We’ve been debating the merits and methods of saving St. John’s built heritage for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t such a pressing concern in the worst of times because it wasn’t worthwhile knocking the old stuff down.
Then came the slow semi-gentrification of the downtown and soon after that the fleeting oil boom. Greedy developers urgently needed desirable lots on which to erect flimsy McMansions, structures good for the life of
their mortgage, water tight long enough for the shysters that slapped them together to pull a Nolan and Hall and vamoose.
Now that the boom has gone bust why is there any rush to demolish? The current owner of Bryn Mawr wants it leveled to make way for a new housing development. It’s hard to know which is stupider, destroying a unique and historic structure that was built to standards inconceivable today or getting into the development racket and real estate market as it is about to bottom out. Those proposing the destruction of Bryn Mawr should be sent a
copy of the Provincial budget.
On the heels of Quinnipiac and the bad faith dealings of Richmond Cottage’s current captor the fate of the old Baird place has raised the volume of the concerns being voiced. There’s been a call for more studies, consultation, “engagement” and round tables, in other words steady and continuing avoidance of the core issue, how to make such properties affordable to retain.
If those few edifices left around this old seaport deemed “heritage structures” are of benefit to the larger public, if cultural heritage has a value, if they help brand St. John’s as an attraction, then the wider society has to contribute to their upkeep to a point it is worth more to maintain them than it is to knock them down. People in
Cowan Heights will be on the hook as much as those on Gower Street.
The only realistic tool the city has is to grant tax holidays or a system where the cost of the preservation of features can be deducted against property tax. Piling on regulations will discourage people from buying and maintaining the properties, dilly dallying while musing about options will encourage those on the fence to expedite demolition. Call the question.
Perhaps St. John’s doesn’t value its built heritage enough to provide one group of citizens, the owners of those properties, a break and it can finally be scrubbed from the agenda. But please, please, please decide the fundamental question once and for all. If St. John’s wishes to maintain it they have to pay for it, otherwise it is the business of the deed holder alone. No more meetings. No more half-arsed, mealy mouthed resolutions
before City Council, enough with the f*cking committees. Decide.
I’m as happy with an architecturally adventurous new building as another twee Victorian. But I’ve not seen much of the former and no one is coming here for the Boston Pizza.