When you want to beat your head against a wall at the retrograde thinking that often governs Hamilton, just remember that it could always be worse:
Forty one buildings in Brantford's small downtown core - some as old as 170 years old - could be rubble on Tuesday if the town's council votes, as expected, in favour of the demolition.
"I am hopeful that on Monday night, the council will unanimously agree to demolish these buildings so that we can get a fresh start," said Mark Littell, a councillor. "These buildings are in a terrible, terrible shape ... they need to go."
Lloyd Alter of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario has asked the Province to intervene and issue a stop work order if the vote goes as expected.
Mixed-use Victorian housing and commercial block in Brantford, slated to be demolished. (Image Credit: Michael Cumming)
Hamilton's experience with the Lister Block saga suggests that the Province is reluctant to intervene directly to block a local council's decision; but that there may be opportunities for the Province to help broker some kind of compromise agreement that preserves the buildings but removes some of the risk for a developer nervous about tying their business to renovation and adaptive reuse.
The problem on Brantford's Colborne Street is that there isn't actually a developer looking to make a profitable investment in demolition and new construction. The only party actually interested in the property is YMCA Brantford, which wants to build a recreation facility on a quarter of the land that will be freed up once the buildings are demolished.
The city hopes that the prospect of a contiguous greenfield downtown will attract the attention of Brantford's developers, who are used to building that way on the suburbs.
Demolishing Victorian building stock was a bad idea in the 1960s, '70s and '80s when Hamilton was busy doing it throughout the downtown core. It's utterly unconscionable today.
It's the logic of clearcutting, which replaces "a messy warren of interlocking spaces and relationships" with "a less stable and less viable monoculture."
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