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1. OHA + M Blog: Bill 323 Clears Important Hurdle
2. Peterborough Examiner: Two Main Street Losses
3. Globe and Mail: Vancouver Hesitates
4. Photo-documenting theTransformation of the Hearn Ruins
5. Places Journal - Unfinished New York

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1. OHA + M Blog: Bill 323 Clears Important Hurdle
Dan Schneider

Bill C-323 clears a hurdle

The Speaker:

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
~ Hansard, March 23, 2017
By a vote of 150 to 140, Bill C-323, which would create a tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic properties, passed Second Reading in the House of Commons last Thursday. [1]  Wow!
To get this far is quite an achievement for a private member’s bill, especially one with revenue implications.  Peter Van Loan, Conservative member for York—Simcoe and the bill’s sponsor, issued a press release calling the vote “A Victory for Heritage.”
Said Mr. Van Loan: “This Bill represents a historic opportunity to invest in our cultural heritage. It is very exciting that the House of Commons supports our initiative. We’re looking forward to debate in committee.”
The bill now goes before the House Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for detailed review.  No word on the timeframe for that yet, although the press release says the bill is due for committee discussion “in the near future.”
With a healthy MP presence in the House that afternoon — 292 out of a total of 333 MPs voted on the bill — we get a good sense of where the parties, and most individual MPs, currently stand on the bill. [2]  It’s clear the main opposition parties — Mr. Van Loan’s own Conservatives and the NDP — both support the legislation, at least in principle.  All of the Conservative and NDP members in the House at the time voted for it.  Of the 150 MPs voting in favour, 128 were opposition members. [3]



2. Peterborough Examiner: Two Main Street Losses
Joelle Kovach

Developer to proceed with demolition of Pig's Ear Tavern, Black Horse Pub, plans new 5-storey buildings



The developer who wants to tear down The Pig's Ear and The Black Horse says he's pleased that city councillors decided to forego a heritage designation on the buildings.

Paul Dietrich, the owner of Parkview Homes, called it "good news".

"We want to proceed with demolition, per the permits we have in hand," he said.

Dietrich bought the Pig's Ear in January and recently acquired The Black Horse (although that deal has yet to close).

He's already been granted demolition permits from City Hall and he plans to replace the historic buildings with a pair of five-storey apartment buildings.

But the city's architectural conservancy committee recommended that council place a heritage designation on the buildings to keep them from being razed.

On Monday, councillors could've gone along with that recommendation at a committee meeting - but they didn't.

Instead, they voted to have Dietrich work with city staff to come up with a design for the two new apartment buildings.

The idea is to present a design to councillors that they think will work well in the downtown - and that will retain some of the history.

On Tuesday, Dietrich said that might mean reusing some of the building materials from the historic buildings - like perhaps the brick - for a heritage display in the lobby.

He said he spoke to each councillor on the weekend and said he'd be spending $20 million to build the new residences.

He wants to demolish the historic buildings as soon as late summer or early fall of 2017, he said.


3. Globe and Mail: Vancouver Hesitates
Kerry Gold

Vancouver Abandons only Tool That Would Help Save Character Homes

The city came close to adopting the one tool at its disposal that many agree would likely have preserved Vancouvers dwindling stock of character homes.

The idea was to limit the size of newly built houses in single-family neighbourhoods, while adding more housing options. It was part of the citys character-home zoning review, and the first major effort to meaningfully stop rampant demolitions.

Because current zoning allows a much bigger house to replace an old one, its been open season on Vancouvers old houses. Investors are buying them to knock them down, redevelop them into massive houses and either flip them or hold them until theyre worth more. Since the city up zoned in 2009, monster houses have proliferated, with house demolitions increasing to 1,000 a year.

The simple move to restrict the size of a new house would have thrown a bucket of cold water on the action. The character houses would have had a far better chance of surviving, because the incentive to demolish would no longer be there. Currently, under single-family house zoning rules, most homeowners can triple their density by adding a laneway and secondary suite, but theres no incentive to do it. By restricting the size of new houses, and boosting square footage for renovation or expansion of existing houses, there would be a major incentive to work with the existing house.

Proponents have argued that it would stop the wastefulness of demolitions of livable houses, many of them newly renovated and well maintained.

The city commissioned a report by Coriolis Consulting Corp. that backed this theory: This disincentive to demolish coupled with the incentives to retain is likely to result in more retentions of pre-1940 character houses, the report said.

But on Tuesday, Gil Kelley, the citys head of planning, told council that hed received some very strong negative feedback to downzoning, as its called, and the option was no longer on the table. After four public open houses, thousands of surveys, and an overwhelming response that two-thirds of residents want the city to take action to save character houses, the city has pulled back on the one tool that would have done it.

"We haven't got very far into it, so how come we are already taking tools off the table?" said heritage consultant Don Luxton, who works with the city. I dont know what else you could do [to save houses]. There are only certain levers you can pull.

The only other option is to offer greater incentives. And its hard to imagine a financial incentive greater than building a massive house that will sell for three times what the owner paid.

"You cant give them any incentive that makes sense. Thats the challenge", Mr. Luxton says.

The staff presentation to council on Tuesday did not indicate what percentage of the thousands of residents surveyed actually opposed the downzoning. However, assistant director of planning Anita Molaro said a significant number of architects and builders who'd been consulted were opposed.

One reason for the about-face might have been the slight financial setback to downzoning. The Coriolis report said homeowners could expect a drop in the value of their home of about 5 per cent or 10 per cent  this in a city that has seen 30-per-cent increases in one year.

Also, the restrictive zoning would have applied to post-1940 houses and pre-1940 houses that do not have character merit. Those properties wouldnt have received any of the benefits.

Elizabeth Murphy, former city development officer, says a better option is zoning that aims to preserve character but conditionally allows redevelopment on sites that dont have character, such as what we see in Kitsilano. It allows for multiple conversion dwellings, and has conditional uses for infill dwellings as an incentive to retain character houses.

"They've thrown the baby out with the bathwater", she says. "Just give conditional zoning to encourage retention, like what we have in [Kitsilano]. "

There is no basis to the citys argument.

The non-profit Urbanarium society held a debate Wednesday night on the question of rezoning to preserve character. Authors Michael Kluckner and Caroline Adderson argued for the downzoning, while builder Bryn Davidson and architect Javier Campos argued against it. Its not surprising that authors would appreciate the historical and cultural significance of old houses, and that a builder and an architect might see housing in a more commercial light. Many members of the audience worked in the planning and development industry, which wasn't lost on Mr. Kluckner.

"Telling a room full of realtors, builders, planners and architects not to redevelop something is like telling Colonel Saunders to ignore a flock of chickens," he said.

What was unexpected is that Mr. Campos is also head of Heritage Vancouver, and he spoke about character houses as if they were the enemy:

"We talk about this ideal for quality and construction. Really, it is code for an aesthetic bias, which is certainly anti-modern. And it smells of nostalgia. Where does it leave the rest of us? "

Mr. Campos was asked: "Can you guarantee Vancouver wont just become damn ugly? "

His response: "I can't guarantee that. But we can't retreat into the past. "

"Theres another issue," he continued. "The monster home  this idea, a quasi-racist kind of thing, because we don't like what these people are doing. They are usually immigrants, and we don't like it. Cities change. They are meant to evolve, they are meant to change. Its not about keeping a bunch of old houses and rezoning areas, and taking them out of play. "

Both sides were for more density, but Mr. Campos and Mr. Davidson argued that the rezoning would limit the opportunity to add significant density.

If you don't like a big monster house, then we could have six or 10 units, said Mr. Davidson.

Mayor Gregor Robertson recently advocated for more density in the single-family housing zones, which make up more than 60 per cent of the city. He recently realized that many of the houses on the west side are empty, and this week he sounded the alarm.

Its an alarm that most people in the city have been sounding for many years, however. Offshore demand for west side homes has transformed Kerrisdale, Dunbar and Point Grey, turning streets into dead zones.

Adding townhouses and duplexes to the mix, which the mayor has suggested, will only create multimillion-dollar duplexes. On the east side, new duplexes have sold for more than $2-million.

The cheapest house is the house still standing, says Mr. Kluckner.

"If I thought you could build affordable duplexes or townhouses, with the current land prices, and the current construction costs, and current regulatory environment, I would support that as being something that we ought to do. But all you need to do is look at the evidence of the price of duplexes in Grandview. "

Its a great big gentrification play.

The council will vote on the character review in April. As to whether the watered down proposal will have any effect is up for more debate.

"We are certainly hopeful they will be successful," says Ms. Molaro. "I think they will be for some. For others & there is a market that is not interested in character retention at all."


4. Photo-documenting theTransformation of the Hearn Ruins
Jonathan Castellino

Generation: Designing New Spaces

Jonathan Castellino is a photographer based in the city of Toronto, Canada, and an adjunct architectural photography instructor at the Willowbank School of Restoration Arts. His work has appeared in magazines and journals such as Brick, Image, Spacing, and Now, and has been featured in  galleries and on photography websites, including several ongoing series pertaining to his exploration of the city. His main photographic subjects are urban and industrial spaces, within which he explores the intersection of architecture and culture, and of personal meaning and the build environment. While most of his work documents these intersections in his own city, he has pursued similar projects elsewhere in Southern Ontario, New York State and Michigan. Here, he presents “Generation”, shot with the Leica M ( Typ 240).

My photography documents the transformation from space to place. I tend to operate at one speed across all of my work. The attempt is to document the physical and emotional landscape of buildings, as they change with use. Technical accuracy is important, but should always be at the service of creating an image (or series of images) that are organic, and that describe the entire essence of a place within each detail. The idea is to go beyond what something looks like, and show how it feels.



5. Places Journal - Unfinished New York
Belmont Freeman

New Yorks historic preservation community has been in celebratory mode this year, marking a half-century since the passage of the citys Landmarks Law. Observances will go national next year, with the fiftieth anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Museum of the City of New York is honoring the occasion with a splendid exhibition, Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks, curated by Donald Albrecht and Andrew Scott Dolkart, which is accompanied by a handsome catalogue and a series of smart public programs.

Earlier this year I attended a panel discussion at the museum on The Politics of Preservation. There panelist Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, cut through the generally congratulatory mood by declaring that historic preservation in New York is under siege, facing its gravest threats since 1978, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the citys landmarks ordinance in the famous Grand Central Terminal case. To which my response was: Really? Can this be true? Or is this just the latest posture of a movement that seems always to be in need of a crisis?

In fact it would seem that historic preservation is today stronger than ever. The past half century has seen the movement evolve and mature from a rarified special interest on shaky legal and political ground to an institution  an ethos  firmly entrenched in our culture. In New York City, for instance, large parts of every borough are protected by historic district designation, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission has unquestioned authority to prevent building owners and developers from making inappropriate alterations to landmark structures or intrusions into historic districts. But no; according to Breen, I am wrong. There are ascendant forces, fueled by New Yorks white-hot real estate market, that threaten to undo decades of progress. Breen cited the current mayoral administrations intention to modify the longstanding regulation of contextual zoning  a mechanism to control the height and bulk of new buildings in neighborhoods of distinctive character, generally to the effect of perpetuating existing development patterns  by allowing taller buildings in such zones, many of which are contiguous with historic districts. Likewise she warned about the potential effects of up-zoning Midtown East  of allowing taller towers in the area around Grand Central Terminal  which would raise land values and thus subject historic properties to intensified threats of demolition, while the Landmarks Preservation Commission is acting too slowly to designate and protect those properties. And she lamented a proposed bill being debated by the City Council that would impose time limits on the LPC: that if a property is nominated for landmark designation and the commission does not act within a certain period, there would be a five-year moratorium on reconsidering that property, during which time anything could happen.

That the preservation battle is now playing out over wonky issues of bureaucratic process suggests the phenomenal success of the movement.

Let me process this. The possibility that a building somewhat taller than those in its immediate context might be sited on a lot not within, but bordering, a historic district may alarm conservation purists; but it hardly constitutes an existential threat to historic preservation in New York City. And no matter the possible rezoning of Midtown East, the LPC should be considering the designation of worthy properties around Grand Central: In this light it might actually be good that the proposed rezoning gives this matter new urgency, since the commission has become notoriously slow with designation cases. And why shouldnt it be subject to deadlines, like other city agencies? To put it another way: these are the kinds of problems that the preservation pioneers who picketed unsuccessfully to prevent the demolition of Penn Station could only dream about. That the discussion  the preservation battle  is now playing out over wonky issues of bureaucratic process and procedure seems proof of the phenomenal success of the movement in the past fifty years. Far beyond struggling to save individual buildings from destruction  though clearly this remains a never-ending concern  preservationists today are going head to head with City Hall, the City Planning Commission, and the real estate industry over the very shape of the city.