Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Kicking it up a notch

It sounds like Centre Venture has figured out what a tactical error it would be to be the ones who supported the demolition of the Smart Bag building at 145 Pacific Avenue. A house on Hargrave and Cumberland, sure. A block of historically insignificant but good commercial buildings and historically irreplaceable but dilapidated theatres on skid row, and no one will care.

But to demolish one of the oldest warehouses that is standing in good condition in what is seen by the public, is in physical nature, (yet not in political boundary) the Exchange District, that is going a bit too far, and is bad for optics. Lines like "Current building owner... and downtown development agency CentreVenture are expected to appear before the committee to argue in favour of the demolition..." in the Free Press don't look good--even for a government corporation that is about as transparent as a pile of rubble.

And so, Centre Venture is taking their East Exchange District parkade idea (not to be confused with their other parkade ideas) to another site nearby, possibly in conjunction with the Manitoba Museum and their phony demand.

The fate of the Smart Bag building is still very much in the balance today. And just as not demolishing a heritage building to build a parkade is good for optics, demolishing a heritage building for a parkade-free devolopment will be an easier sell on council. Councillor Fielding, for one, is nominally the most conservative voice yet still thinks playing Whac-a-mole with government-funded non-profits (and one less good building) counts for "new opportunities."

Approving the demolition of the Smart Bag Co. building would be a new precedent that would set heritage preservation efforts back about 20 years (not that Heritage Winnipeg hasn't done that themselves). This is a rather important structure historically and architecturally, and fire damage and neglect are not usable excuses. If the Smart Bag Co. building can go today, the Galt Warehouse can go tomorrow, and the Electric Railway Chambers the day after that.

Regardless of what is decided, these kind of threats to the integrity of the city's historical core will only increase while parking garages are more financially-lucrative than buildings, and where the pathetic zero-sum shuffling from office to office (do you think Sports Manitoba was given a wealth of subsidies to revitalize south Main Street a decade ago?) continues to be the norm.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears the building has dodged the first wrecking ball at Committee level with a listing as a Grade 3 heritage structure.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as the investor didn't get screwed by ineffectual city departments move on to the next phase.

This will continue until a plan is developed for what the area should look like.

One thing is for sure, without taxpayer money, these buildings can't survive.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Cycling Guy said...

"If the Smart Bag Co. building can go today, the Galt Warehouse can go tomorrow, and the Electric Railway Chambers the day after that. "

Ummm, the Eaton's building went yesterday. Given THAT precedent probably the only building safe from the wrecker is the Leg. I mean, how many people had ever heard of the Smart Bag building until now? But an awful lot of people had deep connections with Eatons.

10:17 PM  

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