of land. Halifax needs new high density areas on the peninsula but out of downtown, explicitly allowed in a manner similar to HbD. With better planning rules I think many of the old buildings would naturally move downmarket and would serve as incubators for local startup companies, etc.
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  #128  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 6:46 PM
halifaxboyns halifaxboyns is offline
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I can't imagine a situation where someone would save a building they didn't have to. By the time a demolition permit is granted, I would expect the owner's paid enough in consulting and other fees that a major change in direction would be a huge deal. Out of curiousity, what has the experience been like in Calgary in this regard? I'd love to know if a list of "Buildings of Interest" results in much saving of buildings... If so, it might be a good use of tax dollars to create such a thing.
The Calgary (and some extent Alberta system) has 2 levels of protection and then one 'watch list'. So you have the Provincial Designation (much like NS); then a Municipal level of heritage designation (much like NS/HRM). Then there is what we call the 'historic resources list' - which is what I was suggesting.

So it's a list of sites, approved by council, that have zero Provincial or Municipal Heritage protection but have historic value based on criteria that Council has established through the Heritage Authority. Each site is flagged to staff so that when certain applications or proposals to change/redevelop these historic resource sites come in; they are circulated to the Heritage Planning staff for review.

Typically what will then happen is the heritage planners will become part of the conversation and work with the Development Planner and the applicant to find ways to retain and incorporate the building. It has had mixed success depending on the situation. One project I was involved in had an old building (known as the Ant Hill building) being proposed for demolition to be replaced with a new 8 storey mid-rise mixed use building). Heritage Planning was able to gain access to the site (with permission by the applicant) to do an assessment and determined the building had deteriorated to the point it had no heritage value left. It could not be restored - so they did not object to demolition because we had no methods to incentive them to incorporate it into the proposal (we couldn't provide tax credits for example).

But the heritage planners did ask that the historic sign of a business in the building (the Lido cafe) and some of the roof top cornice material be preserved and that a plaque with historic information on the lost building be put up on a prominent façade of the building. As it turned out the cornice material couldn't be saved (too bad of a shape) but the new building is under construction and the sign will be incorporated into the building and the building was actually named "The Lido". The historic plaque will be on one of the prominent corners. This is the website for the building.

In other cases; planners were able to get the buildings incorporated into the proposal and restored or the proposals actually sought to restore the buildings as part of the plan. It's been a mixed bag frankly and the general feeling is that we might have more success if we had means to provide some historic tax credits (which we don't).

My feeling is that the list is an interesting way to identify buildings of interest from a heritage perspective but I think the heritage folks out here are much more understanding that a building on the historic resources inventory has no standing or protection whatsoever. It's just a flag to us to review things with an eye to keeping the building; if possible. It guarantees nothing...

Personally; I think if that type of system was used in HRM; it may cut down on some of the arguing of whether a building has historic value or not (not all of the arguing). It may also open up a better dialogue about retention versus removal - but that conversation would be strengthened if HRM also had historic tax credits to reduce costs of restoring buildings (which HRM does have, Calgary doesn't).
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  #129  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 7:12 PM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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One project I was involved in had an old building (known as the Ant Hill building) being proposed for demolition to be replaced with a new 8 storey mid-rise mixed use building). Heritage Planning was able to gain access to the site (with permission by the applicant) to do an assessment and determined the building had deteriorated to the point it had no heritage value left. It could not be restored - so they did not object to demolition because we had no methods to incentive them to incorporate it into the proposal (we couldn't provide tax credits for example).

But the heritage planners did ask that the historic sign of a business in the building (the Lido cafe) and some of the roof top cornice material be preserved and that a plaque with historic information on the lost building be put up on a prominent façade of the building.
Oh no, the Lido! As an ex-Calgarian/Kensington resident, that makes me a bit nostalgic, though I'd probably never eat there again.

It's instructive to look at that building, though. We hear sometimes in Halifax that "oh, well, it's no Penn Station," or whatever, the implication being that we don't have anything THAT great, so why bother p[reserving anything?

That's all relative to what your local context is. Calgary is having discussions about buildings like this, and its old Cecil Hotel, which wouldn't merit a glance here. But in Calgary they represent a particular local architectural legacy and a connection to the past.

And as a (former) Calgarian, I really value that kind of plain, rough-hewn frontier architecture. It speaks of the place.
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  #130  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 10:16 PM
halifaxboyns halifaxboyns is offline
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That's all relative to what your local context is. Calgary is having discussions about buildings like this, and its old Cecil Hotel, which wouldn't merit a glance here. But in Calgary they represent a particular local architectural legacy and a connection to the past.

And as a (former) Calgarian, I really value that kind of plain, rough-hewn frontier architecture. It speaks of the place.
I never ate at the Lido - so I didn't have any connection to it. I guess that's why I was able to look at it objectively. Same with the Cecil - I have no connection to it; I lived near it. Seeing it go to me - is not a big deal despite the fact it might have heritage value. Considering the crime nature of the place - I'd rather see it go and start anew.

The one building I was worried we'd loose was the King Eddy and the St. Louis Hotels in the east village. The King Eddy was completely removed (brick by brick) and was restored on site next to the Cantos Music Centre and will become a part of it. The Louis will be restored (I've been watching it from my office) and now has solar panels on top. It will be a great space for the east village and is right next to the n3 building (which has no parking).

The one building I'm still miffed hasn't come back is the York Hotel that was taken down to make way for the Bow Tower. It was 70-80% saved (most of the brick exterior) but for whatever reason hasn't been rebuilt (despite it having been a condition of the development). It was meant to be (and remains) part of phase 2 of the development permit - but that could happen way in the future (there is no rule about when it has to happen).
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  #131  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 10:46 PM
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I never ate at the Lido - so I didn't have any connection to it. I guess that's why I was able to look at it objectively.
I'm not sure there's such a thing as looking at a building objectively. The point of urban planning is to build cities that support the best quality of life possible for residents. Different qualities are important to different people. Some people will even tell you, to take one example, that they'd rather make far less income if it means that they can live a more culturally fulfilling life. And people do this. This is no less valid a life goal than making tons of money, and from an environmental perspective it may even be preferable.
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  #132  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 10:54 PM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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The one building I'm still miffed hasn't come back is the York Hotel that was taken down to make way for the Bow Tower. It was 70-80% saved (most of the brick exterior) but for whatever reason hasn't been rebuilt (despite it having been a condition of the development). It was meant to be (and remains) part of phase 2 of the development permit - but that could happen way in the future (there is no rule about when it has to happen).
I remember when they started tearing that down. Exactly what I'm concerned will happen if the Dennis is dismantled. The rebuilding ends up getting delayed for years and years (or maybe just never happens).
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  #133  
Old Posted Dec 3, 2015, 11:12 PM
halifaxboyns halifaxboyns is offline
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I remember when they started tearing that down. Exactly what I'm concerned will happen if the Dennis is dismantled. The rebuilding ends up getting delayed for years and years (or maybe just never happens).
The difference in HRM's planning system (versus Calgary's) which may be an advantage in that case is that HRM would do it as a development agreement; which is a contract. So it has much more leverage I think to require any developer do things.

I could be wrong but I think it may give HRM a stronger leverage versus our system.
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  #134  
Old Posted Dec 4, 2015, 12:35 AM
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There are still so many parking lots, three-storey 1960s apartment boxes, and this kind of cheap garbage, and yet we're still knocking down the best-quality architecture in the city.

Hey, why are you hating on beige vinyl siding so much?

Seriously, though, Tobin St is a remarkably poor example. If you look at what's there, whatever Victorian architecture it may have once had is pretty much gone, and seems to have largely been gone since the 1960s or so judging from what's there now except for this lovely old place , which is the kind of structure we should be fighting to save.
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  #135  
Old Posted Dec 4, 2015, 7:51 AM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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No one is ever going to propose tearing down anything in Cabbagetown
Most of the original Cabbagetown actually became Regent Park (or one of the other nearby 60s/70s redevelopments), just as most of Schmidtville has been swallowed by the Spring Garden district.
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  #136  
Old Posted Dec 4, 2015, 11:12 AM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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Most of the original Cabbagetown actually became Regent Park (or one of the other nearby 60s/70s redevelopments), just as most of Schmidtville has been swallowed by the Spring Garden district.
Yeah, I just mean the area referred to as Cabbagetown today, north of Gerrard.
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  #137  
Old Posted Dec 4, 2015, 2:40 PM
OldDartmouthMark OldDartmouthMark is offline
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If you look at what's there, whatever Victorian architecture it may have once had is pretty much gone, and seems to have largely been gone since the 1960s or so judging from what's there now except for this lovely old place , which is the kind of structure we should be fighting to save.
Are you suggesting we save a wooden Victorian structure, Keith? Or did your account get hacked?

What's this building like inside? It sure looks nice from the exterior.
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  #138  
Old Posted Dec 4, 2015, 4:02 PM
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If you follow development in other cities, you'll see loads of examples of developers restoring and incorporating non-registered just because that's what the market responds to.

Doyle Block is probably different because it's already been conceived and planned with demolition in mind, but developers don't always--or these, even typically--need to be forces into conservation. It's just good business. Not so much here though.
I'm sure that other developers in other cities do incorporate non-registered buildings. I guess what I'd like to know is: do they do it because the city asks pretty please, or because they decide themselves that they can market what's already going on in the building or that keeping heritage features fits with their corporate image and values?
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  #139  
Old Posted Dec 4, 2015, 4:07 PM
eastcoastal eastcoastal is offline
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Hey CF,

... I felt that the Schmidtville people were being genuine, and didn't consider that they might have motives other than to preserve those Victorians, which are disappearing bit by bit in our city. ...
I think that contiguous Schmidtville is lovely. It's got a great sense of scale and overall cohesion that should be protected. I do think it's a stretch to move the scope of protection across Clyde street... if it WAS once part of Schmidtville it no longer feels as though it's at all related. Those Victorians are orphaned and odd feeling.
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  #140  
Old Posted Dec 4, 2015, 4:16 PM
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[QUOTE=Keith P.;7257250]Hey, why are you hating on beige vinyl siding so much?

They are all made of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same.
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