By Ryan McGreal
Published June 16, 2008
The Ontario Heritage Trust has publicly released the 2006 recommendation prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Culture on the heritage value of the Lister Block.
Kieran Dickson, a local heritage advocate, filed a freedom of information request with the Ontario government to release the report. After the request was denied on the grounds that the report constituted confidential advice to the government, Dickson appealed the decision, and an adjudicator ordered the government to release it.
As Dickson suspected after having read some related documents, the recommendation explicitly affirms that the Lister "is a provincially significant building that is associated with provincially significant patterns of Ontario's history and is an increasingly rare aspect of the province's heritage."
The report (available for download as a PDF) makes the following six resolutions, all forwarded to the Minister of Culture:
City councillors will vote on June 23 on a proposal to buy the building for $25 million after its owner, Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) renovates it.
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 11:11:35
I read the report prepared by the Trust and found the following:
The Lister met ONLY 2 of 8 criteria for provincial designation; and they weren't the strongest criteria.
Criterion 1: The property represents or is imporant in demonstrating a theme or pattern in Ontaion's history.
It was found that the building represents retail urbanization in the 1920's; as well as representing athe changing retail patterns in Ontario in the first quarter of the 20th Century.
Criterion 3: A property demonstrates an uncommon, rare, or unique aspect of Ontario's cultural heritage.
It wa found that the building represents the large multi-use, multi-tenant, commercial 'blocks' built from 1890-1930 in major Ontario urban centers and one becoming an increasingly uncommon aspect of Ontario's heritage.
What a crock! There is nothing about the architecture or materials, although noted in the report, that justify it as Provincially significant. Only its commercial 'urbanization' and its theme as a multi-use building.
This report is tantamount to wanting to preserve Ontario's first 'big-box' store because if shows the changing retail trends in teh 80's and 90's.
Thank you people for revealing this sham of a report for the flimsiness it contains.
By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 11:14:55
please don't flatter big box stores by referring to the Lister Block as such. Lister will be around long after big box stores are long gone. Otherwise, cities like Paris and London would be knocking down all their old "big box stores" and replacing them with 'new, modern ones'. Spare us.
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 11:20:58
Jason, it isn't me making that case, it is your much vaunted report. That report was nothing short of a political document. The conclusion was reached way before the report was written and then justification, flimsy as it is, was written down.
By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 11:28:58
Nice try to spin this issue Sage, you say quite correctly: "The Lister met ONLY 2 of 8 criteria for provincial designation; and they weren't the strongest criteria."
Yet you clearly ignore this statement under Evaluation Summary in the report: "In order to be considered to be of cultural value or interestof provincial significance, a property must meet ONE OR MORE OF THE EIGHT CRITERIA contained in the Ontario Heritage Act"
Thank you Sage for pointing out that the Lister Block does indeed meet and exceed the criteria as outlined in the Heritage Act.
By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 12:28:03
"Lister will be around long after big box are long gone"
Only if they convert it into a homeless shelter.
Tear that dump down!!!
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 12:54:21
Mine was not spin but a first reading of the report. I think that the people who wanted it released must have hoped for something stronger. Surely, preserving a retail 'theme' is'nt what the Heritage preservationists were hoping for; although, I'll bet they will accept that out of sheer preservation fanaticism.
Capitalist's frustration is palpably felt when you talk to mainstream Hamiltonians. As is the cynicism of government bureaucrats bending the rules to suit their purposes and justify their jobs, which the Trust personnel can rightly be accused of.
These are all Toronto folks, in the main, who don't give a rat's behind about Hamilton is my guess. And I'm not talking about the beloved Lincoln Alexander either. I'm talking about all the unnamed 'experts' quoted in the report.
By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 13:31:56
I'm interested to know who makes up "mainstream Hamiltonians". If you're referring to people who only get their 'news' from the Spec or CH, then you're probably right.
By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 14:15:20
Sage, your comments are the very definition of spin. I'm embarassed for you that you can't see that.
It's quite obvious even to me that your commments only serve to spread ignorance and cynicism. You rail against some mysterious Toronto bases "unnamed experts" yet fail to notice that all references are provided at the end of the report. Observe: "Experts consulted on the property include: Sharon Vattay Cultural Heritage Planner, City of Hamilton. Robert Hamilton, President Regional Hamilton Branch - ACO Steven Otto - Historian"
It's clear that you have formed an opinion of this issue irregardless of the evidence that has been provided.
You may try to convince people of your warped version of reality but don't be surprised when facts are presented that contradict your world view.
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 16:56:57
I am sure these consulted experts are all fine people. I am talking about the report itself. Who wrote it? Is my question.
But most importantly, it's the contents or lack of substance that renders it suspect. Retail 'theme' as justification for provincial significance? Come on! There has to be better reasoning than that.
As I said earlier its like protecting the Center Mall from demolition because it was the first indoor mall; or protecting WalMart because it was the first big box to come from the U.S. that destroyed local competition....the reasons are flimsy at best.
By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2008 at 17:14:35
We have to preserve our heritage buildings. The Lister Block is important culturally and historically to the city, the province and the country. How can you call yourself a Canadian if you want to tear a piece of our heritage down? You should be ashamed of yourself Sage.
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2008 at 06:53:34
Ryan, if you think that Lincoln Alexander actually wrote that report then you will also believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Mr. Alexander, as Chair of the Trust, was handed the cover letter which he signed. The report was written by a staffer after consulting the people named. Of course Mr. Alexander, as Chair, would be forced to stand behind the report but that isn't exactly the same as having authored it. In fact I seem to recall from Media reports that the whole Board did not even meet to vet this report.
As for consultation with the 'experts' it would be interesting to know the extent of that consultation; and more to the point what they would have listed as items pointing away from provincial significance before they tilted in favour of such significance.
My main objection, however, is to the contents of the report and the rationalization for provincial significance. I think any objective reader of the report would have to be surprised that it is hinging provincial significance on a 'theme' of retail and use rather than on more compelling criteria. It just seems a stretch to me.
And don't read this as favouring the Lister's demise. I neve said that. I just concurred with Capitalist's frustration and stated that most Hamiltonians feel the same way, I would venture to guess. Jason, who tends to react emotionally from what I can gather, quickly 'jumped to conclusions'. Again, for the record, the Lister is of LOCAL importance, there is no doubt about that; it doesn't seem to have the provincial importance that you are hanging your hat on except in the flimsiest of ways. And the most pressing item locally is to find a solution to bring that corner back into productive use. We are further away from this goal than we have been in the last 5 years, I would guess.
I am not backtracking in the least and I have no vested interest and no axe to grind one way or the other, other than to keep RTH's feet to the fire. You claim to support all that is virtuous and allow for the free flow of honest dialogue. However, you pounce on anyone who thinks differently. You use your cronies to 'gang up' on independent and contrary thought. And that is what I'm finding interesting to expose. And I'm ready for the challenge. My only enemy is time, because there is so much that you say that merits contradiction and so little time to do it; it would have to almost be a full time job. And some of us work for a living!
In fact I am talking to a few people about setting up another Hamilton web magazine modelled after yours but offering a truly diverse group of writers with varied opinions. Maybe we'll call it "Bury the Hatchet" or something much more clever to signal an end to acrimony and blame-laying but truly an interest in seeing our city rise.
In the absence of this, Ryan, you would benefit yourself if on your list of regular contributors you included some contrarians. It would make you seem fairer and less, well, ideological. But then again, ideology is undoubtedly what you are all about.
By zach hargrove (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2008 at 12:07:58
Sorry anonymous but I just don't buy it. I read Ryan's response and it was very fair as usual. He wasn't disrespectful or insulting but made his arguments clearly. Even cheered the idea of a new website with a different point of view. Something you and Sage don't seem mature enough to do as well for points of view you don't like. Oh nice job criticizing people who are willing to put there names out there when you hide behind "anonymous". Let's see if sage is really willing to put his or her name behind a real website and expose themself to being attacked. Like the attacks you're doing from your computer chair.
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2008 at 19:57:01
"The report clearly states two ways that the Lister meets the standards for provincial designation. You've denied this in a steadily backtracking fashion, but you have yet to refute it on the basis of any evidence."
I am repeating myself: my objection to the report is that it chooses very weak criteria to designate provincial significance. Retail 'theme' and early multi-use are just not valid in my mind. This doesn't mean that there is NO local significance, but certainly NOT provincial. They were the only designations which could be found to justify a conclusion already reached.
"I neither have "cronies" nor direct anyone else's commentary. If several people disagree with your arguments, it's because several people find your arguments disagreeable"
I beg to disagree. All your collaborators are your 'cronies' as defined by like minded people who mouth similar perspectives and jump to each other's defense whenever a point of view is attacked. Your responses are not the only examples, but they are good examples.
"Again you act like RTH is some kind of cabal. I think you give us far too much credit. Our regular contributors (i.e. people who are willing to volunteer regularly to research and write articles) come from all across the political spectrum, from social democrats to liberals to religious conservatives."
I don't know these people but have only recently started to read their posts. They may come from varied backgrounds but their perspectives are awfully similar. Please point out for me where very different points of view are voiced by your contributors. I look foraward to reading these posts.
"The very fact that we are having this debate refutes the heart of your thesis, which is that your views are somehow persecuted here."
Well, perhaps 'persecuted' may be too strong a word, but they are not appreciated that's for sure. Read Jason's replies and Adam1's as well as your responses. In the other post by Mary Louise I was told by some of the respondents to 'get out of my car', had my loyalty to Hamilton questioned etc. All because I chose to attack, not the person, but her ideas and conclusions.
As for a similar website. I said it somewhat in jest, but if there is genuine interest in getting something started I'd be glad to participate. There is no question that our city needs help; and RTH and its proponents are not voicing opinions that the mainstream would support is my guess. And RTH sees itself I suspect as a political tool to advance its ideas more than it being a forum for diverse opinions.
By jason (registered) | Posted June 17, 2008 at 20:33:50
attack?? I took a deserved shot at big box stores and Hamilton's less than stellar media. Let's stay on topic and not get into all of this finger-pointing stuff. Opinions are welcome...personal stuff gets us nowhere.
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 08:15:03
But I will still critically weigh the diatribe coming from your group; and yes, the standards for the Lister are flimsy and suspect. And their airing will cause and is causing gread skepticism of your 'agenda' and the like minded cronies in Toronto's Trust office.
I believe that the ousted former Minsiter of Culture engaged the Trust to find an answer she wanted.
You feel 'ganged up on' because you've entered a heritage building friendly discussion group and advocated an alternative position. Furthermore you've done so with not much in the way of hard evidence or coherent argument.
As Ryan indicated with his alternative opinion links, there is nothing wrong with expressing an alternative opinion on this site - you just need to back it up.
Of course the majority of opinions on this site are going to be for saving the Lister. As well as all the evidence in favour of it this site is also a proponent of heritage building re-use.
Contrary opinions provide much more lively discussions and I love to see them (I've enjoyed this one). Don't, whatever you do, shy away from standing your ground if you feel you are correct but please be prepared to provide some concrete evidence or arguments to back yourself up. Anybody can disagree with anything but there needs to be some substance and reasoning behind that disagreement - it's only when we get to that that we can all learn something.
By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 10:58:03
You're free to 'believe' whatever you like Sage, just know that you are engaging in the same sort of speculation you criticized me for. At least my speculation was based on past actions by LIUNA and DePasquale, yours appears to be based on nothing more than wishful thinking.
"All because I chose to attack, not the person, but her ideas and conclusions."
You called me a gossip, a liar, and accused me of McCarthyism. I'd say that's pretty personal. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm a big girl and I know that when you post controversial things, you're going to get some pushback. It's obvious that the Lister arouses peoples' passions, and like Rusty says, that's a good thing. Just don't backpedal now and pretend that you've been the voice of reason (or the 'mainstream') who's been persecuted simply because of your point of view.
By Vic (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 12:05:09
This has just gone on for too long. Sorry, but as much as a building as beautiful as the Lister should be preserved and restored, and buildings that were major wastes of resources made in the past two decades should be obliterated and have their construction materials recycled . . . it's just becoming such a bland subject of debate. Both camps keep arguing in circles and no one is being converted on either side of the issue.
Debate is a wonderful thing, and we should all voice our opinions and share ideas. That's absolutely important. But how long can you keep at something until all meaning is gone? When a debate turns into the automatic game of opposing the other side just by reiterating the same point again and again, is there any point?
. . . I'm just getting frustrated.
By zach hargrove (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 12:26:55
"is there any point?" The question is, can we learn from past mistakes? The same thinking 'knock down the lister already' and making excuses for the people who neglected it is the same thinking why we knocked down the birks building. And all the other beautiful places in Margaret Houghton's heart breaking "Vanished Hamilton" books. I for one am sick of it. Sick of the excuses. Sick of the attacking on people who want to preserve these places like WE"RE the ones that have an 'agenda'. I don't know if this debate will make a difference. But it's too important for people in Hamilton to not know what's going on behind the scenes. Kieran Dickson deserves a medal for keeping after the government until they show us the goods. So the "mainstream" sage says he speaks for might have the chance to learn the truth.
By Vic (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 15:57:37
Alright. Then why continue debating it on a comment posting system that only a handful of Hamiltonians even know exists? Shouldn't we be making this known in a more prominent medium? OR, indeed, making THIS medium more prominent?
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2008 at 17:14:16
Well, I've certainly struck a nerve; and I agree the debate is becoming a bit circular. Rusty/Ben, I appreciate your perspective and encouragement; and Mary Louise I praised your courage and honesty in my posts while disagreeing with your speculattions and conclusions.
Not to belabour this, but I read the report provided and judged it to be 'light'. I also recall the 'politics' around the issue when the province first weighed in; and reached conclusions.
I haven't yeat heard anyone say that retail theme and multi use are good reasons for designation, just that they are reasons. In fact Ryan advised that I take up the argument with the Province. I don't think I'll do that. I just voiced my opinion on the report I read. I didn't pull the conclusion from thin air. So I too will thank Kieran for forcing this report to be made public; I suspect the report was kept confidential because the Trust was embarrassed by its light weight analysis. But before you jump on me for that, I'll concede that it is pure speculation on my part. But why else would they want to keep such a bland report confidential since we all knew its conclusions?
Think about that!
Now on to some other topic perhaps, so as not to bore the readers of this online paper.
By jason (registered) | Posted June 19, 2008 at 08:10:00
There's plenty other books besides 'Vanished Hamilton'.
Someone could retire a rich person simply publishing books on Hamilton's destroyed history and heritage.
We NEVER learn in this city.
We all pay high ticket prices to fly to Paris, London or other N.American cities like Boston, NY, Halifax etc.... that have restored their heritage and added new development in a tasteful manner. Why do we visit those cities??? Why not just stay here and enjoy the Hammer and it's plethora of parking lots and Vanished Hamilton books???
By brodiec (registered) | Posted June 19, 2008 at 15:14:35
To address your question Sage:
"[...] why else would they want to keep such a bland report confidential since we all knew its conclusions?"
Despite your yawn worthy blog-troll contrarian and perplexingly qualitative analysis of the report this advice was kept secret from the public because it is hard evidence from experts that the Lister building is of heritage significance.
Let's apply your reasoning to medicine. In many cases of disease and it's progression (ie. viral infections, genetic disorders, cancer) we characterize it in a patient by a series of criteria. Often times one is enough. So if you were my Doctor and I was sick and had 2/8 symptoms with a minimum of 1 to be characterized as sick you'd say I was healthy. That's a little bit of two and two makes five if you ask me.
I can't wait to read your Troll the Hammer website. You can be the Fox News of Hamilton, a delicious title indeed, and talk about how hopeless everything is from the comfort of your own home. Or advocate knocking down buildings that you likely live nowhere near and have no intention of visiting. But that's conjecture on my part. And yet somehow I'm pretty sure I'm right!
By reuben (registered) - website | Posted June 19, 2008 at 16:59:38
well brodiec, your comments are not going to bring this discussion any higher level.
lets not resort to personal attacks. try to keep things constructive.
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 22, 2008 at 11:27:03
Thank you, Reuben. But 'attack' is what this person believes in; especially if he disagrees with one's position. His logic is also suspect. Let's continue your medical analogy.
If I were your doctor and you came to me because you were feeling ill and described your symptoms....worn, falling apart, the subject of ridicule, way past your prime, your friends are falling apart beside you, and I examined your vital signs and checked your blood and did x-rays and maybe depending on the situation, sent you to 'outside' experts for an expert analysis. And after all this I told you,
"Brodiec, don't worry. We have looked at everything and you still have a pulse and you are still standing. So everything is ok."
How well would you really feel? That is the equvalent of what the Provincial 'experts' did. They said that the LIster is of provincial significance because it 'has a pulse' and is 'still standing'!
By Stefan Colbert (anonymous) | Posted June 22, 2008 at 11:45:49
No, no, no Sage. You have it all wrong. What the 'experts' said about the Lister is that it once had a pulse; and it once was able to 'multi-task' and that is why it is important today!
By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 00:09:38
Sage, your analogy is terrible... lets look at what happens if we continue comparing a building to a person:
if someone witheld a person's basic needs so the person became sick, would it be ethical to kill/demolish that person? By your analogy we should nurse the lister block back to health by building a hospital beside it. Or is your analogy selective.. only supporting things that help your position?
By Dr Downtown (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 07:51:22
To take the analogy further, what if you neglected someone's most basic needs for a full decade ... and discovered that they could STILL make a full recovery with some surgery followed by good care? Not only that, but the recovered person would actually still live longer than a new person brought in to replace them?
Wouldn't you conclude that it was worth trying to save them?
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 08:44:17
Let's see if we can avoid straining this medical analogy: sometimes patients need an aspirin and bed-rest. Sometimes they need stronger intervention like heart/lung/organ transplants. Sometimes we have to acknowledge the ravages of age and just succumb to the inevitable just like the Balfour did.
Is the Lister this kind of patient? Not according to the Heritage Trust because it was once thriving.
Can government Health Insurance cover the cost of rehabilitating the Lister? $7M from the Province, untold Millions from the City? Or shall we let American style private healtlh deal with the building?
These, it seems to me, are the choices we have. Let's see what Council Medicare is able to do. Oh that I could be there. I'm sure RTH is and will report faithfully, if not necessarily accurately!
But some of us are watching and will comment too.
Someone told me that I might become Hamilton's version of Fox News. Perish the thought. My politics are anything but related to Fox News. I am just not convinced that blindly repeating ideological mantras is the way to go.
I actually pitched the idea of an alternative site to some thoughtful friends. Their comments went something like this:
"Don't you have enough to do at work?"
"Don't the RTH people have meaningful jobs?"
"Join a Club!"
"Get a life!"
Not a ringing vote of interest. But now I'm intrigued and will try even harder!
By Dr Downtown (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 09:22:59
"Can government Health Insurance cover the cost of rehabilitating the Lister? $7M from the Province, untold Millions from the City? Or shall we let American style private healtlh deal with the building?"
I don't know how I feel about this particular deal but don't forget, 18,000 people die every year thanks to American style private health care because they can't get coverage for sicknesses that could easily be treated. The analogy is, left in private hands this building may well die even though we could easily treat it's sickness with some medical care.
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 10:09:53
Dr. Downtown --> I don't know how I feel about this particular deal but don't forget, 18,000 people die every year thanks to American style private health care because they can't get coverage for sicknesses that could easily be treated.
And in Canada many patients die waiting for a doctor. The Lister has been on life support for decades now. That too is the unfortunate truth!
By Dr Downtown (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 10:48:09
If health care has taught us anything it's that sometimes the market doesn't know best. For a long time, living downtown was a major risk factor for neglect and early demolition. But architectural public health has come a long way since the 1960s-1990s. It's amazing what good hygeine, vaccination, and regular checkups can do to improve a downtown building's mortality rate. Even a very sick building can still be saved by intercession through the Heritage Act -- and the Lister, for all its sores and abcesses -- still has good bones and a classy face. Its organs can be replaced and its skin can be retored even now, and it can live out a long, healthy life. As long as we can call off the wolves howling outside the door.
By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 11:32:32
"Let's see if we can avoid straining this medical analogy: sometimes patients need an aspirin and bed-rest. Sometimes they need stronger intervention like heart/lung/organ transplants. Sometimes we have to acknowledge the ravages of age and just succumb to the inevitable just like the Balfour did.
Is the Lister this kind of patient? Not according to the Heritage Trust because it was once thriving."
It is not just the Ontario Heritage Trust Report that determined that the Lister can and should be saved. And the reasons for saving it are not simply because "it was once thriving" as you suggest, but because it went through a number of peer reviews conducted by independent architects and engineers who determined that the Lister was structurally sound and a prime candidate for restoration and adaptive reuse. At least one of the peer reviews made reference to the known economic benefits of preserving heritage buildings. I'm too lazy to provide links to all the reports here, but you can find them on the Architecture Hamilton website. (Click on Save the Lister.) The OHT Report is only the latest in a long line of reports recommending preserving the Lister, not just for what it once was, but for what it can be.
By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 11:39:18
So your 'thoughtful' friends think that becoming an informed, engaged, active citizen is only for people who need to "get a life"? No wonder you've been hanging out here lately. Welcome aboard!
By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 12:20:13
Thank you Mary Louise. I don't know if my ideas are welcome but I feel fine.
By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2008 at 17:53:22
This isn't my site, so I can't speak for all, but as far as I'm concerned, anyone who is here to genuinely engage and not just disrupt and crap on people, is welcome, even if you have a minority viewpoint.
By Max (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2008 at 02:49:58
Having lived in Hamilton, and worked in the downtown, 10 years ago I have lost touch with the city. But checking out another link led me to the this site.
Ten years ago this same debate was going on: I cannot believe that the Lister block is still not resolved, after all these years! And the the buildings on King William are being also being allowed to crumble.
Hamilton's municipal government and Ontario's provincial government are LOSERS for letting this drag on so long. And for allowing LIUNA to get their way by acting like a sulking child...it is pathetic that organization has been allowed to engage in "demolition by neglect". The best thing that can be said about LIUNA is that is it a poor corporate citizen.
The downtown of Hamilton has been struggling for decades, and it isn't going to get any better unless the local and provincial politicians grow some "hoo haws" and FORCE building owners to maintain their property regardless of whether it's occupied or not. Only then will money hungry organizations stop speculating in property like LIUNA has done.
And it is shameful that Hamilton council has not stepped up to the plate to get this going: Hamilton's downtown is, and always will be unless there is SIGNIFICANTLY more commitment to it, a dying downtown just a gasp away from death.
By Frank (registered) | Posted June 24, 2008 at 12:44:07
Very well spoken Max...
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