Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Clear-cutting a streetscape

This article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press today:

A drawing was released this month of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's future offices at Logan Avenue and Main Street, which is part of Centre Venture Development Corporation's "cluster developments" for downtown. A 200-car parkade will adjoin the building, and up the street close to Higgins Avenue, a new surface lot will join the cluster of parking spots.

Reviews of the design for the WRHA building from local architecture critics have so far ranged from bad ("pretty poor -- standard office park architecture"), to very bad ("an affront to Inkster Industrial Park, never mind the most historic street in Western Canada").

But the tragedy is not only what the fabled Main Street strip -- which even in 1892 was called "Winnipeg's Bowery"-- will be stuck with, but what it will lose.

The Starland Theatre, a former vaudeville house built in 1909, and the Epic Theatre, a Grade 2 heritage structure which was one of Canada's first movie theatres -- once two of five theatres at Logan and Main. Then there is the Jack's Place building at 652 Main (1912), and the Weir Hardware building up the street at 666 Main (1899). To allow for demolition, the Starland and Jack's were removed from the Historical Buildings Inventory by the city's heritage buildings committee on March 20. The fate of the Epic and Weir's, meanwhile, will be decided at a later date.

For such a feat of perfidy and hypocrisy, the heritage buildings committee should congratulate themselves: Three historical buildings being approved for demolition in a single day probably hasn't happened since the 1970s.



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