Construction criticism over Fortis proposal

Alisha Morrissey
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A proposal by Fortis to erect a 15-storey office building in downtown St. John's has already generated a mountain of debate.

But there seems to be a need to build more of a consensus before constructing the actual building.

In the hours after the public release of the proposal Tuesday, people took to online message boards, media comments sections and Facebook to applaud and protest the proposal.

Bruce Templeton, president of the St. John's Board of Trade, is quick to remind people the plan is only a proposal and there's much discussion to come.

An artists rendering of a proposed addition to the Fortis Building on Water and Prescott streets in St. Johns. Photo courtesy of Fortis

A proposal by Fortis to erect a 15-storey office building in downtown St. John's has already generated a mountain of debate.

But there seems to be a need to build more of a consensus before constructing the actual building.

In the hours after the public release of the proposal Tuesday, people took to online message boards, media comments sections and Facebook to applaud and protest the proposal.

Bruce Templeton, president of the St. John's Board of Trade, is quick to remind people the plan is only a proposal and there's much discussion to come.

Templeton says there needs to be balance between the need for office space - which is great - and the city's culture and heritage.

"There are great challenges for St. John's right now. We are being told by our members that they want to grow their businesses. We are aware of a number of professional offices that need to grow and there's a shortage of triple A space in this area at this time. So we have to get this right so there needs to be productive and respectful discussion as we move this forward," Templeton says.

He says he hopes the board is asked to weigh in on the consultation process with the city.

Fortis officials said in a news release the proposal would see a complete retrofit of the current 12-storey Fortis Building, as well as a re-development of several adjacent buildings into the 15-storey office tower.

The proposed $75-million project would include 235,000 square feet of new Class A office space, ground-level retail, underground parking for 382, and a ped-way connection from the TD Building across Water Street.

"Today's application recognizes our need to address the aging condition of our assets while providing much needed Class A office inventory in the downtown core," said Fortis president and CEO Nora Duke, in the release. "We believe this development will bring new business to the downtown, increase retail activity and further revitalize the city's downtown core through quality infrastructure and amenities."

Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff, who's also on the heritage and planning committees, says Fortis can go ahead with the retrofit because that building is grandfathered under the current regulations. But the proposed second building doesn't meet current height regulations for the downtown and because the current buildings are in a designated heritage area, council can refuse to grant a demolition permit for 151-163 Water St.

Duff wouldn't say what council would decide to do.

She says there's some allowances in the rules for a potential five or six stories on the Harbour Drive side of the building.

"Ideally it would have been fabulous if Fortis - a big and well resourced company - had made a contribution to protecting the character of a very special area of the city by doing just that, retrofitting its existing buildings, putting in a tasteful compatible sort of building behind ... everybody would have given them, would have been clapping for that," she says, adding the company owns land on the west end of downtown that's already zoned for the kind of building they want to build.

"It's so clearly a totally alternate vision for the downtown than the one that has been recommended by council studies and is part of our current municipal plan."

Duff calls it a tipping point development and says an exception wouldn't be fair.

amorrissey@thetelegram.com

Organizations: St. John's Board of Trade, Fortis Building, TD Building

Geographic location: St. John's, Water Street

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  • Thomas
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    You are Confused if you think the Tele is blocking out all the so-called anti-development types. This page is full of your drivel. We anti-developmentarians are arguing that there is plenty of room elsewhere in one of the oldest and most unique cities in North America. Its a good thing they didn't adopt this myopic approach in Quebec City.

  • Downtown Res
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Seriously, Confused: we should all be on our knees thanking Fortis . Seriously?
    Please stand up and take pride in your city; work to keep the good it has, and fix that which has become run down. There is a right answer and the people of St. Johns need to be a part of it.
    We have more than enough space filled with dilapidated buildings that are desperate for redevelopment without needing to go to an all time high. Cabot Place I 12 stories (1987), Cabot Place II 13 stories (1993), Scotia Centre 11 stories (1987), Atlantic Place 9 stories (1975). None of these buildings are held in high esteem as shining examples of ways to maintain downtowns appeal or of innovative architecture. I didnt move back here for the shiny skyscrapers, thats for sure.
    Fortis knows better; theyre rather smart people there. There is more to this plan that the lackluster artists rendition of two shiny glass ice cubes floating on the harbour. Id stay tuned if I were you.

  • Confused
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Wow, I am shocked. You guys are terrified of change, you must all still wear diapers as undergarments. I cannot believe all of the anti-development comments on this website, we should all be on our knees thanking Fortis for their ongoing investment into this province. Makes me sick knowing that I live amongst people who would like nothing else than to keep the stereotype of idiotic Newfoundlanders as strong as possible. Wouldn't any of you naysayers like to see the downtown area move away from the 19th century look? I would love to see St. Johns turn into a major city like Toronto or Vancouver, that is exactly what this province needs to propel us into the 21st century. How could you not want that and still say that you love this province? If you want heritage, anti-development and strange building designs then move around the bay, you'll find all the stereotypical newfies and retarded buildings you want, but don't criticize a wonderful company for realizing the true potential of this city. I would like an artist to do a futuristic painting of down town St. John's with innovative structures similar to those in Dubai - It would put the current run-down Victorian look to shame, I guarantee it.

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    This project would be a blessing for St. John's and more projects like it.

    We all know that St John's is the oldest city in NA but it's time we join the rest of the world in the 21st century.

    I am so tired of all the anti-development supporters maintaining the status quo for downtown. Downtown St John's is the worn down and miserable looking. It's time to modernize a bit.

  • Maurice E.
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    These Fortis BoX STORES are a disgrace to not only to St. John's, but to Newfoundland and Labrador as a whole and to Firtis itself.

    There is no DESIGN. Where is the beauty, the architecture, the reflection of NL heritage/culture.

    Fortis ---- your management team and board should all be ashamed of yourselves. WHAT AN EYESORE.

  • Thomas
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    You could always move to Calgary, Taxpayer II. You could be miserable there too.

  • Telling it like it is (c)
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    The Top 10 facts about the St. John's harbour

    1 - The St. John's harbour is only one of a few handful of ports visible from space. Not because of man-made architecture but because of its sheer awesomeness.

    2 - The view of the harbour is so awe inspiring, it's been known to cure blindness.

    3 - Rome and Juliet was actually set in St. John's. Juliet was atop of Cabot Tower admiring the view of the harbour.

    4 - The Mona Lisa will be taken down from its place in Louvre and will be replaced with a painting of the St. John's harbour.

    5 - Neil Diamond once said, ''I'd much rather be forever in blue jeans''. Shannie Duff responded, ''I'd much rather see the St. John's harbour''.

    6 - The real reason there is a height restriction in downtown St. John's is because Shannie Duff wants to be the only object, living or inanimate to have the capacity of having one's head in the clouds.

    7 - Some say a picture says a thousand words, well a picture of the St. John's harbour says 1 million words.

    8 - If a+b=c then St. John's harbour is the greatest natural wonder in the world.

    9 - Dead Man's pond on Signall Hill was called that because of all the death Chuck Norris carried out there.

    10 - The St. John's harbour has been proven to be the centre of the universe.

  • Bruce
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Fortis should take its money and move west. Revitalize areas of the downtown that need it and can take it. The harbour vista and the history of Water Street is not for sale.

  • peter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    how can you not go for this, times has changed its creates jobs plus it will look good downtown...maybe it will bring more people downtown have you ever notice in other city how busy there downtown is and look at st johns pretty much dead a few people strolling around ...come on by go for it!!!

  • Taxpayer ll
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Well downtown res, why did you move back? For a view of the filled harbour? If people want beautiful views there are more of them in this province than anywhere else on the planet. Do like the cruise ship set, take a quick jaunt to Cape Spare, or up to siganl hill, or out to one of the beaches. We have unbelievable views all over the place, and only a short walk from water street. Why can't we have a urban downtown center too?

  • Robert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Office space is desperately needed - but that doesn't mean that it has to be built at that site. Given that there are many much more suitable locations in near proximity, it must be an extremely lucrative proposition for Fortis to so blatently flaunt the laws.
    City Hall needs to shut this down immediately. Agreeing to the proposal would be a huge giveaway to Fortis shareholders.

  • Taxpayer ll
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Most cities would jump at the chance to have a new 75 million dollar complex built in their downtown, but not here. Nope. We only approve developments like the Harvey's offshore terminal for our heritage areas.
    There is already a 12 story bldg. there, what possible difference would another bldg. make?
    Ms Duff is right on one count...this is a watershed moment for the downtown of this city. We can choose to have a beautiful new complex, with thousands of feet of retail space, hundreds of parking spaces, pedways etc., or we can sit back and watch the graffitii ridden, old buildings as they slowly crumble.
    Don't worry about the tax base Ms. Duff. You can always hit the poor citizens of St.john's up for another 17 million dollar tax increase, (that you lied to us about), so that council can have their nice pensions, and their trips to florida. We don't need corporate citizens like fortis in this town, they would be much better off in Halfax, or Calgary. You know, progressive dynamic cities, that are trying to attract entities like Fortis.
    We don't need the construction jobs, we don't need to revitalize a part of Water street that looks like a slum.
    The wooly hat, hava java crowd will win this one, man what a crappy town this is.

  • Ken
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Fortis should say they are going to build it in Mt. Pearl and lets see what happens then.

  • Me
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Oh Diana, that reminds me of a Simpsons episode. Reverend Lovejoy's wife is running around shouting The Children, the Children!!! Who will think of the Children!!!! , but in this case it's The Dancer's, the Dancer's!!!! Who will think of the Dancers!!!!

    I hope the development goes ahead, maybe a some improvement in the architectural design but I have no problem with the location.

  • Winnipeg
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Those are a couple of the most boring towers I have ever seen. Reminds me of downtown Winnipeg. Yuk!! Downtown St. John's architecture is unique and beautiful, keep the towers furhter to the west.

  • George
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Now, now, Confused; go easy on Diana. She's one of those oh so special interest groups known as awtists and they are entitled to their entitlements. Interpretative dancing is way more important than a boost to the local economy.

  • Diana
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    What about the even worse off need for dance space, professional dance space, and performance space? They have told an entire building to leave that was only dance space for 2 schools, musician, and the arts.

    Now these schools and dancers must find new locations where space was hard and rare enough to find before this occurred.

    I understand the need for office space, I work at MUN where there is none at all! But I am also a dancer and I see a dire need here before I see the need for office space.

  • briny 69
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    shannie go lie down somewhere

  • Confused
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Wow, I am shocked. I cannot believe all of the anti-development comments on this website, we should all be on our knees thanking Fortis for their ongoing investment into this province. Makes me sick knowing that I live amongst people who would like nothing else than to keep the stereotype of idiotic Newfoundlanders as strong as possible. Wouldn't any of you naysayers like to see the downtown area move away from the 19th century look? I would love to see St. Johns turn into a major city like Toronto or Vancouver, that is exactly what this province needs to propel us into the 21st century. How could you not want that and still say that you love this province? If you want heritage, anti-development and strange building designs then move around the bay, you'll find all the stereotypical newfies and retarded buildings you want, but don't criticize a wonderful company for realizing the true potential of this city. Id like for an artist to do a futuristic painting of down town St. John's with innovative structures similar to those in Dubai - It would put the current Victorian look to shame, I guarantee it.


    LoL, yeah Diana, this province doesn't need a 75 million dollar project to boost our economy, or a beautiful new complex, with thousands of feet of retail space, hundreds of parking spaces and the ability to revitalize a dying part of our city. No Diana, what we need is more dance space (LoL) so that our professional dancers (LoL) will be able to practice dancing (LoL). Possibly one of the most irrelevant and ridiculous comments I have ever heard in my life.

  • Terry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    15 stories, do people in favor of this building realize how tall this will be...I and many other people go downtown because it is different, different from any other downtown in this country. It is unique and should not be thrown away for mere progress. I would suggest that this part of Water Street will be in permanent shade and only see the sunshine at high noon because of the height of the building. When I go downtown I like to walk on the side of the street that is in the sunshine, it's warmer and brighter. If this building is allowed to go ahead this part of Water Street will permanently be dark and cold; is this how we want our downtown to feel, dark and cold?? In the picture of the building that I have seen it shows the view from Water Street in the sunshine remember this will only happen at high noon. Also the view looks like it is taken from 200 to 300 feet away, keep in mind that Water Street is much narrower and the view shown is not the view that we will see every day. The artist has taken liberty with this view and presented it in the best light possible, so remember what you see is not what you are going to get. Try to imagine how this building will really look; tall, dark, cold and in permanent shade.

  • Confused
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Are the moderators only posting comments that are anti-development? I've tried posting non offensive, pro-development comments all morning - none of which have been posted. Me thinks shannie got some pull at the telegram....

  • Thomas
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    You are Confused if you think the Tele is blocking out all the so-called anti-development types. This page is full of your drivel. We anti-developmentarians are arguing that there is plenty of room elsewhere in one of the oldest and most unique cities in North America. Its a good thing they didn't adopt this myopic approach in Quebec City.

  • Downtown Res
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Seriously, Confused: we should all be on our knees thanking Fortis . Seriously?
    Please stand up and take pride in your city; work to keep the good it has, and fix that which has become run down. There is a right answer and the people of St. Johns need to be a part of it.
    We have more than enough space filled with dilapidated buildings that are desperate for redevelopment without needing to go to an all time high. Cabot Place I 12 stories (1987), Cabot Place II 13 stories (1993), Scotia Centre 11 stories (1987), Atlantic Place 9 stories (1975). None of these buildings are held in high esteem as shining examples of ways to maintain downtowns appeal or of innovative architecture. I didnt move back here for the shiny skyscrapers, thats for sure.
    Fortis knows better; theyre rather smart people there. There is more to this plan that the lackluster artists rendition of two shiny glass ice cubes floating on the harbour. Id stay tuned if I were you.

  • Confused
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Wow, I am shocked. You guys are terrified of change, you must all still wear diapers as undergarments. I cannot believe all of the anti-development comments on this website, we should all be on our knees thanking Fortis for their ongoing investment into this province. Makes me sick knowing that I live amongst people who would like nothing else than to keep the stereotype of idiotic Newfoundlanders as strong as possible. Wouldn't any of you naysayers like to see the downtown area move away from the 19th century look? I would love to see St. Johns turn into a major city like Toronto or Vancouver, that is exactly what this province needs to propel us into the 21st century. How could you not want that and still say that you love this province? If you want heritage, anti-development and strange building designs then move around the bay, you'll find all the stereotypical newfies and retarded buildings you want, but don't criticize a wonderful company for realizing the true potential of this city. I would like an artist to do a futuristic painting of down town St. John's with innovative structures similar to those in Dubai - It would put the current run-down Victorian look to shame, I guarantee it.

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    This project would be a blessing for St. John's and more projects like it.

    We all know that St John's is the oldest city in NA but it's time we join the rest of the world in the 21st century.

    I am so tired of all the anti-development supporters maintaining the status quo for downtown. Downtown St John's is the worn down and miserable looking. It's time to modernize a bit.

  • Maurice E.
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    These Fortis BoX STORES are a disgrace to not only to St. John's, but to Newfoundland and Labrador as a whole and to Firtis itself.

    There is no DESIGN. Where is the beauty, the architecture, the reflection of NL heritage/culture.

    Fortis ---- your management team and board should all be ashamed of yourselves. WHAT AN EYESORE.

  • Thomas
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    You could always move to Calgary, Taxpayer II. You could be miserable there too.

  • Telling it like it is (c)
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    The Top 10 facts about the St. John's harbour

    1 - The St. John's harbour is only one of a few handful of ports visible from space. Not because of man-made architecture but because of its sheer awesomeness.

    2 - The view of the harbour is so awe inspiring, it's been known to cure blindness.

    3 - Rome and Juliet was actually set in St. John's. Juliet was atop of Cabot Tower admiring the view of the harbour.

    4 - The Mona Lisa will be taken down from its place in Louvre and will be replaced with a painting of the St. John's harbour.

    5 - Neil Diamond once said, ''I'd much rather be forever in blue jeans''. Shannie Duff responded, ''I'd much rather see the St. John's harbour''.

    6 - The real reason there is a height restriction in downtown St. John's is because Shannie Duff wants to be the only object, living or inanimate to have the capacity of having one's head in the clouds.

    7 - Some say a picture says a thousand words, well a picture of the St. John's harbour says 1 million words.

    8 - If a+b=c then St. John's harbour is the greatest natural wonder in the world.

    9 - Dead Man's pond on Signall Hill was called that because of all the death Chuck Norris carried out there.

    10 - The St. John's harbour has been proven to be the centre of the universe.

  • Bruce
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Fortis should take its money and move west. Revitalize areas of the downtown that need it and can take it. The harbour vista and the history of Water Street is not for sale.

  • peter
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    how can you not go for this, times has changed its creates jobs plus it will look good downtown...maybe it will bring more people downtown have you ever notice in other city how busy there downtown is and look at st johns pretty much dead a few people strolling around ...come on by go for it!!!

  • Taxpayer ll
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Well downtown res, why did you move back? For a view of the filled harbour? If people want beautiful views there are more of them in this province than anywhere else on the planet. Do like the cruise ship set, take a quick jaunt to Cape Spare, or up to siganl hill, or out to one of the beaches. We have unbelievable views all over the place, and only a short walk from water street. Why can't we have a urban downtown center too?

  • Robert
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Office space is desperately needed - but that doesn't mean that it has to be built at that site. Given that there are many much more suitable locations in near proximity, it must be an extremely lucrative proposition for Fortis to so blatently flaunt the laws.
    City Hall needs to shut this down immediately. Agreeing to the proposal would be a huge giveaway to Fortis shareholders.

  • Taxpayer ll
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    Most cities would jump at the chance to have a new 75 million dollar complex built in their downtown, but not here. Nope. We only approve developments like the Harvey's offshore terminal for our heritage areas.
    There is already a 12 story bldg. there, what possible difference would another bldg. make?
    Ms Duff is right on one count...this is a watershed moment for the downtown of this city. We can choose to have a beautiful new complex, with thousands of feet of retail space, hundreds of parking spaces, pedways etc., or we can sit back and watch the graffitii ridden, old buildings as they slowly crumble.
    Don't worry about the tax base Ms. Duff. You can always hit the poor citizens of St.john's up for another 17 million dollar tax increase, (that you lied to us about), so that council can have their nice pensions, and their trips to florida. We don't need corporate citizens like fortis in this town, they would be much better off in Halfax, or Calgary. You know, progressive dynamic cities, that are trying to attract entities like Fortis.
    We don't need the construction jobs, we don't need to revitalize a part of Water street that looks like a slum.
    The wooly hat, hava java crowd will win this one, man what a crappy town this is.

  • Ken
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Fortis should say they are going to build it in Mt. Pearl and lets see what happens then.

  • Me
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Oh Diana, that reminds me of a Simpsons episode. Reverend Lovejoy's wife is running around shouting The Children, the Children!!! Who will think of the Children!!!! , but in this case it's The Dancer's, the Dancer's!!!! Who will think of the Dancers!!!!

    I hope the development goes ahead, maybe a some improvement in the architectural design but I have no problem with the location.

  • Winnipeg
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Those are a couple of the most boring towers I have ever seen. Reminds me of downtown Winnipeg. Yuk!! Downtown St. John's architecture is unique and beautiful, keep the towers furhter to the west.

  • George
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Now, now, Confused; go easy on Diana. She's one of those oh so special interest groups known as awtists and they are entitled to their entitlements. Interpretative dancing is way more important than a boost to the local economy.

  • Diana
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    What about the even worse off need for dance space, professional dance space, and performance space? They have told an entire building to leave that was only dance space for 2 schools, musician, and the arts.

    Now these schools and dancers must find new locations where space was hard and rare enough to find before this occurred.

    I understand the need for office space, I work at MUN where there is none at all! But I am also a dancer and I see a dire need here before I see the need for office space.

  • briny 69
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    shannie go lie down somewhere

  • Confused
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Wow, I am shocked. I cannot believe all of the anti-development comments on this website, we should all be on our knees thanking Fortis for their ongoing investment into this province. Makes me sick knowing that I live amongst people who would like nothing else than to keep the stereotype of idiotic Newfoundlanders as strong as possible. Wouldn't any of you naysayers like to see the downtown area move away from the 19th century look? I would love to see St. Johns turn into a major city like Toronto or Vancouver, that is exactly what this province needs to propel us into the 21st century. How could you not want that and still say that you love this province? If you want heritage, anti-development and strange building designs then move around the bay, you'll find all the stereotypical newfies and retarded buildings you want, but don't criticize a wonderful company for realizing the true potential of this city. Id like for an artist to do a futuristic painting of down town St. John's with innovative structures similar to those in Dubai - It would put the current Victorian look to shame, I guarantee it.


    LoL, yeah Diana, this province doesn't need a 75 million dollar project to boost our economy, or a beautiful new complex, with thousands of feet of retail space, hundreds of parking spaces and the ability to revitalize a dying part of our city. No Diana, what we need is more dance space (LoL) so that our professional dancers (LoL) will be able to practice dancing (LoL). Possibly one of the most irrelevant and ridiculous comments I have ever heard in my life.

  • Terry
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    15 stories, do people in favor of this building realize how tall this will be...I and many other people go downtown because it is different, different from any other downtown in this country. It is unique and should not be thrown away for mere progress. I would suggest that this part of Water Street will be in permanent shade and only see the sunshine at high noon because of the height of the building. When I go downtown I like to walk on the side of the street that is in the sunshine, it's warmer and brighter. If this building is allowed to go ahead this part of Water Street will permanently be dark and cold; is this how we want our downtown to feel, dark and cold?? In the picture of the building that I have seen it shows the view from Water Street in the sunshine remember this will only happen at high noon. Also the view looks like it is taken from 200 to 300 feet away, keep in mind that Water Street is much narrower and the view shown is not the view that we will see every day. The artist has taken liberty with this view and presented it in the best light possible, so remember what you see is not what you are going to get. Try to imagine how this building will really look; tall, dark, cold and in permanent shade.

  • Confused
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Are the moderators only posting comments that are anti-development? I've tried posting non offensive, pro-development comments all morning - none of which have been posted. Me thinks shannie got some pull at the telegram....