Thursday, February 12, 2009

The facade of mediocrity

This article was published in this week's issue of The Uniter.

The key to demolishing a building in the Exchange District today is patience.


For the Reiss family’s Bedford Investments company, it has taken more than 15 years of willful neglect to finally win approval to demolish the Ryan Block for a parkade. Keeping the facade (or simply talking about it) is simply becoming another method, and the City of Winnipeg is giving $1.5 million in municipal heritage grants to Bedford Developments to rebuild the facade of the 114-year-old warehouse and incorporate it into the parking structure.

Illustration by Robert Huynh

Facade-retention is increasingly seen as a supposed “win-win,” but is really just an excuse for continuing to gradually thwart the vibrancy of the Exchange District by adding more to its over-saturated parking supply. Urban spaces are not simply a collection of nice facades propped up like movie sets, but living and dynamic organisms: at their best when they are dense and complex in their uses...

the rest

19 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

Isn't this the same story all over again ?

Its a Grade 3 building. Facades are the only thing to save.

Besides, if they don't put them back up, they don't get the funding. Action before cash.

Thats per Thorgrimson and Giles at the City.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Regan Wolfrom said...

The concern I have is that if Bedford Investments says that they can't do the façade, the city will say, "oh, then no heritage funding". And then we end up with the parkade sans façade.

The big question is whether or not the city's agreement specifies that the project must include the façade. On top of that, what are the penalties for not including the façade? I would think anything short of property forfeiture isn't enough of a deterrent.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous TRU said...

This should've been in the Free Press. I don't know why you give your stuff away for free when you don't have to. Well done anyway.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous TRU said...

Regan, you're missing the point here, which is that a parkade avec façade is only marginally better than a parkade without one. If there are to be public millions going into this project, it should be for the building's complete restoration—which Bedford ought to have done with their insurance money after the fire.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Regan Wolfrom said...

@TRU: so is it a restoration by rebuilding it brick by brick? Is that what would need to be done as it was structurally unsound? If that is the case, I don't think the market or government could bear the cost at this time.

And this parkade could be done properly if there was enough drive to make it so.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

Regan it is SO. No Facades, no money.

Tru , you keep missing the point, a GRADE 3 building can have its interior modified completely.

Gutted, trashed, converted. Its in the bylaw.


Either way, if Reiss doesn't fork over the tax bill, we the taxpayers we the taxpayers will own a 75 K building ( possibly what Reiss paid for it 15 years ago ) for about a million we will pay/have paid up front to stabilize it. Then we'll pour another 2 million to refurbish and move in a government office or gift it to Red River.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous TRU said...

I don't care what the law is or what the building's designation is. That's not what matters. What does matter is what's right for the Exchange, and hence the City of Winnipeg, and hence the Province of Manitoba, and hence the Dominion of Canada, since this is a NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE. Did you imbeciles read Rob's article? Let me refresh your exasperatingly short memories:

"
Facade-retention is increasingly seen as a supposed “win-win,” but is really just an excuse for continuing to gradually thwart the vibrancy of the Exchange District by adding more to its over-saturated parking supply. Urban spaces are not simply a collection of nice facades propped up like movie sets, but living and dynamic organisms: at their best when they are dense and complex in their uses. "

If it's just a parking garage behind the façade, the building is effectively dead. If I have to explain it any further, you'll never understand.

And no, it's not a restoration rebuilding it brick-by-brick. That's a façade reconstruction. A reconstruction would involve structural stabilization and a complete gutting of the pigeon-shit-covered interior, in order for the building to be used for commercial, residential, or light industrial purposes—NOT VEHICLE STORAGE! There is absolutely way that an inherently improper concept for this location—i.e. a parkade—can be done "properly."

Again, a quot from Rob's piece is relevant:

"It would not be difficult to imagine a modish eatery lighting up the arched windows of the main floor with small firms or residents upstairs."

Unless, that is, your name is "Mr. Nobody" or Regan Wolfrom.

It astounds me how those who read and comment on this blog so regularly are unable to grasp its premise.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

Sorry, I got lost on "modish ".

But make no mistake, you have to deal with the law. No amount of prose will change the fact you are coming to the table with no concept and no cash.

Besides, we've already hashed this out. Heck even a suggestion was made to take the building over. I guess that doesn't interest you though.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous TRU said...

I'm not a property developer. Nor is Roger Ebert a filmmaker. But unlike you, I can figure out simple arithmetic: 104 King + Parkade = FAIL. Since the Exchange is Winnipeg's greatest claim to livability, said FAIL is deleterious to the public good and the overall local economy, thus 100% UNDESERVING of any public funding or support.

1:36 AM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

"Since the Exchange is Winnipeg's greatest claim to livability"

Ok, we are now going hyperbolic.


"I'm not a property developer. Nor is Roger Ebert a filmmaker"

Ahh yes, the blob-ospheres copout of choice.


Sayonara.

6:42 AM  
Anonymous TRU said...

You're the one copping out. And if you think that's hyperbole, I have to question whether you're actually READING this blog, because you sure as hell don't understand it.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous TRU said...

Note the title of this article is "The facade of mediocrity." The Exchange District is an exceptional place, which becomes less so when mediocre is added to it.

The Exchange needs (aesthetically sympahetic) infill, not demolitions. It needs commercial spaces and residential spaces—not parking spaces (of which there are already too many). Regardless if the façade is kept, a 104 King parkade is a disastrous notion and if you're not one of the greedy developers involved the only explanation for being unable to see that is you are a total rube.

Other cities place restriction on what can be done in historic districts—and for good reason. This parkade project will devalue Old Market Square, which devalues the Exchange, which devalues the City, the province, the country—as I've ALREADY EXPLAINED although the simple concept seems unable to penetrate your thick skull.

Please stop posting here—your hick opinions reveal you have ZERO understanding of how cities work, and this blog doesn't seem to be helping you any.

12:05 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

TRU is right--it is not hyperbolic to suggest that chipping away at the integrity and density of the Exchange District (via less buildings and more parkades--even gussied up ones) is detrimental to the City's bottom line. Winnipeg loses investment and people by doing this, and thus becomes more of a financially and morally-bunkrupt city of wind-swept, discontinuous, and ugly streets that are at best boring, and at worst dangerous.

That was my argument in this article and in countless other posts and articles I have written.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely good enough to get paid for R&S.

Just wondering though, acknowledging that to have a vibrant exchange, or urban community, you need not just facades but active productive spaces and also acknowledging the point Mr.N likes to make about these things costing big $$$, what policy instruments or what processes do we need to rehabilitate these buildings?

I mean, I get the demolition by neglect, and there's no way in hell I want my tax dollars going to the people who have made this mess and who are proposing a totally inadequate solution. So where do we go? How do we as Winnipegers create a vibrant community in the face of this neglect? Does the city take the property, restore it and then try to sell it? How have things been done elsewhere? We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel on this...

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this blog was all about free enterprise? If developers want to use their own money to satisfy legitimate market demands, why do we need statist intervention to prevent them from doing so?

The Exchange NHS has, what, three parkades? It's not exactly overrun with parking. Maybe TRU thinks that one parking space is too many. That's fine, but it doesn't work that way in the real world. Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I thought this blog was all about free enterprise? If developers want to use their own money to satisfy legitimate market demands, why do we need statist intervention to prevent them from doing so?"

The statist creation of and access to highways and roads has created demand for parking. As long as the city continues to be a parking "Market Maker" this is not a case of trampling the free market.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

TRU, you can't handle my concepts, thats why you keep going round in circles.

I understand the blog, thats why I force the issue.

ANON 2:02, you are right. People have invested and they live by the bylaw. Personally if facades are kept without anyone stepping up then its at least something. Hoping wishing romanticizing bares no currency when you don't own the structure.

Whats the point anyhow, if people aren't going to lay down some cash to make a change, whether its a group of investors or taxpayers, these warehouses will vanish and so be it.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

"Winnipeg loses investment and people by doing this, and thus becomes more of a financially and morally-bunkrupt city"

Sorry, thats too sentimental for me. I'd say rubbish, but that would be rude.


According to all the poobahs in power and all the taxpayer paid for activity's generating fairly decent numbers in the City, the core's health or lack of, doesn't seem to have impacted the "growth ' of the city. its almost as if it doesn't exist ( or ever has )

Some would argue that razing these expensive rundown run of the mill warehouses would do more for the City then trying to save them.

You can;'t really argue that anything built in the last 30 years downtown has had less of an impact then saving warehouses or, that the latter would have contributed as much to the economy.

Just saying. A few items to contemplate.


Since there was nothing there of value in the first place, I don'
t think the city lost anything.

Creating something does have value. And there is the problem for "your" City. Go on, create, conceptualize, its all there for you to copy. Other City's have wonderful concepts you can copy.

Surely, prairie folk can do that easily enough. Its a young City with no real " hip" history , so you have to create it. Hurry up, time flies by.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

Anon 1;53.

So where do we go? How do we as Winnipegers create a vibrant community

You have to make really difficult choices.

As i;'ve stated on similar topics in this blog, first and foremost is to make all buildings Grade 1...period.

Of course, investors will have to be compensated and that takes you to taxpayer funding.

But the real focus should be on, as you say, CREATE.

Personally I would like to see the whole area becoming an Educational Campus. Whatever it takes, that to me is the only way you can consistently bring thousands of people into the core every single day. It also allows funding that is going to suburbs to be redirected to the core so buildings can be resurrected and those that need to be built , are built to suit the character of the space.

It must be a massive undertaking in order to have a long lasting effect on the City. Only when you find something of this scale will you breathe real life into the area.

But hicks like me don't quite get what the romance is with the UofM anyways. Seems to me a 100 year old university thats falling apart is as good an entity to move as any.

( oh, and we could use the 500k BRT money to beef up transit to the core )

Again, its going to be a hard and difficult choice whatever is decided.

4:29 PM  

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