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  #241  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 9:49 AM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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Originally Posted by counterfactual View Post
Well, now. Seems to me outside of a few odd exceptions (Maritime Centre) our entire history of development is keeping high rises away from pretty much everything and everywhere.
Well also, the BMO, TD, CIBC, and RBC buildings, the Centennial Building, Joseph Howe Building, Founder's Square, Purdy's Wharf, Scotia Square, and then 70s residential highrises like Fenwick and Park Vic. None of these are "historic" and none of them relate well to the street. Come to think of it, the Trillium and the Paramount are really the only highrises in the entire city that actually relate well to the street, and in the Paramount's case it's actually a separate lowrise building fronting on South Park. Quinpool Tower and Maritime Centre would tie for a distant third I guess, and both these buildings have street interfaces that people complain about a lot. The TD do-over and potential renovations of the other bank buildings will make a difference, but these buildings have been sitting there for decades as not-necessarily-attractive, inward-facing boxes.

Of course many of them make sense (to us) in the downtown core, but a lot of other cities have an "Old Town" downtown separate from the contemporary CBD (think Montreal, Vancouver). Many other cities simply don't have as high a proportion of as-old buildings even in the traditional commercial core (think Calgary). I have certainly also had friends from places like Kingston, ON and St. John's visit Halifax and comment that "it's too bad that there are so many skyscrapers downtown". Not necessarily the most common reaction, but I've heard it often enough to take note.

I wouldn't expect people from outside of Halifax commenting on blogs to know about the viewplanes, or that space is limited here, or that the Bank of Commerce isn't the oldest or grandest building in the city, or that the financial industry is important here at all. Many people here don't even know about the viewplanes. I'd imagine many people living elsewhere would be unaware of such a concept.

Last edited by Hali87; Jul 24, 2014 at 12:58 PM.
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  #242  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 11:55 AM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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I have certainly also had friends from places like Kingston, ON and St. John's visit Halifax and comment that "it's too bad that there are so many skyscrapers downtown". Not necessarily the most common reaction, but I've heard it often enough to take note.
I spoke to some friends of friends last week who were in town from Saskatchewan. They'd never been here before and were a bit disappointed, of all things, to see all the construction, assuming that it meant we'd torn down a bunch of historic buildings. I told them it was really more that we were actually just filling empty or under-used lots, but of course, the only reason those lots were empty or under-used is because we torn down the buildings on them decades ago.

I think they were letting a sort of romantic idea of the city intrude upon the fact that it's not just some cute seaside town, but a real city. But, I also feel like we're so eager sometimes to play with the big boys that we lose sight of what makes the city special. That goes all the way back to Cogswell and probably before, for all I know.

I mean, to be clear, I have no interest in stopping skyscraper development, and I think we're getting better at building highrises than work in an urban context. But I wish we'd integrated the ones we already have better into the historical fabric, instead of simply replacing that fabric, or built them outside of the historical financial district, as Montreal and Vancouver did—both for aesthetic reasons and for urban reasons:

As Hali87 says, most of our skyscrapers are giant slabs that do a terrible job of interfacing with the street or providing an urban environment, and I'd argue are a much bigger reason for downtown's 20th-century decline than the "obsolete" old buildings that get the blame from some quarters.

Last edited by Drybrain; Jul 24, 2014 at 12:18 PM.
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  #243  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Drybrain View Post
I spoke to some friends of friends last week who were in town from Saskatchewan. They'd never been here before and were a bit disappointed, of all things, to see all the construction, assuming that it meant we'd torn down a bunch of historic buildings. I told them it was really more that we were actually just filling empty or under-used lots, but of course, the only reason those lots were empty or under-used is because we torn down the buildings on them decades ago.

I think they were letting a sort of romantic idea of the city intrude upon the fact that it's not just some cute seaside town, but a real city. But, I also feel like we're so eager sometimes to play with the big boys that we lose sight of what makes the city special. That goes all the way back to Cogswell and probably before, for all I know.

I mean, to be clear, I have no interest in stopping skyscraper development, and I think we're getting better at building highrises than work in an urban context. But I wish we'd integrated the ones we already have better into the historical fabric, instead of simply replacing that fabric, or built them outside of the historical financial district, as Montreal and Vancouver did—both for aesthetic reasons and for urban reasons:

As Hali87 says, most of our skyscrapers are giant slabs that do a terrible job of interfacing with the street or providing an urban environment, and I'd argue are a much bigger reason for downtown's 20th-century decline than the "obsolete" old buildings that get the blame from some quarters.
I agree 100%. We have made numerous mistakes by destroying architecture that defines the fabric of Halifax. The recent loss of an historic streetscape on Hollis that included an Italianate structure shows our disregard for true quality. The Vic that replaced these buildings is just a medium / low quality structure. The demolition of the Infants home at SMU clearly shows no one is paying attention the level of destruction. The Dennis building and all of the historic buildings at 22nd Commerce Square should remain fully in tact.

I was recently in Portland Maine and all of their downtown is comprised nothing but original historic buildings in excellent condition. My guess some were in very bad condition and restored. In Halifax we call this mould, mice, water damage, loose bricks, leaky roof, poor plumbing, low ceilings, bad wiring, leaky windows, dangerous structural defects (keep out) .....on and on and on. The Roy was deemed ready to collapse due to its poor condition but it is taking and army of excavators to bring it down and they are having a good strugle. Buildings like the new Citadel Inn, Vic and Cathedral Place are rendering Halifax bodrerline boring. Even the Trillium is a basic precast boring building and replaced true Victorian architecture that is irreplaceable..

The key is to intergrate highrises better, save and restore our existing built heritage and rebuild some key buildings that have been destroyed. Look at the restoration at Louisburg.


Have a look at Portland Me. and see what we have destroyed:
https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Portl...12,127.11,,0,0

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Portl...59.1,,0,0&z=19

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Portl...2.12,,0,0&z=19
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  #244  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 12:55 PM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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Disagree about the Vic, and I think new highrises are getting better and better (though Citadel is a huge disappointment; the apartment building looks BRUTAL from the west IMO). Portland and many other New England cities have very well-preserved historic downtowns, but the flipside is a lack of anything creative or cutting-edge. Halifax's mish-mash of architectural styles and eras downtown sets it apart from anything you'd see in New England as far as I know (except maybe Boston?). I doubt that there is anything, streetscape/architecture-wise, comparable to the east end of Spring Garden in places like Hartford or Providence for example, though I could be wrong.

Basically, if you want to see a perfectly preserved colonial-to-Victoria era downtown, that already exists, and it's all over New England. We don't have that anymore, so why not capitalize on the eclecticism that makes us different?
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  #245  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 1:10 PM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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Originally Posted by Drybrain View Post
I think they were letting a sort of romantic idea of the city intrude upon the fact that it's not just some cute seaside town, but a real city. But, I also feel like we're so eager sometimes to play with the big boys that we lose sight of what makes the city special.
I wonder if they had been to Victoria? I think a lot of people like to equate the two cities, and my thoughts on Victoria is that it felt like a cleaner, more overwhelmingly touristy version of Halifax with nicer government buildings and hotels and museums and a near-total lack of what I would call "real world stuff". It's things like the office towers, the port and dockyards bookending downtown, the construction-related detours and the legitimately crowded boardwalk (daytime) and downtown streets (night) that make Halifax feel like a bigger city to me, though Victoria has a certain "pleasantness" in the absence of these things that's hard to dismiss.
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  #246  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 1:43 PM
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I think Portland benefitted from a preservation point of view because Boston is New England's commercial hub. As a regionally less important city than Halifax, Portland didn't get the kind of development pressures we have. (Plus, American cities tend to be a bit more on the grand side than ours, anyway.)

I wish that Halifax hadn't razed quite so many of its old buildings. Hollis Street in particular seems to have been particularly brutalized. But I also like that we're a commercial and cultural hub, not just a tourist town, and that brings with it some urban eclecticism—it's not always pretty, but it is interesting.

I also agree that new construction is getting better. I anticipate the Roy tower will be a real looker, and I like the Vic as well. Agree with Hali87 that the 1920 Brunswick tower isn't turning out quite as well as I thought it would—the cladding facing west looks cheap and unfinished (maybe it is?).

I also think Halifax's historic feel stands a chance at being bolstered in the future by renovations that bring back some of the lost grandeur to some of out building that currently sort of fade into the background. (Green Lantern restoration, please and thanks?)

Last edited by Drybrain; Jul 24, 2014 at 2:02 PM.
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  #247  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 2:08 PM
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Frankly, this all sounds like a bunch of hand-wringing over not very much at all.

The suggestion that the decrepit wooden firetrap that was once on the site of The Vic should have been somehow saved is a good example of that. It was mildly interesting design-wise - perhaps unique in that respect in this city given that most of the old buildings the heritage people try to save are simple unremarkable wooden boxes - but even at that it was very far gone and uneconomical to do anything with. What replaced it is so much better that it is difficult to put into words.

The recent example of St Mary's demolishing the Infant's home is perhaps different in some ways but in reality I lived a block away from that thing for 7 years, walked past it often, and never once thought it anything special nor that it should be somehow restored. It was to me just a rather unattractive run-down old building. That, I think, is the problem. These buildings are worthy candidates only to a very small number of people. They aren't the NY Public Library or Penn Station, grand examples of iconic design. People generally don't miss them when they're gone because they didn't impress while they stood there.

I think there is an interesting parallel here that hasn't been discussed to my knowledge. Just as the old buildings that are being demolished were unremarkable examples of the times, and were usually simple boxes that carried minimal architectural interest, the new buildings that are slowly replacing them follow the same pattern of mediocre design. Perhaps it is a function of Halifax's economy or culture that we do not (and seldom have) demanded good design and quality construction. Build it cheap, build it to look like nothing special, use the lowest-cost materials. That seems to be our past and our present.

Last edited by Keith P.; Jul 24, 2014 at 5:47 PM.
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  #248  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 2:51 PM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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And yet the overall level of architectural quality/interest on the peninsula is easily within the best in Canada.

What I find worse than mediocre old architecture (which I disagree with - I think even the simplest old-wooden-box-rowhose in Halifax is more interesting than some of the dreary Edwardian beigeness that makes up a large percentage of urban Ontario) is the upkeep or lack thereof of old buildings. Seeing nicely restored/maintained victorians next to other victorians with rotted out decorative elements and flaked-off paint, or worse, pastel-blue vinyl siding makes me cringe.
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  #249  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 2:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
Frankly, this all sounds like a bunch of hand-wringing over not very much at all.

The suggestion that the decrepit wooden firetrap that was once on the site of The Vic should have been somehow saved is a good example of that. It was mildly interesting design-wise - perhaps unique in that respect in this city given that most of the old buildings the heritage people try to save are simple unremarkable wooden boxes - but even at that it was very far gone and uneconomical to do anything with. What replaced it is so much better that it is difficult to put into words.

The recent example of St Mary's demolishing the Infant's home is perhaps different in some ways but in reality I lived a block away from that thing for 7 years, walked past it often, and never once thought it anything special nor that it should be somehow restored. It was to me just a rather unattractive run-down old building. That, I think, is the problem. These buildings are worthy candidates only to a very small number of people. They aren't the NY Public Library of Penn Station, grand examples of iconic design. People generally don't miss them when they're gone because they didn't impress while they stood there.

I think there is an interesting parallel here that hasn't been discussed to my knowledge. Just as the old buildings that are being demolished were unremarkable examples of the times, and were usually simple boxes that carried minimal architectural interest, the new buildings that are slowly replacing them follow the same pattern of mediocre design. Perhaps it is a function of Halifax's economy or culture that we do not (and seldom have) demanded good design and quality construction. Build it cheap, build it to look like nothing special, use the lowest-cost materials. That seems to be our past and our present.
The point is...... we don't care what we destroy. I like the Montreal model of intergrating good quality new with good quality old. The ease with which we demolish victorian wooden structures esclates to demolishing the Dennis building, The Amoury, BMO building on Spring Garden along with all the historic buildings on the block, Royal Bank block (now the facades may be saved for some). Look at the demolition of the School for the Blind on University Ave. and the Birks building....PARKING LOTS....

Yes the commercial pressure is greater in Halifax but that doesn't mean a building like Prenor Trust should be so easily considered for demolition or reduced to a facade.

Prenor Trust:
https://www.google.ca/maps?q=google+...135.9,,0,-22.5
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  #250  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 3:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Hali87 View Post
Basically, if you want to see a perfectly preserved colonial-to-Victoria era downtown, that already exists, and it's all over New England. We don't have that anymore, so why not capitalize on the eclecticism that makes us different?
I tend to agree. With all of the development happening in the urban core, there's a good chance that Halifax will end up being a lot more interesting and vibrant than it is now, whereas the historic towns will by design always be more or less where they are today. I think this is good not just for Halifax but for NS and the Maritimes as a whole since there are no other candidate mid-sized cities.
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  #251  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 4:09 PM
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Impressive.........it would appear that the Macara Barnstead roof (TD redevelopment) is being clad in real copper. This is what we need more of.
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  #252  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 4:14 PM
Drybrain Drybrain is offline
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Impressive.........it would appear that the Macara Barnstead roof (TD redevelopment) is being clad in real copper. This is what we need more of.
I noticed that. I also noticed that given the way the TD building is set back, it'll look like the Barnstead is there in its entirety when viewed from the north, at least. Since I only moved here after they started gutting it, to me it'll be almost like getting a new historical building. (Still think facad-ing it was a shitty move though. I'll be curious to see how they treat the storefront—actual doorway, or useless decorative appendage?)
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  #253  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 4:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith P. View Post
Frankly, this all sounds like a bunch of hand-wringing over not very much at all.

The suggestion that the decrepit wooden firetrap that was once on the site of The Vic should have been somehow saved is a good example of that. It was mildly interesting design-wise - perhaps unique in that respect in this city given that most of the old buildings the heritage people try to save are simple unremarkable wooden boxes - but even at that it was very far gone and uneconomical to do anything with. What replaced it is so much better that it is difficult to put into words.
It was a decrepit firetrap because the Lawen Group allowed it to deteriorate into that state! As a result they can turn around and say " We had no choice but to tear it down, it was a decrepit wooden firetrap."
This is where HTNS falls down! Not only are their priorities out of touch with what they should be focusing on, this city and province has zero interest in protecting our built heritage.
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  #254  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 4:32 PM
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It was a decrepit firetrap because the Lawen Group allowed it to deteriorate into that state! As a result they can turn around and say " We had no choice but to tear it down, it was a decrepit wooden firetrap."
This is where HTNS falls down! Not only are their priorities out of touch with what they should be focusing on, this city and province has zero interest in protecting our built heritage.
Seems to happen a lot around here.

While HTNS may be ineffective, I think the real tragedy here is that there seems to be no heritage regulations around here that actually have the power to protect a heritage-designated building. But that's been debated ad nauseam elsewhere on this forum.
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  #255  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 4:40 PM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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To be fair, the Heritage Trust and EAC actually worked with the developer and NSP to save the Charles Morris House when the Vic was built. It was the only time I can remember them a) very publicly saving a building and b) working WITH a developer and other NGOs rather than being confrontational.
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  #256  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 5:29 PM
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To be fair, the Heritage Trust and EAC actually worked with the developer and NSP to save the Charles Morris House when the Vic was built. It was the only time I can remember them a) very publicly saving a building and b) working WITH a developer and other NGOs rather than being confrontational.
There are other examples: http://skyscraperpage.com/forum/show...139791&page=15 see post #291, 'time ran out'.
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  #257  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 5:50 PM
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Originally Posted by hollistreet View Post
It was a decrepit firetrap because the Lawen Group allowed it to deteriorate into that state! As a result they can turn around and say " We had no choice but to tear it down, it was a decrepit wooden firetrap."
This is where HTNS falls down! Not only are their priorities out of touch with what they should be focusing on, this city and province has zero interest in protecting our built heritage.
It was a decrepit wooden firetrap 50 years ago when I was a child. I remember driving past it with my parents and them commenting on how awful it was.
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  #258  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 5:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Hali87 View Post
To be fair, the Heritage Trust and EAC actually worked with the developer and NSP to save the Charles Morris House when the Vic was built. It was the only time I can remember them a) very publicly saving a building and b) working WITH a developer and other NGOs rather than being confrontational.
An unremarkable wooden box.
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  #259  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 5:56 PM
Hali87 Hali87 is offline
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Or, a historically significant, relatively nice wooden victorian. Eye of the beholder, I guess.
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  #260  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2014, 6:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Hali87 View Post
To be fair, the Heritage Trust and EAC actually worked with the developer and NSP to save the Charles Morris House when the Vic was built. It was the only time I can remember them a) very publicly saving a building and b) working WITH a developer and other NGOs rather than being confrontational.
I know that HTNS worked with the developer. I think that is great and would like to see more of it. My point is that HTNS has made no effort to have municipal and provincial governments develop strict laws to have property owners maintain buildings that are heritage or should be heritage.
Fine KeithP, it may have been decrepit 50 years ago. That shows two things, 1) it must have been well constructed to last another 50 years of no maintenance and 2) we as a community have neglected our built heritage for generations.
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