Comment 84739

By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted January 05, 2013 at 16:41:47

Why are 'old buildings' in Hamilton recurring victims of Institutionalized Vandalism? - 201

Sean's interview with Blanchard sheds more light on the truth of the matter than what our local press or even the Globe and Mail article of today have managed, on how desperately ill-conceived Blanchard's development venture at 18-28 King Street East has been so far.

This is indeed the state of free press and journalistic standards in Hamilton.

So, why are 'old buildings' in Hamilton recurring victims of Institutionalized Vandalism?

Perplexing as this question is, besides the continuing self-destructive tendencies of our planners - as highlighted in 101, we naturally look at ulterior motives of developers to understand this local malaise.

It goes without saying that 'maximizing profits' is at the very heart of all business ventures of speculative developers. Hence, by nature, such developers are pursuing goals that are in direct conflict with the tenets of good city building practices. This is the way it is in most cities.

However, is it too much to expect that our local media/press --not act-- as a mouth-piece of such developers?

If true journalism was at the heart of Hamilton's media enterprises, then with very little due-diligence on their part as reporters/writers, all claims to the "mortal sickness" of Hamilton's old buildings could be very easily exposed to be utter lies.

As I was flipping thru the latest issue of Hamilton Magazine which carried Sean's interview - it dawned on me that the answer to Hamilton's Institutionalized Vandalism of old buildings may possibly lie in how our local media (i.e. editors, journalists, writers, broadcasters, bloggers), most often, use 'old buildings' as a prop to build narratives in support of their ideology, grievances or false notions of progress.

In times we are living in, it is no surprise that all news is essentially public relation campaigns, however, it becomes apparent very quickly that in almost all cases, where a public lie about growth, progress or social causes needs to be propped up in Hamilton, 'old buildings' invariably are used as props in the ensuing public relations campaigns to grab mind share:

1) Coleman's article on "Charlton Hall" in above magazine unfortunately starts off, with a blatant lie:

"Some Corktown resident's have called the girls 'undesirables'...."

The only recourse left for the writer now is to follow up with more mis-information:

"The condition of Charlton Hall continued to deteriorate..."

Both these statements have been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be utterly false and mischievous. Yet this writer elects to use them.

In this case of Charlton House, eight mentally challenged girls have been used most shamelessly by many writers, broadcasters and podcasters in this city over the last year, to prop up their case for moving them out of a --structurally stable home with great architectural character on a lush green tree-lined street--, to an overtly institutionalized former factory building, near a rail-track.

In order for the first lie to stand - a building had to be declared mortally sick. Without claiming that this building is continuing to deteriorate, there is no case to move the girls out of a very stable neighbourhood which is seeing the construction of high-end condos only a stone throw away.

2) In the case of Sanford School's demolition, similar lies were perpetrated by the local press and even editorialized to legitimize the first lie--their claim of deterioration.

Never mind that the local community was never consulted about the future use of this surplus building, or the need for more green space which at first was in the form of an adult size soccer field for an Elementary school.

Here the media narrative went to great extremes to justify demolition--with the building going from being in perfect use only a year ago, to suddenly deteriorating so rapidly, that it was now imperative that it had to be demolished.

'Hazmat suits' were even thrown into the storyline to add the required drama, never mind that caretakers were seen entering and leaving the building without even a paper mask.

Instead of fact-checking, the press went to town spreading utter mis-information about this old building, in the most disingenuous manner known in journalism -- by conflating the cause of poor, underprivileged kids and their desperate need for green space, with the official story line of the building being mortally sick.

3) In the case of Blanchard's buildings at Gore Park, once again, the press has come out swinging in favor of 'progress and development', when they do not have a shred of evidence in support of new design, investment or sales.

Yet, endorsing it wholeheartedly, they quickly framed the issue as a fight between 'economic progress and heritage activism'.

Never mind that most of those who stand up for our heritage buildings do not see themselves as "activists" in the traditional sense of its meaning. But are simply expressing their indignation at the the gall of a developer wishing to tear down a part of their city without a solid plan.

Even the Globe & Mail dives in with an ill-researched article which quotes verbatim what a speculative developer is so prone to saying:

“They were filled with pigeon droppings and all kinds of lovely things that made it almost a brownfield above the ground floor,” he says. “It’s just come to a point where the buildings are in such poor condition that they need to either be removed, or some huge amount of money spent if someone wants to hold up the facades.”

"Such claims are commonplace among demolition-eager developers, but they carry some weight coming from Mr. Blanchard. His firm has preserved several buildings around downtown, including the Pigott, an art deco skyscraper now converted into condominiums, and a historic bank that houses a law firm."

Without even a visit to the site, let alone some on-line research to discover first-hand facts about this buildings, the reporter here, essentially makes the case for the need of "huge amount of money" that would be needed to save the facades.

He further goes on the promote the developer with what amounts to blatant mis-information. The Pigott Building, an art deco skyscraper was not restored by David Blanchard as he states:

The company that was responsible for the restoration of the Pigott Building is a company from Toronto:

"In the late 1980's Everest landed several significant projects: the restoration of the Pigott Building in Hamilton is one example."

This was the same restoration company which lost out on the bid for the now FilmWorks Loft building. A local news report from 2010 has even mentioned this fact. Blanchard may have been responsible for upgrades required for the condo conversion of the Piggot Building and its property management or sales--but surely not for the original restoration?

The local press/media is drenched in quid pro quo.

Realtors are a big source of steady advertising revenue for the press. A free press ride for Realtors who are coming of age as developers, is part of the standard media promotion package which keep the wheels of commerce turning.

Here is CBC laying the foundation for the developer--predictably, for the proverbial tug at the municipal feedbag:

"They've saved a lot of history."

"He would want help – from the city, the province, somebody – with the extra costs of saving those facades. It would be millions, he says, "and I don’t think there’s an appetite for that today."

Et tu, CBC?

If this is not enough, we now even have a one time mayor and now consultant and part-time local news hack, diving right into this muck of fallacious arguments, by making asinine public comments such as:

"Downtown activists will continue to perpetuate a ghetto-like mentality for our core. It is everybody's core, not just the few whose fears outweigh their dreams."

In order for such depravity to stand, the narrative of the building's grave ill-health is essential for selling the story of demolition, as is the mis-characterization of those who are against such public lies.

Such garbage can only be penned by those who deeply fear that they will be left behind by the force of real progress that downtown Hamilton has been witnessing for the last decade. Progress, which is built on the foundation of real truths and not lies.

As history has proven time and again in Hamilton, we are good at demolishing, however we fail miserably at re-building.

It would bode well for Hamilton's collective conscience to begin asking our local media and many of its gold star journalists/writers and media pundits/talking-heads some honest and pointed questions.

The only way our built-heritage has a better chance at surviving is when our local media stops using such false narratives of "dilapidated buildings" to prop up their bad arguments.

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2013-01-05 17:48:51

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