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1. Harper's: Overheated Economies Killing Cities
2. Globe and Mail: The Chateau Laurier Addition
3. The Globe and Mail:Rising land values in Vancouver spurring demolitions
4. Chatham Daily News: Redundant School to be re-purposed
5. Smithsonian: Eusebio Leal, Havana's City Historian
6. Daily Commercial News: Projects - Voltigeurs de Quebec Armoury revived after massive fire
7. Globe and Mail: Leaside Photo Exhibition
8. Globe and Mail:Leaside Exhibition
9. Historica Canada Minute on Kensington Market

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1. Harper's: Overheated Economies Killing Cities
Kevin Baker

The Death of a Once Great City

The fall of New York and the urban crisis of affluence

As New York enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable. It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world’s largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there. For the first time in its history, New York is, well, boring.

This is not some new phenomenon but a cancer that’s been metastasizing on the city for decades now. And what’s happening to New York now—what’s already happened to most of Manhattan, its core—is happening in every affluent American city. San Francisco is overrun by tech conjurers who are rapidly annihilating its remarkable diversity; they swarm in and out of the metropolis in specially chartered buses to work in Silicon Valley, using the city itself as a gigantic bed-and-breakfast. Boston, which used to be a city of a thousand nooks and crannies, back-alley restaurants and shops, dive bars and ice cream parlors hidden under its elevated, is now one long, monotonous wall of modern skyscraper. In Washington, an army of cranes has transformed the city in recent years, smoothing out all that was real and organic into a town of mausoleums for the Trump crowd to revel in.

By trying to improve our cities, we have only succeeded in making them empty simulacra of what was. To bring this about we have signed on to political scams and mindless development schemes that are so exclusive they are more destructive than all they were supposed to improve. The urban crisis of affluence exemplifies our wider crisis: we now live in an America where we believe that we no longer have any ability to control the systems we live under.

https://harpers.org/archive/2018/07/the-death-of-new-york-city-gentrification/

Editor’s Note: A long, well written piece which applies equally to London, Paris so many places, and, closer to home, Toronto.

2. Globe and Mail: The Chateau Laurier Addition
Alex Bozikovic

Relax, Ottawa: The Château isnt falling

An assault on the castle! That’s been the tone of the intense popular debate in Ottawa over a proposed addition to the Château Laurier. The design by Toronto’s architectsAlliance has been cast as a “disgraceful act of heritage vandalism.” And yet the latest version of that design goes to the city’s built heritage subcommittee Monday with staff support. It might, at last, get built.

That is not the disaster that some heritage advocates fear; the addition, in its current form, is a respectful and respectable piece of architecture. But it sure won’t make everyone happy. Nothing could. 

The last two years of debate – call them the Château Wars – have taken place on two distinct fronts. One is the popular argument. Ottawans love the Château, and won’t accept any change at all. The other is a more subtle argument that the addition should mimic or mirror the existing Château.

 

First, the popular debate. Ever since the Château’s owners, Larco Investments, first revealed addition plans in 2016, Ottawans have been really angry. The Toronto architect Peter Clewes and his firm architectsAlliance, together with ERA Architects, drew up a new wing for the hotel – closing its U shape with new guest and meeting rooms – that was 12 storeys tall, facing Major’s Hill Park. It borrowed the limestone and copper of the Château but articulated the façades with an irregular grid of rectangles. Locals compared it to something out of Minecraft or Mordor. 

 

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/article-relax-ottawa-the-chateau-isnt-falling/

3. The Globe and Mail:Rising land values in Vancouver spurring demolitions
Kerry Gold

Rising land values in Vancouver spurring demolitions

A demolition site in East Vancouver. A new study shows that it would take an average of 168 years for the energy-efficiency gains of a newly constructed single-family house to make up for the negative environmental impact of materials used in construction.

John Lehmann

 

As sky-high housing prices and rents in Vancouver continue to make life miserable for many residents, the idea that the city should rezone areas currently reserved for detached housing has continued to gain traction.

It came up repeatedly at a recent Urban Development Institute (UDI) debate, where academic John Rose called it "the biggest supply question" and "the most controversial." And it is included in a frightening new University of British Columbia study on Vancouver's unhealthy construction frenzy, co-authored by architecture professor Joseph Dahmen at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. The study shows the wastefulness of Vancouver's rampant house demolitions. It points out that it would take an average of 168 years for the energy-efficiency gains of a newly constructed single-family house to make up for the negative environmental impact of the materials used in construction.

Despite radical efforts to build homes to a more efficient standard, the teardown cycle means we're adding, not reducing, greenhouse gas emissions. The demolition craze is fuelled by rising property values, with people tearing down homes and building bigger ones, often to house fewer people.

Mr. Dahmen says that if we're throwing so many perfectly good houses into the landfill and increasing overall greenhouse gas emissions in the process, then we might as well replace them with rowhouses, townhouses and condos to house more people. He's not saying to tear down all houses, because it's not a single-solution problem, he says. But the higher the land price relative to the building on it, then the higher the probability of demolition. A multi-unit building would be more financially valuable, and therefore less likely to be demolished, he says.

"This is a complex issue and we don't want to eliminate zoning for single-family houses and go row-housing everywhere. It needs to be done carefully, judiciously, with great regard for design goals," Mr. Dahmen says.

"The question is, can we afford to have the attitude that everywhere there is a single-family house we only want another single-family house? We have to think about what we want to protect and what is off limits.

"Let's not forget that one in four houses being bought and sold right now in Vancouver is being torn down and replaced with something new."

Misha Das, a student at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture who co-authored the study, which was funded by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (analyst and supply advocate Jens von Bergmann also collaborated), estimates that about 32,000 detached houses in Vancouver will be torn down by 2050. "It's mind boggling," Mr. Das says, especially because that number represents almost half the detached housing stock. Clearly, we're not doing enough to preserve the historic homes, he says.

"For me, it's very important we consider all the costs associated with rebuilding the city – because the city is being rebuilt whether we like it or not," he says. "It will be a very different place 20 years from now.

"Growth, for the most part, isn't a very green process."

A greater selection of housing makes sense in a city where residents need to earn about 35 times the average household income to afford the benchmark price of a detached house.

But if the city followed through and blanket rezoned single-family for denser housing, would it actually translate into affordable housing? And would we end up with a livable city – or a city beset by overcrowding and never-ending gridlock?

These were the questions posed at the UDI debate by Josh Gordon, assistant professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Public Policy, and John Rose, instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University's department of geography. Mr. Gordon and Mr. Rose argued that speculative demand, driven by global wealth sloshing into the Vancouver region's housing market in the last several years, had created a crisis. They argued that merely rezoning areas and building more market supply won't solve the problem, and could end up exacerbating the crisis. Mr. Rose questioned why communities would buy into the idea.

"I highly doubt you will find neighbourhoods willing to embrace densification if they do not see the anticipated benefits and affordability," he said. "[People will ask] ‘Why are we densifying if this is just going to be purchased by speculative investors and prices are going to be jacked up so local residents can't live in any of it?'"

"It's not about ‘anti-supply' or ‘anti-densification.' In the context of where you have speculative investment, it is, ‘How do you sell this?'"

But pro-supply groups say land-consuming detached housing is a major barrier to affordability. Fifty-seven per cent of the city's land mass is zoned for one-family dwellings, according to housing analyst Andy Yan (it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of houses are used to house more than family, so "single family" is a misnomer.)

Even UBC economist Tom Davidoff, who supports rezoning, didn't sound confident at the debate that affordability for the average-income earner would be on the menu. Instead, Mr. Davidoff saw foreign wealth, when it was at its peak, as a boon for the economy, and a way to get money out of the land and subsidize housing for locals. He also said a market flooded with multifamily housing would result in lower prices, and even if only high-income earners could afford it, that's better than nobody. And because of the NDP government's new tax measures, which were partly based on a proposal put forward by a large group of local economists, including Mr. Davidoff, there's now more money on the table for locals.

"If somebody from overseas wants to buy a condo and leave it empty, good for them," he told the audience, made up of young people in the development industry. "They are going to pay 20 per cent up front in [foreign-buyer] tax, 1 per cent for the city's empty homes tax and 2 per cent for the provincial speculation tax, so on a $1-million condo, they are going to pay $200,000 upfront and $30,000 a year for an empty box. That's a great deal for the city … So the beauty of the new tax regime is regardless of what was driving things, what's the objection now to getting more affordable stuff built? If people want to pay us taxes for nothing, great.

"I just don't see a loss in adding multifamily, especially if the city [increases] community amenity contributions while doing approvals."

Mr. Rose asked: "Is the purpose of densification to increase tax revenue or to provide affordable housing to local residents?"

And Mr. Gordon later said: "You can sell off Vancouver and all the land to wealthy buyers – but will you get affordability?"

In a follow-up interview, Mr. Gordon said we would need a policy framework that captures some of the profits ("land lift") that would result from blanket rezoning – in the form of community amenity contributions, for example. Otherwise, land owners, realtors and developers would simply pocket the substantial gains and create housing that remains out of reach for locals.

He cites redevelopment of detached houses into major projects along Cambie Street, which are unaffordable for most locals.

"There are people who own 20 detached houses on the west side who are tapping their fingers, waiting for municipal governments to [rezone detached houses], on the basis of affordability, when it won't generate that," Mr. Gordon said. "We need to be very, very cautious about rezoning single-family detached areas."

Mr. Gordon suspects that the development industry is behind a lot of the talk for more supply. Last fall, UDI chief executive officer Anne McMullin called for municipalities in the region to remove single-family restrictions, for consumers and developers.

And Mr. Gordon notes that there is a civic election coming up, and people are pushing their agendas.

"They are trying to rezone Vancouver and they are trying to do it without the proper mechanisms for land lift in place, and it will not generally deliver affordability as they maintain it will," he says. "This is a concerted effort on the part of the development industry and associated industries and speculators, to try to make a big windfall profit.

"There needs to be a bigger conversation about what kind of a city do we want to be. Do we want to be a highly dense city like Singapore or Hong Kong? Or do we want to preserve the livability of the city and not try to cram tens of thousands of people into a small amount of space? For obvious reasons, the development industry wants the high-rise strategy."

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Chatham Daily News: Redundant School to be re-purposed
Elwood Shreve, forwarded by Marlee Robinson

LKDSB decides to repurpose school for alternative programs

By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News

Friday, June 8, 2018 9:35:28 EDT AM
Daphne Zondag, principal of John N. Given Public School, led the organizing of a Farewell Open House in early May to mark the closure of the Chatham elementary school at the end of the current school year. The school will continue to serve students now that the Lambton Kent District School Board has decided to house its alternative education and adult and continuing education programs at the site. Ellwood Shreve/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network
Daphne Zondag, principal of John N. Given Public School, led the organizing of a Farewell Open House in early May to mark the closure of the Chatham elementary school at the end of the current school year. The school will continue to serve students now that the Lambton Kent District School Board has decided to house its alternative education and adult and continuing education programs at the site. Ellwood Shreve/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

John N. Given Public School will continue to serve students after the school officially closes to current JK to Grade 8 students at the end of the month.

The Lambton Kent District School Board announced Thursday that senior administration have decided to repurpose the school for alternative programs, which means it will not be declared surplus to the board's needs.
LKDSB trustees previously approved the consolidation of Given to the Kindergarten to Grade 8 English language program at nearby Tecumseh Public School for this September.

When closing a school, board's have the option to repurpose it or sell it.

“We repurpose properties or sell properties with a varying degree of success,” said superintendent of education Gary Girardi, adding, “it often depends on the specific location and the interest in the site.”

However, in this case, he said the board wasn't looking at the prospect of whether or not the site could be sold when making this decision.

Girardi said the board currently has special education programs at various locations throughout the area, along with LKDSB's Adult & Continuing Education program that occupies a leased property in Chatham.

“Consolidating into one site, especially a site that is currently part of the Lambton Kent District School Board, we think it's a good decision for repurposing that John N. Given Public School site,” he said.

Some of the special education programs that will move to Given are the Positive Alternative to Suspension from School program and Section 23, which offers educational programming to students who require an alternative to a traditional classroom setting.

http://www.chathamdailynews.ca/2018/06/08/lkdsb-decides-to-repurpose-school-for-alternative-programs

Editor’s Note: Keeping schools in use for the public good seems sensible, but isn't always the case.

5. Smithsonian: Eusebio Leal, Havana's City Historian
Tony Perrottet

The Man Who Saved Havana

As its greatest old buildings were falling down, a fearless historian named Eusebio Leal remade the city into a stunning world destination

Formerly an arcade and office buildingFormerly an arcade and office building, dating to 1917, the structure underwent a city-led restoration and reopened last year as the Hotel Manzana Kempinski. (Néstor Martí)
By Tony Perrottet, Photography by Néstor Marti

On a sweltering morning in Old Havana, a courtly figure in a crisp gray guayabera shirt weaves through the Plaza de Armas, the city’s Spanish colonial heart, trying not to attract attention. Although none of the foreigners lolling beneath the banyan trees and royal palms recognize him, a ripple of excitement passes through the Cubans, who nudge each other, smile and stare. Perhaps only on this island obsessed with its operatic past could a historian become a celebrity on a par with a Clooney or DiCaprio. Eusebio Leal is the official historian of the city of Havana, a regal-sounding position that brings with it enormous influence and exposure—he starred for many years in his own TV show where he explored Old Havana’s streets—and he is as far from the cliché of the dusty, isolated academic as it is possible to get. In fact, Leal is credited with almost single-handedly bringing Old Havana from the brink of ruin to its current status as the most ravishing and vibrant architectural enclave in the Western Hemisphere.

Deftly dodging well-wishers, Leal ducks into the Historical Library, where some 50 female workers line up to kiss him on the cheek and offer flustered greetings. In his hectic round of duties, he has come to honor one of Cuba’s countless obscure intellectual champions—a certain Alfredo Zayas Méndez, who founded this archive 80 years ago, an exalted act in a nation with the highest level of education in Latin America. Standing before a plaque, Leal orates off the cuff for 45 minutes about the biblio-hero Zayas, a rhetorical tour de force that includes fond personal anecdotes, philosophical musings on “the importance of memory” and flirtatious exchanges that make the audience collapse into helpless laughter. He then takes questions, poses for snapshots, examines a restoration plan for the Havana Capitol—offering his expert opinion about work on the dome—before dashing off with his minder to a high-level government meeting.

The whirlwind visit leaves everyone a little dazed. At age 75, Leal shows no signs of slowing his notoriously hectic pace. For the last 50 years, almost as long as the Cuban revolution has lasted, his outsized personality has been inseparable from Old Havana itself. Working within the Communist system, he pioneered a capitalist network that would save the district’s architectural heritage at the same time as maintaining its community life so that it would not become a “living museum” like Venice or Old San Juan. A consummate politician, he combined a deft personal touch with the poorest residents while navigating the high corridors of government and hobnobbing with Fidel Castro. Although he has stepped back from direct power in the last couple of years following a serious illness, he is still regularly loaded with international honors, as both Cubans and foreigners—even Miami exiles—fall over themselves to pile him with praise.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/man-who-saved-havana-180968735/

6. Daily Commercial News: Projects - Voltigeurs de Quebec Armoury revived after massive fire
Don Wall

For the reconstructed armoury, the roofs of the central multifunctional room and the lobby are made from Massive Engineered Wood structures and CLT panels, which are covered externally with copper.

PSPC FACEBOOK  The April 2008 fire at the Voltigeurs armoury headquarters in Quebec City sent the regiment packing for a decade. They returned May 12 of this year following the completion of the rebuild.

The recently completed $104-million restoration of the landmark Voltigeurs de Quebec Armoury at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City has not only brought a significant Canadian heritage building back to life but the build has given the community valuable new multipurpose spaces as well.

The project involved significant remediation of the site following a major fire in April 2008, consultation with numerous stakeholders including the Voltigeurs, who are the oldest French-Canadian regiment still in existence, and careful co-ordination of heritage preservation and sustainability goals.

The community celebrated closing on the project with an inauguration ceremony April 26.

“We were able to find solutions to all of our challenges,” said Luc Morin, project leader for Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). “There was a way to rehabilitate the site, make it more useful, optimizing the site for the community, and more useful for the government as well.”

The project team benefited by access to the original 1885 drawings created by architect Eugene-Etienne Tache — an employee of Public Works Canada, Morin noted with a hint of pride.

Tache had toured Europe and returned intent on designing the armoury in a French chateau style with turrets, dormer windows and stone masonry. The stone was sourced from nearby quarries and the wooden roof, covered with copper, was the largest of its kind in Canada.

Only the facade and two towers were left intact following the fire. Morin said the structure was already in need of renovation, with lots of mould and water seepage damage exacerbated by over a century of harsh weather.

https://canada.constructconnect.com/dcn/news/projects/2018/05/voltigeurs-de-quebec-armoury-revived-massive-fire

7. Globe and Mail: Leaside Photo Exhibition
Dave Le Blanc

When Toronto's upscale Leaside was a company town

Mister Company Man on the Company land
Stands every street and building in the town
Every park, every green, every home and dream
The Company owns every piece of ground
And everybody in the Company Town
Company Town by The Men They Couldn’t Hang, 1989


Examples of 'company town' houses at 121-123 Rumsey Rd., Vik Pahwa

If it had been named Wireville or Cableton, perhaps Toronto residents would understand how important these "company town" homes in Leaside — incorporated in 1913, Leaside would become part of the borough of East York in 1967 — really are and how they jump-started development.<

But, alas, when Canada Wire and Cable Co. (CWCC) purchased 6.5 hectares on the eastern edge of the development, another company had beaten them to the punch: the Canadian Northern Railway. It was the railway that had assembled 415 hectares of farmland and hired New Hampshire-born, Montreal-based Frederick Gage Todd to plan the unique, curving streets of Leaside. 

Named for farmer John Lea, who settled here in 1819, and for his son, William, who had an octagonal home named "Leaside" built in the 1850s, Todd sharpened his draughting pencil, thought of his mentor Frederick Law Olmsted and employed new garden city principles to his design, just as he'd done for Mont Royal in Montreal and Port Mann in British Columbia.

 


278 Sutherland Dr., Vik Pahwa

However, during the 15-year development stall, this was Canada Wires town. As early as 1914, the president, Emil A. Wallberg, was securing permits to build homes for his employees on 40-foot lots. While the plan was to build 100 fairly close to the factory, underground water issues meant they were pushed across Laird Drive onto Rumsey Road, Airdrie Road and Sutherland Drive. In all, approximately 68 were built.

 

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/toronto/article-when-torontos-upscale-leaside-was-a-company-town/

8. Globe and Mail:Leaside Exhibition
Dave LeBlanc

When Toronto


Mister Company Man on the Company land

Stands every street and building in the town

Every park, every green, every home and dream

The Company owns every piece of ground

And everybody in the Company Town

Company Town by The Men They Couldnt Hang, 1989

If it had been named Wireville or Cableton, perhaps Toronto residents would understand how important these company town homes in Leaside  incorporated in 1913, Leaside would become part of the borough of East York in 1967  really are and how they jump-started development.

But, alas, when Canada Wire and Cable Co. (CWCC) purchased 6.5 hectares on the eastern edge of the development, another company had beaten them to the punch: the Canadian Northern Railway. It was the railway that had assembled 415 hectares of farmland and hired New Hampshire-born, Montreal-based Frederick Gage Todd to plan the unique, curving streets of Leaside.

Named for farmer John Lea, who settled here in 1819, and for his son, William, who had an octagonal home named Leaside built in the 1850s, Todd sharpened his draughting pencil, thought of his mentor Frederick Law Olmsted and employed new garden city principles to his design, just as hed done for Mont Royal in Montreal and Port Mann in British Columbia.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/toronto/article-when-torontos-upscale-leaside-was-a-company-town/

9. Historica Canada Minute on Kensington Market
Historica

Kensington Market Heritage Minute launch

Baldwin Street, Catherine Nasmith

An interesting animated video on the evolution of Kensington Market, home to me and Built Heritage News.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E2z9YouMfM&feature=youtu.be.