Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Patience rewarded

With any amount of patience and cleverness, any developer (private, but especially public) can do whatever they want, where ever they want--even if it is in the most important neighborhood of the city.

Ken Zaifman's plan to demolish the Albert Street Business block--that little row of modest storefronts with an ancient house affixed to it--recieved approval by the Property, [Planning], and Development Committee today. (Free Press story here)

When Mr. Zaifman finally dropped the plan to build a driveway to the parking lot from Albert Street, which he said was essential to redevelopment, he recieved cautious endorsement from Heritage Winnipeg, once the crazy building huggers who for 30 years have routinely stood in the way of some C-list developer's plan to further suburbanize Winnipeg's downtown, particularly the Exchange District, which the Albert Street sits in the middle of.

Between a Property, Planning, & Development boss who takes lessons in urbanism from the Geritol Belt (City property boss under fresh attack - WFP), and a self-enfeebling Heritage Winnipeg (Heritage advocates support new plan - WFP), it should be no problem for any destructive idea to be approved by City Hall.

And if this is how a man with no development experience is ultimately treated, how much easier will it be for a bigger, respected, and experienced local development player comes along with a bright idea that involves destroying buildings in the Exchange District?

Still, it wasn't all rosey for Mr. Zaifman at City Hall today, the Committee stipulated that he must complete at least 50% of the renovation work in the St. Charles Hotel before he is allowed to demolish the business block next door.

This will be the tough part, because Mr. Zaifman will have to show that he actually has the will and capability to be a developer. While he has waited two years for the ability to demolish next door, he has sat on the St. Charles Hotel. Recently, he quietly re-opened it as a single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel.

"He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much." - Luke 16:10

But if the patience to jump through a few hoops is all that is required to win the right to punch a hole (driveway or not) in a historically intact streetscape, it should be possible to somehow show enough work has been done in the St. Charles to allow for demolition next door.

Keep those reciepts when you repair the rooms your SRO tenants trash, Mr. Zaifman.


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