Committee endorses relaxing regulations

Alisha Morrissey
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Recommends change in heritage status of downtown block

The Heritage Advisory Committee is willing to give up control of a small chunk of land at the west end of Water Street, but not without conditions.

As a result of a two-hour discussion about the block - between Waldegrave Street and Bishop's Cove - the committee agreed to recommend that council remove it from the heritage area as long as it's considered a gateway and transitional area to the downtown, and that 12 storeys will not automatically be granted to every developer. Rather, the committee would like to see some benefit to the city as a result of granting additional height to potential developments - parking for example, or space between the buildings.

The Heritage Advisory Committee is willing to give up control of a small chunk of land at the west end of Water Street, but not without conditions.

As a result of a two-hour discussion about the block - between Waldegrave Street and Bishop's Cove - the committee agreed to recommend that council remove it from the heritage area as long as it's considered a gateway and transitional area to the downtown, and that 12 storeys will not automatically be granted to every developer. Rather, the committee would like to see some benefit to the city as a result of granting additional height to potential developments - parking for example, or space between the buildings.

Essentially, the committee asked that council take into consideration the nearby buildings, including the Murray Premises, their age, size, scale and architecture, when deciding whether to allow new developments on the block.

The committee would also like to see regulations stay in place forcing developers to set back any part of the building taller than four storeys at least eight metres from the street to prevent shadowing.

The rezoning and potential conditions to be added will have to go through council and a public consultation before anything changes.

The committee, headed by Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff, discussed at length the repercussions of allowing the block to be removed from the heritage area. They also agreed that the committee had to have reasonable rationale for removing it from the heritage area, for fear of setting precedents in other areas.

According to the committee, the block has little heritage value save for the warehouse component of Templeton's Paint and Flooring that dates to the 1800s. If possible, it would like that building to be salvaged, even if that means allowing some special treatment for the rest of the building.

They also discussed whether the building could be designated a heritage structure and therefore have to remain unchanged.

The committee also discussed the recent history of the block, explaining it didn't fall into the designated heritage area until the 2004 heritage guidelines report by Philip Pratt.

In that report, the architect cautioned against not including areas such as the Water Street block in heritage regulations, saying their redevelopment would have significant effects on other heritage buildings, "even if they do not have heritage value at present."

But with the city under such pressure to develop and this block in particular being home to a major development proposal, Duff said the committee had to take a look at it.

She has said in the past that the site would be best for such developments because of access from the city to an area that's easily navigable.

There is one proposal for the former Woolworth's site and another potential proposal for the former Arcade site in the block, neither of which currently would fit into the heritage regulations.

The committee is an advisory committee only, meaning council can accept, amend or refuse its recommendations.

amorrissey@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Heritage Advisory Committee, Woolworth

Geographic location: Water Street, Waldegrave Street

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Recent comments

  • Taxpayer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    As the City seems to be indicating that it will itself become involved with these developments, it would be more important to know how far the City is presently in debt and what further commitments have been made. Since 2007, the City has not released it's finnacial position to the taxpayers. Only then can the taxpayers decide what steps the City should take.

  • Michael
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    The Heritage Advisory Committee serves to stifle business development in this city. It's time this committee was dismantled so that reasonable business development can flourish in downtown St. John's.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Jeff,

    So, they're relaxing the heritage regulations so that a class A office tower can be built, and you don't like it? The city is 480 square kilometres in total area(from the city's web site), and a majority of councillors have agreed that there should be some special consideration given for development on two streets - Water and Duckworth - because they contain the majority of what's left of the unique character of old St. John's commercial buildings. So, a few square kilometers out of 480 have some special rules attached, and you think everyone should just pack it in and write off development in St. John's? Wow. Also, why do you keep naming people like Greg Malone, Peg Norman and Ron Hynes? Last time I looked, they're not on Council. The public voted for this council, and the people who won were voted in by a majority of citizens. Everyone was free to vote how they wanted, and the people who cared enough to vote did so. If you don't like it, run next time.

  • Jeff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    Relaxing regulations? Give me a break. There seems to be as many stipulations to removing the area from heritage status as there are to it remaining. Not every piece of run down 19th century architecture should be preserved. When did Shannie Duff (along with Greg Malone, Peg Norman, and musical guest Ron Hynes) get bestowed with the responsibility to make all development decisions in the downtown? Pretty soon the companies are going to stop calling, citing development is more trouble than it's worth, and the whole city can be a heritage site then. Wake up! It's the 21st century!

  • Taxpayer
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    As the City seems to be indicating that it will itself become involved with these developments, it would be more important to know how far the City is presently in debt and what further commitments have been made. Since 2007, the City has not released it's finnacial position to the taxpayers. Only then can the taxpayers decide what steps the City should take.

  • Michael
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    The Heritage Advisory Committee serves to stifle business development in this city. It's time this committee was dismantled so that reasonable business development can flourish in downtown St. John's.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Jeff,

    So, they're relaxing the heritage regulations so that a class A office tower can be built, and you don't like it? The city is 480 square kilometres in total area(from the city's web site), and a majority of councillors have agreed that there should be some special consideration given for development on two streets - Water and Duckworth - because they contain the majority of what's left of the unique character of old St. John's commercial buildings. So, a few square kilometers out of 480 have some special rules attached, and you think everyone should just pack it in and write off development in St. John's? Wow. Also, why do you keep naming people like Greg Malone, Peg Norman and Ron Hynes? Last time I looked, they're not on Council. The public voted for this council, and the people who won were voted in by a majority of citizens. Everyone was free to vote how they wanted, and the people who cared enough to vote did so. If you don't like it, run next time.

  • Jeff
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Relaxing regulations? Give me a break. There seems to be as many stipulations to removing the area from heritage status as there are to it remaining. Not every piece of run down 19th century architecture should be preserved. When did Shannie Duff (along with Greg Malone, Peg Norman, and musical guest Ron Hynes) get bestowed with the responsibility to make all development decisions in the downtown? Pretty soon the companies are going to stop calling, citing development is more trouble than it's worth, and the whole city can be a heritage site then. Wake up! It's the 21st century!