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  #161  
Old Posted Feb 16, 2014, 6:13 PM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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Originally Posted by counterfactual View Post

The best balance, or the best conception, is a debate I'm willing to have. But you must admit, DryBrain, that the Heritage Committees' rejection of EVERY heritage aspect of this proposal was ludicrous. As I pointed out upthread they even rejected the ENTIRE preservation and restoration of the Merrill Lynch building, because the cantilever "made it looks small".
Oh yeah, I agree. The wholesale rejection went too far.

But I don't think heritage has won all that often over the past 20 years. Instead we've seen a cavalier approach to heritage AND a lack of development--partly due to the Heritage Trust's meddling, but also partly due to poor economic conditions. Blaming downtown's struggles on heritage preservation doesn't really wash--the way you're describing downtown Halifax describes, to a tee, what Yonge Street or Vancouver's Granville looked like until recently (and in Yonge's case, at least, still does in some places).

Plus, there have been plenty of decision that fall on the development side of the heritage-development divide. I mean, there was that whole half-block of Barrington behind the Dennis was permitted to be entirely torn down in the late 80s/early 90s. Waterside involved the tear-down of the bulk of a block, TD expansion involved a tear-down and one facadism, Roy is about to be knocked down entirely, the BMO block and the Mills block are potentially threatened on SGR, etc, etc...

Plus all the losses to fires, etc.

So I don't think heritage has been much of a winner. Halifax has lost so much of its older building stock that I think we have to tread VERY carefully about losing more. Downtown specifically, I can't think of a single 19th century or early 20th century commercial building that wouldn't feel like a loss, at this point. Again, other cities are managing these things better: I've posted this before, but this and this are just fantastic examples of developers going out of their way to really incoroporate heritage in imaginative ways. Large setbacks to minimize facadism, and in the latter case, basically moving a building to the other side of a block in order to make way for a condo tower.

I don't really but the argument that the finances don't work for Halifax developers. The Roy and Commerce Square projects are quite large, and the Roy is very consciously turning into a luxury building. There's a bit too much willingness to let developers slide on the extra expense it'll take to really create out-of-the-park developments. We shouldn't just be grateful developers are finally investing in downtown and let them do whatever they want as a result--demanding greatness is the only way we'll end up with a great city. I think Halifax is getting better, but there are still too many people who equate being pro-development with an "out with the old stuff that's holding us back" mentality, and that's really unfortunate.
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  #162  
Old Posted Feb 16, 2014, 6:42 PM
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So I don't think heritage has been much of a winner. Halifax has lost so much of its older building stock that I think we have to tread VERY carefully about losing more. Downtown specifically, I can't think of a single 19th century or early 20th century commercial building that wouldn't feel like a loss, at this point. Again, other cities are managing these things better: I've posted this before, but this and this are just fantastic examples of developers going out of their way to really incoroporate heritage in imaginative ways. Large setbacks to minimize facadism, and in the latter case, basically moving a building to the other side of a block in order to make way for a condo tower.

I don't really but the argument that the finances don't work for Halifax developers. The Roy and Commerce Square projects are quite large, and the Roy is very consciously turning into a luxury building. There's a bit too much willingness to let developers slide on the extra expense it'll take to really create out-of-the-park developments. We shouldn't just be grateful developers are finally investing in downtown and let them do whatever they want as a result--demanding greatness is the only way we'll end up with a great city. I think Halifax is getting better, but there are still too many people who equate being pro-development with an "out with the old stuff that's holding us back" mentality, and that's really unfortunate.
When I looked at the links that you provided, I didn't see any difference between the Toronto examples and Halifax rebuilds, just the buildings are different. The Toronto developer is still gutting the buildings and even rebuilding some facades with new materials (i.e. fake heritage).

The following excerpt is from one of the links that you provided:

(source: http://urbantoronto.ca/database/projects/five-st-joseph )
"With the understanding that design excellence is an integral component of the revitalization of this area, FIVE’s iconic design includes the restoration of nearly half a block of historically significant buildings on Yonge between Wellesley and St. Joseph. The historical preservation involves the restoration of the Yonge Street frontage, which will include new windows, roofs, storefronts and the cleaning of the original façades. The retention of the four-storey 1905 Gothic revival façade of 5 St. Joseph will be the largest façade retention ever undertaken in Toronto. The fronts of 25 and 17 St. Nicholas (six storeys) and 15 St. Nicholas (three storeys) will be documented and new façades will be built to match the architectural spirit of the originals."

In my opinion, Waterside was just as good or better (they didn't rebuild the facades, they kept the original). I think in reality, the links that you provided show how writers can put a positive spin on a project (it sounded almost like promotional material).

The Espace and Morse building redevelopments were actual restorations. The Toronto projects that you referred to are facadism and one developer even appears to have changed one historic facade to get it to fit to the developers floor slabs.

I can't accept this argument. This is more of a "Toronto is better" argument.
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  #163  
Old Posted Feb 16, 2014, 7:26 PM
counterfactual counterfactual is offline
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Originally Posted by Drybrain View Post
Oh yeah, I agree. The wholesale rejection went too far.

But I don't think heritage has won all that often over the past 20 years. Instead we've seen a cavalier approach to heritage AND a lack of development--partly due to the Heritage Trust's meddling, but also partly due to poor economic conditions. Blaming downtown's struggles on heritage preservation doesn't really wash--the way you're describing downtown Halifax describes, to a tee, what Yonge Street or Vancouver's Granville looked like until recently (and in Yonge's case, at least, still does in some places).

Plus, there have been plenty of decision that fall on the development side of the heritage-development divide. I mean, there was that whole half-block of Barrington behind the Dennis was permitted to be entirely torn down in the late 80s/early 90s. Waterside involved the tear-down of the bulk of a block, TD expansion involved a tear-down and one facadism, Roy is about to be knocked down entirely, the BMO block and the Mills block are potentially threatened on SGR, etc, etc...

Plus all the losses to fires, etc.

So I don't think heritage has been much of a winner. Halifax has lost so much of its older building stock that I think we have to tread VERY carefully about losing more. Downtown specifically, I can't think of a single 19th century or early 20th century commercial building that wouldn't feel like a loss, at this point. Again, other cities are managing these things better: I've posted this before, but this and this are just fantastic examples of developers going out of their way to really incoroporate heritage in imaginative ways. Large setbacks to minimize facadism, and in the latter case, basically moving a building to the other side of a block in order to make way for a condo tower.

I don't really but the argument that the finances don't work for Halifax developers. The Roy and Commerce Square projects are quite large, and the Roy is very consciously turning into a luxury building. There's a bit too much willingness to let developers slide on the extra expense it'll take to really create out-of-the-park developments. We shouldn't just be grateful developers are finally investing in downtown and let them do whatever they want as a result--demanding greatness is the only way we'll end up with a great city. I think Halifax is getting better, but there are still too many people who equate being pro-development with an "out with the old stuff that's holding us back" mentality, and that's really unfortunate.
Side point: I think denouncing the NIMBY attitude of Halifax and, well, Nova Scotians more generally, these days not only "progressive" but, really, a civic duty. Changing our attitudes about new people, ideas, and ways of doing things, is now an existential issue for the province, in light of the Ivany Report.

Back to Heritage / Development: I actually love the St. Joseph development you've linked to-- the wide sidewalks/streetscapes; the attention to scale and yes, the setbacks are nice, to allow for these smaller shops.

But as fenwick points out above, I'm not sure it's so different from some of the things we have been doing in Halifax. And, to be honest, I would bet that developers would be happy to do something like that in Halifax, but they simply cannot. Why not?

Here's the problem: Something like the St. Joseph is simply not economically viable in Halifax, in the space for 22 Commerce Square. Why? It would require asking Thiel to sacrifice an entire tower because with our height limits, 22nd Commerce Square is expected to be two towers, approx 22-24 storeys. So, 44-48 floors of office, hotel, or condo. Take away one of those towers and you're down to 22 floors.

The St. Joseph developers have the luxury to do more with those heritage spaces, as the tower itself is proposed to be 48 storeys (!!!). In fact, go back to links you posted and you'll notice that with many of the great developments are coupled with HUGE skyscrapers. If you let them build up, they'd be happy to, and can afford, to be more accommodating of heritage. I mean, why wouldn't they? If you can get everyone onside, I'm sure they'd often do it, to promote the project and ensure quicker approval.

Height limits are a problem. Which, of course, takes us back to the people who have fought tooth and nail against anything over 5 storeys. Heritage Fronters and STVs. The same people who oppose these heritage efforts are the same people who hate height.

Sigh.

Lesson: Increase the height limits in the city, and we will see much more innovation and work on heritage preservation / incorporation.

Last edited by counterfactual; Feb 16, 2014 at 7:39 PM.
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  #164  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2014, 1:28 AM
ScovaNotian ScovaNotian is offline
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I'd be curious what it'd look like if the cantilevered section started four floors lower than it does. One wouldn't see the overhang at all.
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  #165  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2014, 4:10 AM
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For Halifax heritage I mostly find the debate is polarized in a way that's not useful, although it seems to be getting better. The "heritage or development?" story created by the media and played into by groups like the Heritage Trust is hard to reconcile with the fact that development is needed to provide the money for heritage restoration projects and demand for space in heritage buildings. The city needs more development and better heritage preservation together and they are not mutually incompatible at all.

This development is yet another example where a constructive dialog could make a big difference. It really just needs tweaks. If they dropped the idea of removing floors from the Champlain Building and improved how the building relates to a couple of the other facades it would be a great development. Arguably it would even be a net positive for heritage preservation. The could get even better if the city allowed stuff like extra floors in exchange for reconstruction of some of the demolished facades.

I'm not so sure that Toronto is better at this. Vancouver's also not great; in fact, one of the criticisms of this city is that real estate development has overwhelmed the character of many neighbourhood. Canada as a whole seems to have a poor appreciation for its heritage (architecture but also the fundamental connection to past events) and the public realm (recognizing that some places need more than the bare minimum of planning and investment because they have a higher than normal level of social importance).
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  #166  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2014, 3:44 PM
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In my opinion, Waterside was just as good or better (they didn't rebuild the facades, they kept the original). I think in reality, the links that you provided show how writers can put a positive spin on a project (it sounded almost like promotional material).

The Espace and Morse building redevelopments were actual restorations. The Toronto projects that you referred to are facadism and one developer even appears to have changed one historic facade to get it to fit to the developers floor slabs.

I can't accept this argument. This is more of a "Toronto is better" argument.
The FIVE project is an actual restoration, but the buildings have been so run-down that a lot of the details, etc., are going to have to be brand-new. And the interiors will be preserved as well, unlike Waterside or Commerce Square.

I don't think Toronto is a better city, anyway (in almost every way, I prefer Halifax). But there is a more sophisticated approach to development and heritage among some of that city's developers. I don't buy the arguments about such projects not making financial sense in Halifax, either. I've seen similar projects in Toronto that are much smaller, and even in cities like Winnipeg and Edmonton, etc. It's a vision thing.

(Lastly, I've argued before that Halifax is not especially more NIMBY-ish than other places. I'm finally moving away from Toronto and making it to Hali--and just yesterday, while talking to my landlord, he informed me of this project, which has already inspired the local NIMBY troops to marshal their resources. Including my landlord. (He'll be joining the fight against it because he's afraid it will lower rental desirability, for some reason.)

I think the idea that Halifax is super-NIMBYish comes from the simplistic heritage vs. development story played up in the local media. It's basically the same as anywhere else, with the exception of the Heritage Trust--who seem, thankfully, to be waning in influence.
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  #167  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2014, 4:53 PM
counterfactual counterfactual is offline
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I think the idea that Halifax is super-NIMBYish comes from the simplistic heritage vs. development story played up in the local media. It's basically the same as anywhere else, with the exception of the Heritage Trust--who seem, thankfully, to be waning in influence.
I'm not sure that Halifax *isn't* any more NIMBY than other places; but I would say that if it is, it's not by magnitudes moreso. But this is a dead end debate, I'm not sure either of us will be able to prove or disprove the proposition.

That said, I think we *can* say that Halifax NIMBYs have, in recent decades, wielded a disproportionate share of power in HRM's the development approval process, compared to places like Toronto or Vancouver.

Toronto has three streams: Complex, Routine, and Quick. Complex proposals (dictated by density and required by-law amendments) require a much longer approval process, with community input; but there is an opportunity for technical planners to respond to that input. Also, if council votes against a proposal, it can be appealed to the OMB, which arguably is pretty pro-development. Also, it's tough for Council to defend it's decision, if City planners recommend approving a proposal:

http://elevature.blogspot.ca/2012/06...ust-doing.html
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012...or_cities.html


I fall into the "OMB doing it's job" camp. NIMBYs in Toronto hate the OMB with a passion, but that's because it doesn't really care about NIMBY complaints, and takes expert evidence and the expert opinion of planners more seriously.

Today, HRMxD makes our approval process much more modern and in some ways, superior to Toronto's. DRC's input, which is filled with experts and urban planners, has been a great improvement over the old DA process, where backroom lobbying usually led a weak, hapless, Mayor and Councillors to oppose everything.

That said, I think having three streams for HRMxD makes sense, and is something Danny Chedrawe has been talking about (re DHX building add-on). We should have quick / routine streams that allow for even quicker approval.

http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2012/10/...opment-process
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  #168  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2014, 5:09 PM
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That said, I think having three streams for HRMxD makes sense, and is something Danny Chedrawe has been talking about (re DHX building add-on). We should have quick / routine streams that allow for even quicker approval.

http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2012/10/...opment-process
I don't really like Chedrawe's aesthetics as a developer (I find most of his projects pretty ugly, though the DHX addition looks pretty sharp), but I do like his apparent dedication to effective, well-scaled intensification. And yeah, I agree that for these modestly scaled projects, there should be a quicker and simpler route to approval.
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  #169  
Old Posted Feb 17, 2014, 5:35 PM
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The FIVE project is an actual restoration, but the buildings have been so run-down that a lot of the details, etc., are going to have to be brand-new. And the interiors will be preserved as well, unlike Waterside or Commerce Square.
It appears as though about 50% of the block is being preserved and restored. Referring to the construction pictures below, it appears as though the storefronts and small buildings along Yonge Street are being preserved. For Toronto that is good since in the past the whole block probably would have been demolished.

As others have pointed out, Halifax developers can't exceed the Citadel Ramparts and therefore don't have the luxury of building 48 storeys high. If 22nd Commerce Square could go higher, then the proposal would likely look much different. But I like the 22nd Commerce Square proposal as it is.

Here are some images (below) of the Five Condos construction. (source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/FIVE-...34797429868803 )






Last edited by fenwick16; Feb 17, 2014 at 6:42 PM.
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  #170  
Old Posted Feb 18, 2014, 12:59 AM
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As others have pointed out, Halifax developers can't exceed the Citadel Ramparts and therefore don't have the luxury of building 48 storeys high. If 22nd Commerce Square could go higher, then the proposal would likely look much different.
But again, I think we're too quick to cut developers slack by saying, "oh, well, little old Halifax can't afford it, and they're already hard done by since they can't build as high."

There are super-ambitious restoration projects all over the country that don't involve big towers to finance the restoration elements, from Toronto to Edmonton to even Hamilton (a way more economically challenged town than Halifax).

Those of us in the pro-development community still have to hold developers to the very highest standards, not just be grateful they're here at all. And that (hopefully) will result in really great projects thatmake the no-change/NIMBY crowd look as foolish as they should.
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  #171  
Old Posted Feb 18, 2014, 1:35 AM
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That said, I think we *can* say that Halifax NIMBYs have, in recent decades, wielded a disproportionate share of power in HRM's the development approval process, compared to places like Toronto or Vancouver.
Almost there They've wielded disproportionate noise. Despite the drama of the old system, council basically approved everything that came before it. It's pretty much still that way outside of the Downtown. Most projects end up approved. The project that gets a no tends to be an exception. About all I can think of where the heritage lobby wielded influence was the Midtown (council's approval was appealed and was overturned at the URB) and Waterside Centre (defeated at council, but brought back to life at the URB). The lack of development over the last two decades Downtown really has had nothing to do with political opposition and everything to do with market conditions. If it were the later, than we wouldn't have so many vacant lots with outstanding approvals waiting to go. After the office market crash in the early 90s, it took 2 decades for Downtown vacancy and rental rates to edge back up to a place where they could drive new construction. Might have happened sooner if HRM wasn't actively making suburban development so much more attractive with lower taxes, subsidized infrastructure and quick approval processes. At the end of the day, the development versus heritage narrative has really been a political and media show and its a show that has been really detrimental. It has created a polarized environment where heritage and development are treated as mutual-exclusive options.
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  #172  
Old Posted Feb 18, 2014, 3:21 AM
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This project isn't even officially approved yet and retail tenants are starting to move out into new digs. Maybe they know something about the construction start date that Theil hasn't announced publicly?
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  #173  
Old Posted Feb 18, 2014, 11:06 PM
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This project isn't even officially approved yet and retail tenants are starting to move out into new digs. Maybe they know something about the construction start date that Theil hasn't announced publicly?
Like many other cities, you don't need planning permission to begin preliminary site work. So they may be kicking out tenants in hopes of a speedy approval and move to construction.

If I had been them (not knowing the construction side at all); I'd likely hold off in case of an appeal. The heritage crowd seems quite 'angered' by this project, all three of them.
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  #174  
Old Posted Mar 2, 2014, 8:38 PM
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Here are a couple of revised renderings:


HRM report: http://www.halifax.ca/boardscom/drc/...eportfeb12.pdf

Here's a "before and after" shot with a shot from 1910-1920 or so:


https://www.facebook.com/VintageHalifax
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  #175  
Old Posted Mar 3, 2014, 5:55 PM
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Still not thrilled over some of the heritage elements (mainly the demolition of the Prenor Trust interior, and the decapitation of the Champlain Building), but this is MUCH improved.
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  #176  
Old Posted Mar 4, 2014, 5:05 AM
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Still not thrilled over some of the heritage elements (mainly the demolition of the Prenor Trust interior, and the decapitation of the Champlain Building), but this is MUCH improved.
I think it's a good development as-is. With a couple of modifications to the street level interaction and the conservation of the heritage buildings it could be really great.

Another important point is that the Royal Bank building takes up a big chunk of this block and it has a giant blank wall. It's also smaller; I think it would be cool to have 90 meter buildings in this location. George Street could be quite impressive with a couple more relatively minor changes, like proper landscaping for the north end of the Province House grounds.

Another project that seems to have been forgotten about is the City Hall staircase. The downtown area needs projects like that to make it easier and more comfortable for pedestrians to get around and to give people nicer public spaces to spend time in. Maybe the $50M downtown fund will allow these things to finally move forward.
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  #177  
Old Posted Mar 4, 2014, 6:23 AM
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I think it's a good development as-is. With a couple of modifications to the street level interaction and the conservation of the heritage buildings it could be really great.

Another important point is that the Royal Bank building takes up a big chunk of this block and it has a giant blank wall. It's also smaller; I think it would be cool to have 90 meter buildings in this location. George Street could be quite impressive with a couple more relatively minor changes, like proper landscaping for the north end of the Province House grounds.

Another project that seems to have been forgotten about is the City Hall staircase. The downtown area needs projects like that to make it easier and more comfortable for pedestrians to get around and to give people nicer public spaces to spend time in. Maybe the $50M downtown fund will allow these things to finally move forward.

Agreed, but I'm skeptical about the fund. Wasn't it contingent upon matching provincial and federal funds? As in, despite tens of hundreds of millions of dollars either subsidized or directly invested by the clownish HRM Council in business and retail parks over the years, or tens of million dollars more for overpasses and road network expansions elsewhere, Council couldn't bring itself to commit 50M over 5 years, without a catch.

That HRM commitment should have been done, full stop, without any contingencies. Especially in this time of provincial austerity.
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  #178  
Old Posted Mar 4, 2014, 9:28 AM
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I like your proposal. Does it include any levels for green roofs? Is Halifax entering into the world of "gardenized" architecture? I ask because the render shows tree branches protruding midway aside the proposed tower...which may or may not be a podium. I find this proposal a little confusing, to be honest. Many great buildings are a bit confusing though. I like this.
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  #179  
Old Posted Mar 4, 2014, 3:31 PM
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...George Street could be quite impressive with a couple more relatively minor changes, like proper landscaping for the north end of the Province House grounds.

...
Right? For all the hew and cry about pedestrian experience versus tall buildings, that embarrassing parking lot choking a lonely statue, on the grounds of our legislature has much more impact on someone walking around this area.
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  #180  
Old Posted Mar 4, 2014, 3:32 PM
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...the render shows tree branches protruding midway aside the proposed tower.......
I think that's likely a tree from the foreground that was mostly photoshopped out to show the building more clearly.
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