Lister Block

Live and Don't Learn

By Jason Leach
Published June 15, 2006

A dangerous precedent is about to be set by Hamilton City Council. Approving the needless demolition of another heritage building with no proof provided requiring the demolition could open the door to see a repeat of this process throughout the city.

Imagine if you're the owners of the Bank of Montreal building at Main and James, who just finished restoring that building beautifully, gold trim and all. Their costs ended up way over budget, but after all, it's a heritage building. Top notch restorations can be costly. Now they realize that they could have simply applied for a demolition permit, knocked the building down and built a new building for less than the restoration project they just completed.

Owners of other similar properties ­ Pigott building, Right House, LIUNA Station - now have a massive loophole at City Hall waiting to be exploited. Let's hope the province intervenes before Hamilton loses all of its heritage and becomes another drab place like Burlington or Mississuaga.

I guess if there's a sadly ironic bright side, it's that Gary Evans and Margaret Houghton don't have to worry about a shortage of work in our city anytime soon. Start up the presses: soon you'll only be able to enjoy Hamilton's history by forking out $15 bucks for the latest book.

The book will likely have two, three or four printings due to popularity. Then we can demolish some more buildings and publish more books. It's a shame.

In Boston or Montreal I can simply walk around with my camera and snap pictures for my own book. In Hamilton, history is wiped out for no good reason (I don't consider making a few people rich off my city a good reason) and we're all left with coffee tables full of 20 books piled up on them.

It's really quite unfathomable to think that here in 2006, after 30 years of decline and poor decision-making in our city, we're possibly about to make as big a blunder as has been made so far in my lifetime. The problems in Hamilton obviously run deeper than my naïve, 28 year old mind can comprehend.

We are the complete opposite of what we think we are ­ proud, ambitious, hard working, confident, unique. Yeah, right. There can't be another city on our continent with such a strong inferiority complex and lack of pride.

I have friends who travel and gaze in wonderment at the historically-renovated buildings in Seattle or Boston, yet once back in Hamilton, breathing Hamilton air, fully support things like this needless demolition.

I've never found the air here to be worse than anywhere else. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I just don't notice it. But something is up. Something is not right.

I urge everyone involved in this Lister decision to please step back, pull out your copy of Hamilton Back Then or The Prints of Time and flip through it before making this massive decision. Forget about GRIDS, forget about Red Hill, forget about Aerotropolis. This one decision involving a significant piece of local and national heritage is the biggest decision to come down the pipe in a few decades in Hamilton.

Much work has been done in recent years to bring appreciation of our historic core back into the forefront. James North is turning around wonderfully with historic facades and interiors being restored and brought back to life. Talk a stroll along James South and go west on Bold, take the loop around McNab Presbyterian and the Charles Heritage District. Head south back along McNab or Park, east on Duke and north on James South again.

This is the future of our downtown ­ or it could be. Wonderfully restored homes, apartments and commercial buildings. The Durand neighbourhood lost many prized mansions and heritage buildings in the 1960s and '70s but we learned from our mistakes and have begun slowly to bring the core back to life.

Demolishing Lister has the potential to undo all of that hard work and thrust us back into an era of needless demolition and destruction to our urban core. For the sake of our future, and our history ­ both of which are tightly woven together ­ please reject a flat-out demolition permit for the Lister building and work for a compromise that will see the building brought back to life, even with some new materials added in where necessary, but largely by means of renovation and restoration.

As a citizen and taxpayer, I would love to see my money spent in that way: a legacy for which we could all be proud.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By save.the.lister.gmail.com (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2006 at 11:55:39

It is extremely important that those concerned about the demolition of the Lister Block express their concerns to Minister Di Cocco, our provincial Minister of Culture:

The Honourable Caroline Di Cocco
Minister of Culture
Caroline di Cocco
Rm. 160, Legislative Building
Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A4
416-325-2837
Fax: 416-325-3194

Email: cdicocco.mpp@liberal.ola.org

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