Lister Block

LIUNA Actions Invite Speculation on Lister Plans

By Mary Louise Pigott
Published June 11, 2008

In a brief item in the Spectator today, LIUNA vice-president Joe Mancinelli is quoted saying that the scaffolding surrounding the Lister Building is not a sign that the building is coming down, and that there are no plans to remove any parts of the facade.

He dismisses community concerns by suggesting "Crying wolf is really not helpful."

Scaffolding surrounds the Lister Building (RTH file photo)
Scaffolding surrounds the Lister Building (RTH file photo)

However, according to the Building Department inspector I spoke to yesterday, many of the calls the department has received regarding the Lister are expressing concern due to the history of the demolition company doing the work, suggesting that LIUNA has brought much of the speculation on themselves by their association with Copper Cliff.

The Building Department also states that no historical elements are being removed at this time, and the Heritage Planning Department is also monitoring the situation.

Mary Louise Pigott is an armchair urbanist and founding member of the Useful Knowledge Society, whose passion for urban neighbourhoods and public spaces occasionally moves her to write.

You can follow her on twitter at @mlhpigott.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2008 at 19:54:54

Shame on you Mary Louise. You can't even admit when you are wrong. You are not just a busy body but also a gossip it seems. LIUNA has done more for the down town than you or your RTH friends or the downtown heritage do nothings.

Shame shame for spreading lies then blaming the victim for 'inviting' the lie!

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By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2008 at 22:55:04

No lies here, I walked by yesterday and the sign clearly says "DEMOLITION COMPANY"
Get out of your car and walk around a bit, why don't ya?

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By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2008 at 00:52:00

In my previous blog entry, I provided a link to the Lister forum discussion so that readers could judge for themselves the validity of observers' claims. For the benefit of readers who didn't click on the link however, I certainly regret that I wasn't more circumspect in my opening statement.

If I haven't fully retracted my remarks, it's because this story isn't over yet. It's interesting that Mancinelli uses the story of the boy who cried wolf to make his point about public scrutiny. The boy may have sacrificed his credibility with false alarms, but in the end he was right, the wolf did come. If I have sacrificed my credibility in order to bring a little more attention to the Lister story, I can live with that.

LIUNA has engaged in demolition by neglect of the Lister for a number of years now. They disregarded the Ministry of Culture's request to preserve the lintels from the Balfour Building, and they have hired a demolition company that is known for it's disregard of the law. With a track record like this, you can hardly blame people for jumping to conclusions.

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2008 at 04:10:49

no need to explain yourself to someone who's obviously just a troll.

btw, what liuna's currently doing for downtown is single-handedly relieving it of its heritage. thanks for nothing, joe.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2008 at 08:18:10

Anyone who hoists you on your own petard is a troll. I see the way this game is played. Mary Louise just admitted to 'jumping to conclusions'. That is a good enough self-indictment for me.

And I know the downtown well, including who has done things there that are positive and who is just a chatterer. And RTH is filled with 'chatterers'.

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By Comfrey (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2008 at 13:02:50

Nice try Sage. But you fail at trolling.

You can't just sweep all the incommodious facts under the rug. Buildings that Liuna own are falling down because Liuna hasn't taken care of them for YEARS and the city's afraid to stand up to them. Anyone who wanted to could make money off renovating the Lister into condos with stores onthe ground floor, without needing a government bail-out.

You can't blame heritage activists for not doing more, they're not allowed to do more since Liuna refuses to sell the building until after they've already gottn a public check (that's your money and mine) as a reward for neglecting it all these years.

Those heritage activists you hate are buying other buildings on James north and renovating them, even though they're not an international union of skilled construction workers (gasp).

So the Balfour building starts collapsing, and Liuna rushes to knock it down on a Saturday without having a city engineer on hand or saving any of its heritage features, even after promising they would save them. Then they say, Oh by the way we need to knock down the building next to Reardons as well. Then they throw scaffolding up around the Lister building, with signs hanging for a demolition company that's already in trouble for knocking down another heritage building.

Um, what do you expect from people after that ridonkulous track record?? I guess we should just shut up and trust Liuna and not ask questions of "cry wolf" and be grateful for all the WONDERFUL things they're doing for us. :P

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2008 at 17:35:08

Comfrey, Mary Louise said in response to my criticism:

"If I have sacrificed my credibility in order to bring a little more attention to the Lister story, I can live with that."

She hasn't learned to play your game yet, to wit: Decide who the villain is, demonize him/her/it and never look back. Mary Louise is too honest in admitting that her criticism wasn't checked out and therefore she 'jumped to conclusions' or in other words 'lied' whether intentional or not.

And that is all I am saying, DON'T LIE. Is that too much to ask. I know you hate LIUNA. You have made that patently clear. And maybe in your own twisted mind you feel right in hating them, forgetting that they have done great work on their own Hughson Street office and the train Station; and are convinced that the Balfour which as the Spectator guy said no one even knew existed before it came down mostly on its own, by the way.
So, fine. Hate LIUNA if you must. But do not lie as M.L. did by claiming they were ready to demolish the building. They are clearly not; and then to have the temerity of blaming LIUNA for your lies is just beyond the pale.

So, again. Hate them if you must; just do not lie about them. You only diminish yourself.

As for me; I don't hate heritage folks. I actually like those who are constructive. It's the chatterers I dislike. You are probably one of them.

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By councilwatch (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2008 at 17:53:28

When I see a sign saying BAKERY I expect that somewhere in the building I can buy bread and when I see a building encasedby by scaffolding on which a sign saying DEMOLITION COMPANY is posted I want to get a hard hat or stay clear. SAGE may be a PR Director for LIUNA, no doubt recently hired and serving a probationary period, and not doing a very good job.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2008 at 21:37:14

Council watch, there is a bakery near Parkdale on Queenston that advertizes italian ice cream and expresso. Last week during the heat wave i stopped to have some Italian Ice. They told me they used to sell it, but no longer do. I could have pursued 'false advertizing' charges against them; I didn't. I walked away disappointed but wiser. Sometimes things are not as they seem. True a demolition company demolishes, but I guess they do other things as well. All Mary Louise had to do was inform herself before posting the post. She has admitted to jumping the gun, and losing some credibility. She is a better person for admitting this. I now don't think she intentionally spread the untruth, but allowed her bias to betray common courtesy.

Comon, admit that on this one, you are wrong. Is it so hard to admit that? Everyone errs. Just say it, "on this one, we were wrong". You will feel better and be better if you take this step.

It won't diminish your next criticism of LIUNA or your love for the Lister, by the way. It will make you more believable. An informed critic is always a better critic. Information is often lacking in your conclusions.

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By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2008 at 22:29:06

Good article Mary Louise.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2008 at 08:30:49

Adam1 is a 'chatterer'!

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By Comfrey (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2008 at 08:55:32

--------
Mary Louise is too honest in admitting that her criticism wasn't checked out and therefore she 'jumped to conclusions' or in other words 'lied' whether intentional or not.
--------

Wow Sage, how can you think over the screams of the poor words you're torturing to make your point?

Lying means saying something deliberately that you know is not true. Mary Louise wrote very clearly in her piece that it was based on "eyewitness reports" and had a link back to the forum where the issue is being discussed. That way, anyone can follow the link back to see whether and how it was resolved.

She also posted another blog entry correcting the information and admitting that the information was wrong.

I don't know where you come from, but where I come from that's the OPPOSITE of lying. So shame on YOU for playing around with the meanings of words to forward your obvious agenda of demonizing anyone who DARES to criticize the status quo of negligent property owners letting heritage buildings fall down through neglect.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 13, 2008 at 08:56:31

Sage, you're FOS! so you're even! Your unstaunching love for LIUNA makes me wonder if you're one of the hacks responsible for heritage buildings going to waste because of neglect. If you attended the meeting about the Connaught with Harry Stinson, he talked about the attitude of building owners downtown, specifically LIUNA. He approached them to purchase the Lister but they flat out refused and I believe the words he used were "It'll be worth something someday." When you make statements like "LIUNA has done more for the down town than you or your RTH friends or the downtown heritage do nothings" you ruin your credibility because the obvious fact is that LIUNA has sat on properties downtown and refused to sell to interested buyers all the while allowing their state of neglect to increase till they suffer a fate like the Balfour Building!
Mary Louise might've been overstating things when the post was orginally made however, if you'd taken the time to take the link over to the actual discussion (which by the way, is included in her post) you'd have read where the conclusions were coming from.
Throwing names around is childish. Supporting a "body" for doing good things downtown when they've obviously done nothing demonstrates idiocy. Assuming you're right and everyone else is wrong is egotistical... Need I keep going?

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2008 at 09:06:08

Frank and Comfrey,

Firstly I don't love LIUNA, work for Liuna or am a PR professional.
I just hate misrepresentations. Enough said about M.L. She has admitted her error and I applaud that.
You other chatterers are grudgingly and finally admitting her 'overstatments'. That is a good first step.

I had to push hard to get you to even reach this point, but there is hope for you.

As for Stinson, good luck to him I say. As for Liuna and the Lister, well, we'll see what Council does to salvage the deal.

As for the Hughson property and the Station, they will always be the buildings that blunt your criticism of LIUNA as a slum landlord.

As I said, I am not a PR director for anyone. I just know untruths when I read them. But if you think LIUNA will pay for these expose' of your previous exaggerations feel free to send them a bill payable to RTH. Then hire yourselves a truth detector to complement your spam detector.
My contributions to accuracy in reporting.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 13, 2008 at 09:23:22

You sure choose a one sided approach. Applauding LIUNA for doing nothing... The station? That's got LIUNA's name all over it! I used to work upstairs on the second storey there. It's falling apart from the inside out. Might look good...but look closer. What you portray as fact is merely your own opinion.
Your blatant and ill conceived attack on a post that had a link for you yourself to read the "eyewitness reports" that it was based on and which you quite obviously didn't makes me feel that you might be misrepresenting yourself.
Council shouldn't have to make LIUNA do anything! If LIUNA was as good as you seem to want them to be, they'd invest in the buildings... Smart business planning isn't sitting on a title for an iconic property like the Lister and do nothing with the attitude that it will be worth something someday. That building means a lot to the city of Hamilton, and the state it's in demonstrates LIUNA's lack of concern for the image our city has. Lister is right smack in the middle of downtown and although the repairs would be costly, I suspect that once they're completed the property would be worth much more than the costs incurred... Now I wonder what LIUNA really has planned?!?! Once again, your ego stinks and your blind support for an organization that sat on TWO iconic properties (Connaught & Lister) and cries because they can't destroy them and part of Hamilton's image along with them is quite disturbing.

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By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2008 at 12:52:27

Thanks for the excellent definition of lying, Comfrey. You can accuse me of alot of things, but lying isn't one of them.

No one can state unequivocally what is or is not going on at the Lister at the moment. Work on the facade had stopped last time I saw, and we have only the word of LIUNA and the building department that no heritage elements are being removed from the arcade. LIUNA has shown that they cannot be trusted, and while I have complete faith in the integrity of city inspectors, they'll be the first to admit that their investigative and enforcement powers are limited. As I mentioned, the Heritage Planning Department is monitoring the work, but I am still trying to find out what this means, how much access they have, how frequent their site visits, etc. I gathered from the inspector I spoke to that they share the same distrust of DePasquale.

The worst fears of alarmists like myself may yet be realized. If the singular heritage of the Lister is to be preserved, it won't be through blind faith in LIUNA and DePasquale, but rather through the kind of passionate public scrutiny that makes Mancinelli so uncomfortable. Council, staff, and most especially LIUNA, need to know that we are still watching.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 14, 2008 at 01:02:21

Mary Louise, watching- and spreading speculative untruths- are two different things. One is perhaps laudable the other is detestable. People who do that lose credibility as you yourself said.

As for Frank, how overblown you are by your self-righteousness. I have never been to the second floor of the Station, but I have been to the first floor on many occasions. It is impeccable. The marble, the paintings, the curtains, the bar area..all something we can all be proud of as a city. I have never been to the Hughson property either, but I'd love to visit. The outside is impeccably restored.
I can't imagine that Liuna would allow the second floor of anything to rot 'from the inside out' as you claim. Where is your evidence of this?

As for the Lister and Connaught. It is public knowledge that Liuna owns the Lister. Did they really own the Connaught? Where is your evidence of this? Or is it another exaggeration? And if they did, which I don't believe to be the case, when did they ever claim they wanted to "destroy" the Connaught as you claim? Again, where is the evidence. My understanding is that when the Connaught was purchased it was immediately gutted of all its asbestos and the outside kept in its original state with the intention being to restore it. Surely someone wanting to 'destroy it' as you stated wouldn't have wasted the money to do the work they did.

Your penchant for blaming Liuna is a joke. I guess they own St. Mark's on the corner of Bay and Main. That building is falling down too. I guess they owned the Tivoli which fell down by itself. Blame Liuna for that! I guess they own the estate on West 5th that is rotting to the core. Blame them for that too. And how about the whole block across from the Tivoli? A great eyesore. Liuna must be neglecting those buildings too. And how about the old Federal building, why not blame Liuna for that building's state also.

You chatterers are so full of yourselves that your impotence needs villains to blame for all the ills of the world. And when they (the villains) don't exist, you make them up. How sad!

I hope it makes you feel better. It sure does nothing to make the city better.

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By councilwatch (anonymous) | Posted June 14, 2008 at 02:29:01

SAGE: As long as the sign remains I will stand my ground. Wish you better luck in finding Italian ice-cream.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 14, 2008 at 12:46:21

Ok Councilwatch. Up to you. but you have now been informed.

I will be watching Councilwatch and other comments on this site.

30

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By h magazine (registered) | Posted June 15, 2008 at 14:03:31

The Ontario Heritage Trust has now disclosed to the public its findings and recommendations regarding the Lister Block, pursuant to the Order of Senior Adjudicator John Higgins of the Information and Privacy Commission.

The full report is attached. Please read the two-page letter of the Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander to the Minister of Culture, which includes:

(a) the Trust’s conclusion that that the Lister Block is a provincially significant building that meets the definition of “property of cultural heritage value or interest of provincial significance” for the purposes of the Ontario Heritage Act (indeed, the Trust found that the Lister Block meets this definition on two bases);

(b) the Trust’s further conclusion that the Lister Block should be submitted for nomination to the Canadian Register of Historic Places; and

(c) the Trust’s recommendation that the Minister of Culture take active steps to protect the Lister Block.

Linc’s message is clear: the Province of Ontario must take action. He describes this as “a significant opportunity for the province to show leadership in the preservation of Ontario’s heritage.” I am hereby showing my support for Linc’s position by calling upon Minister of Culture Aileen Carroll to immediately designate the Lister Block under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Please pass this message along to others who have an interest in the built heritage of Ontario.

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By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2008 at 15:39:37

Thanks for that hmag. Where can we go to read the full report?

Interesting that you bring up villains, Sage. According to Oxford, a villain is "a person who is guilty or capable of a crime or wickedness; a wrongdoer". Tony DePasquale is facing charges related to his illegal demolition of the Dynes, and has been cited for numerous violations of the environmental protection act. I'd say the shoe fits. It's precisely because there *is* a villain involved with the Lister that people are so distrustful. If LIUNA had chosen a different company to work with, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2008 at 17:47:17

Mary Louise, I signed off with a 30 which in journalistic code meant that I had finished commenting.
You raise a much more disturbing issue however, and that is one that was disgraced during the McCarthy "Un-American" hearings some generations ago in the States. You will recall that McCarthy hauled people in front of his committee and tried to prove their 'un-Americanism' based on whom they knew or whom they had associated with in the past. The "Red-Scare" phenomenon gripped the whole of the United States until some brave journalists like Edward R. Murrow (see Good Night and Good Luck for an accurate precis of the time; or read "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller for an allegory likening McCarthyism to the Salem witch trials). The upshot was that McCarthy was disgraced as was his credo of 'guilt by association'. Liuna hired DePasquale. Liuna has publicly stated it would not demolish the building; Liuna is waiting on a multi million dollar deal with the Province and the city to restore the building. Why would Liuna order its demolition? Common sense tells you this can't be so.
The only flimsy accusation you have is one based on 'guilt by association'.
Mary Louise, you have just made matters worse for yourself. You should have stopped at the admission of having jumped the gun.

As for the Lister report by the Trust. I too would be happy to read the reasons for the building's provincial significance. Then I'll comment.

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By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2008 at 18:51:09

I have never suggested that LIUNA is planning to demolish the building. There is legitimate concern however, that some of the Lister's heritage elements might be removed or damaged . Given that they hired a metal salvage and wrecking company with a dodgy background to do the work, these fears are reasonable, even if they haven't been born out. Hopefully they never will, especially now that the report is out.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 15, 2008 at 20:05:14

hmmm, lets see. LIUNA has clearly stated their desire to demolish these buildings and continues to change the financial numbers when a deal is reached to save it. Now a demo company has a sign on the front of the building. Someone please remind me of all this 'great work' LIUNA has done for downtown...oh yea, the beautiful lot next to Thai Memory and a couple of suburban-style seniors apartments. Thanks a lot.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 08:46:45

Sage, I have also had the opportunity to visit the downstairs ballroom and massive halls as well on many occasions and it looks great. However, if someone knew what they were looking at (not just something beautiful) they'd be able to see some major problems. You see, I do...it's my job!
When a company buys something as iconic as the Lister block and then does absolutely nothing with it for however long they've owned it...then moves in a DEMO company with a shady history (complete with a sign displayed prominently on the corner of the building) to start "restoration" invites speculation as to what they're actually doing.
Projects that 'look good' are directed at people like you who look at things superficially. LIUNA's track record as Jason shows and their continual changing of the price for the Lister (which by the way is anything but contractual) DEMANDS speculation. If LIUNA can, they will try to get away with anything...as would any shrewd shortsighted company who is interested primarily in the bottom line, not necessarily what's good for a community...

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 11:19:05

Frank, ok you are an expert at bulding inspections and I am not. But if you are going to make accusations that what we see isn't exactly what is (which is by the way my whole criticism of Mary Louise's speculation), then you Frank have an obligation to give us some evidence. If I am looking at the building superficially (what else can I be doing but looking at what I see?) then help me out. Where do I go to? What do I look for? Is the second floor even accessible to the public? In short, it is easy to accuse, but without some intelligent proof (not speculation or fear-mongering) you can't be believed!

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 13:40:38

I'm trying to track down some of these reports, but here is one summary from 2 years ago:

http://www.raisethehammer.org/index.asp?...

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By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 17:33:52

Looks like the majority has spoken. Since we live in a democracy, the minority should step down and accept what the majority wants. I'm happy to be a chatterer if I have the company of the other chatterers on this site. I think they are great people and care about the city they live in.

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By Vic (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 15:53:41

I don't think the minority is supposed to just step down, adam1. They may need to accept things the way they are, but voices change, and so do political climates. The minorities are important too, and they must never be squelched.

Mind you, I am not against having Sage end the saga here. Just . . . your wording left a bad taste in my mouth, adam1.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 24, 2008 at 12:51:52

Sage, when I worked there (over 2 years ago) there was major water damage to several areas, roof problems (repairs incorrectly made) elevator issues (rarely worked) etc. Yes the upstairs is accessible to the public. It's actually office areas tho so you might have a difficult time unles you're booking an event or can find a reason to go into the engineering company which is where i worked. Other thing you can try is using the bathroom up there... Entry point is the door on the right side of the building. You may have a hard time finding what to look for though so take your time or bring a friend who knows building systems very well. Sorry for the belated post...forgot I hadn't finished off here.

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By councilwatch (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2008 at 13:52:40

...and the band plays on!

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