Wednesday, March 19, 2008

One cannot care for streets they've never walked on, pt.II

The most unfortunate thing to happen to publicly-paid men and women in the Downtown Revitalization industry (who invariably live in the suburbs) is that people began to live in the parts of town they felt they knew what's best for, confounding their percieved wisdom.

The reason so few people are indifferent to demolition of heritage buildings on North Main is because so few people (under the age of, say, 65) have any memory of North Main. Few have ever set foot on the corner of Logan and Main in their life. Thus, the neighborhood is deemed expendable, even to citizens and public servants who take great efforts to rally around threatened buildings in better loved districts: The Ryan block at King Street and Bannatyne; the Albert Street business block; the Church of Christian Science on River Avenue near Osborne; etc.

This is beginning to change, and opposition to lame-brained, certifiably doomed urban renewal-like tactics like Centre Venture's North Main plan, is growing as vocal residents move in. Defence of the integrity of neighborhoods like North Main is expected to grow (provided there will continue to be buildings for people to move into).

Case in point, one young woman who lives on North Main (who was featured on CBC Manitoba today), posted an exerpt of a letter to Centre Venture on the Save Heritage Buildings From Demolition by Neglect Facebook group:

"As a resident of Main Street I have seen the area undergo a promising transformation in recent years. The Artist’s Edge Gallery and lofts, the MAWA office, the Neon Factory, and new developments at the former Occidental Hotel have brought new people and new energy into our neighborhood. The artists that have begun to call Main Street their home are attracted to the street’s history and its beautiful old buildings. Main Street has problems – but it also has character. By ignoring the area’s natural strengths, CentreVenture’s latest plans threaten its potential.

"Although I welcome new development on Main Street I do not think that demolishing heritage buildings is the correct way to proceed. With so many vacant lots available in this area, why is there a need to tear down the remaining historic buildings on Main Street? These buildings should be restored not destroyed.

"CentreVenture has an opportunity to help create a vibrant neighborhood for artists that want to live and work on Main Street. Small-scale development and the preservation of older buildings will encourage this growth – just as it has in the Exchange District. Large-scale demolition and suburban-style office buildings are a wrong-headed approach to revitalization for our neighborhood.

"I hope that CentreVenture will re-think its plans for the Starland Theatre and develop a plan that embraces the wonderful historic buildings of Main Street."

A new cafe occuppies a refurbished Occidental Hotel, Logan and Main, February, 2008. Photo courtesy of


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